Three UBC students spent the month of June living and working with the Bonaparte Indian Band, as part of a course emphasizing community health and wellness.
Meghan De Jong, Nathalie Soon, and Emmy Lidhran, who are studying kinesiology, social work, and nursing respectively, came to Bonaparte as part of the Topics in Aboriginal Health: A Community-Based Experience course. Crystal Morris, the Band’s Health Director, was a student at UBC and knew about the course, and requested that some students be placed with the Bonaparte this year.
The trio weren’t familiar with the area, but thought it was beautiful. “It was much more and calm and peaceful than the city,” said De Jong; “and it was very hot!”
Meghan, Nathalie, and Emmy lived with the Band for a month. One of the course requirements was the completion of a project that had to do with health and wellness in the community. After spending time debriefing with Morris and with Counsellor Cara Basil, the students were able to see what the many positives of the community were, and also identify some areas that were lacking in terms of health and wellness.
“One of the major things we noticed after talking to band members was their desire for more community involvement and programs for their youth,” said De Jong. “We noted the communities’ love for playing sports together—youth and adults of all ages—particularly baseball, at this time of year.”
There was a ball diamond at Bonaparte, but it was completely run down. The dugouts needed new paint, the infield was full of weeds, and the outfield consisted of dead grass and potholes. But all of this sparked an idea for a suitable project, as the students decided to revamp the ball diamond and get it back into playing condition.
“We went around to local businesses in Cache Creek, Ashcroft, and Kamloops in order to find sponsorships or donations to help us in our quest,” said De Jong. “We were fortunate enough to receive numerous generous donations, such as paint, rakes, grass seed, soil, door prizes, gift certificates, and food for a celebration.”
The students, with the help of many community members, spent a lot of time working on the field. The dugouts were painted with the word Stucwtewsemc, which means Bonaparte Indian Band in the Secwepemc (Shuswap) language, as a way of helping to re-integrate the language and culture back into the community. Children from the Band’s youth group put handprints in different colours along the side of the dugouts, with the slogan “Communities who play together, stay together.”
“It was our hope that the fresh-looking ball diamond would provide a space for band members to play at and interact with each other, and will give them a sense of pride for their beautiful community for many generations to come,” said De Jong.
When work on the diamond was complete, a celebration and dinner was held on June 25, with community members able to mingle and chat with each other during and after a barbecue. The three UBC students set up booths focused around each of their health disciplines, with De Jong looking at physical activity, Soon educating people about high blood pressure and diabetes, and Lidhran examining and explaining self care.
“The event was a huge success, with more than 60 people attending, which we understand is really good for an event at Bonaparte,” said De Jong. “Many people gave positive feedback on how much they appreciated the fieldwork we had done and how much fun they were having at the event.
“After finishing our course and going back home, we felt as though the project we had completed for the community was not even a fraction of what they had given to us throughout our stay,” she added. “Each and every single band member welcomed us with open arms. During our entire time, we felt extremely accepted and loved.”
The trio hopes that their project will help promote health and wellness within Bonaparte, so that community members can have more opportunities to reach their personal wellness goals. “We hear about the worst, not the best,” said De Jong. Asked whether or not the students will be back, she says yes. “We got close to a lot of the community members, and are planning visits back there, either at weekends or next summer. We had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people, hear about numerous inspirational personal stories from peoples’ lives, and learn so much about the beautiful culture of First Nations Peoples. We really wished we could have done more to thank the community for all they did for us!”