In recent months, families in Lambton County’s three First Nations communities have gained increased access to culturally appropriate therapy services.
Through a partnership between Aamjiwnaang, Walpole Island and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations, Pathways Health Centre for Children and several local industry partners, including the Suncor Energy Foundation, children in those communities now have access to speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers says the program will not only help children achieve their full potential and realize a better quality of life, but is also a sign of good things to come.
“The relationship created between Pathways, our local industrial neighbours and our First Nations has created a bond and a connection,” she says. “When we educate, learn from and inspire each other with our experiences and expertise, we are building that foundation of trust, respect, success and caring, which is so important for a relationship to endure.”
Suncor’s Jennifer Johnson says the priorities of the community must be at the root of any initiative for it to work.
“The level of collaboration for this three-year pilot program has been remarkable,” says Jennifer, senior advisor, communications and stakeholder relations. “We know that when the priority is identified by the community and the community plays a direct role in designing the project, it’s much more successful than if it is designed by an outside organization.”
All three programs are off to a strong start, with each community employing an individual who acts as a conduit between families in the community and Pathways. Rachael Simon, the Children’s Support Worker at Aamjiwnaang, says there is a clear need for this level of service in the community. “We are receiving an increasing number of referrals and have a waiting list for all three therapists,” she says. “We hope to be able to expand the program in the near future.”