Funding from Interior Health made it possible for the Esk’etemc First Nations (Alkali Lake) to bring in Dr. Gabor Mate to do a one-day workshop in February.
Mate is a well-known physician and author who has expertise on a range of topics, from addiction and attention deficit disorder (ADD) to mind-body wellness, adolescent mental health, and parenting.
“It was the second time he’s come to our community,” says Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins.
“He’s always came with a little different message, but what I found out from attending was that dealing with issues that relate to when you were growing up as a child and the impact those issues have today for us as adults,” Robbins says.
Around 75 to 100 people attended from Alkali Lake, and other communities attended the workshop.
“There were all different age groups. We had youth come in the morning,” Robbins says.
Joyce Johnson has been a referrals and counsellor worker at Alkali Lake for 15 years and says she really enjoyed the workshop.
She credits the community’s health director Irene Johnson for drumming up interest for the workshop and says it took more than a year to get Mate to the community because he’s so popular.
“She talked to resource people, teachers, and people to come and hear him,” Joyce says of Irene’s efforts.
With a warm chuckle, Joyce says there will always be problems in the community, but things are always getting better too.
“There are problems everywhere,” she says.
A total of $200,000 was allotted by Interior Health for 16 health education initiatives in different communities across its region.
In the meantime, Robbins continues to work on a grant application with the City of Williams Lake, the Cariboo Regional District, and neighbouring communities, to pursue federal funding for some community events that will raise awareness of the residential school experience.
Robbins hopes Mate could be part of a panel including others such as Dr. Martin Brokenleg, Frank Austin Many Horses and Dr. Bruce Perry.