New program connecting Indigenous communities with health supports
"We really want people to feel cared for and know that someone is watching out for them."
Now more than ever, Cody Lloyd sees a need to connect her community with one-on-one supports and help navigating the health care system.
As the communications specialist for Wellness Wheel, a non-profit community-led clinical and research team working mostly with Indigenous people across the province, Lloyd knows the pandemic has eliminated many of the supports that were once available.
That’s why shortly after the pandemic hit, Wellness Wheel launched its Wellness Warrior program. The program connects community members to someone who has lived experience with a similar challenge — whether it be HIV, diabetes, food insecurity or traditional parenting — who provides peer-to-peer support. These “wellness warriors” can also help people navigate the health care system and provide cultural support for Indigenous people in that environment.
“They’re able to help them in the hospital and they help them transition out of care as well,” Lloyd said, noting this support has become increasingly important during the pandemic.
“A lot of the programming that would have been supporting people coming out of the health system just aren’t available right now, so having that one-on-one peer support and having that person who can follow up and make sure they’re OK is something that’s been really, really important.”
On Saturday, Wellness Wheel held a second annual memorial feast in honour of Derrick Sasakamoose, late husband of the organization’s research director JoLee Sasakamoose, and used the event to raise awareness of its new program while serving its community.
Because the Sasakamoose family couldn’t gather for a memorial feast this year, they decided to do something loving for the community in his honour. At Awasiw: A Place of Hope, Wellness Wheel put together dozens of to-go meals and gave them away to anyone in need. They also put together and delivered 64 meals to isolated elders the Wellness Warriors have been caring for since the pandemic hit.
To connect community members with the program, wellness warrior Danita Wahpoosewyan spoke with people at the memorial feast about her experiences with the health care system and the supports available.
By having community members meet some of the people behind the program, Lloyd said the hope is that they will feel comfortable approaching Wellness Wheel when they need support.
“We really want people to feel cared for and know that someone is watching out for them,” Lloyd said.