By Lynne Brown
SAULT STE. MARIE – Lemon Cree’s founder Theresa Ducharme had representatives from Anishinabek First Nations up and on their feet at the first-ever Anishinabek Family Well-Being training session on Sept. 12.
The AFWB program is framed with culture and prevention as important components to healthy and successful outcomes for indigenous families. Over 40 front-line workers and leaders from within the indigenous social services sector took part in the training at The Quattro Hotel and Convention Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Lemon Cree is an Indigenous Owned Fitness and Wellness company that works closely with First Nations and Non-First Nations communities to promote active and healthy lifestyles.
“Lemon Cree jumps starts fitness and wellness programs in indigenous communities. My whole approach is mind, body, spirit. There’s not one mold for everyone,” she said. “We talk about nutrition and stress, and work with people to build healthy communities, with fitness as an important tool to overall health.”
Theresa Ducharme is a Métis-Cree-Saulteaux who was born in Winnipeg. As one of Canada’s first Indigenous models in the 1970’s, Ducharme worked all over the globe including China. At the age of 14, she was a National Fashion Model for runways and print ads for Gambles, Eaton’s, Hudson’s Bay, Sears and more.
Ducharme certified as a fitness instructor in 2006 while she was working for ‘Sisters In Spirit’ (2005 – 2009). She said it was very important for her to have a physical outlet because of the demands and trauma associated with her work with ‘Sisters In Spirit’.
“Lemon Cree was born in Montreal in 2010.” she said. “I wanted to do something that inspired people to take care of themselves. I wanted to be a voice that supported the physical health of our people.”
Her first venture took her to the James Bay Cree in northern Quebec. Now in her 11th year, Lemon Cree has expanded right across Canada.
Lemon Cree works in many spaces, including women’s shelter where she hopes that the tool of fitness will empower women. Duscharme works with both men and women to harness the power of fitness as a tool to general well-being.
“We train trainers where we travel. We don’t just go in there and leave. We teach individuals on how to lead fitness programs so that they can continue when we leave.”
With 129 trainers in various communities across Canada, Lemon Cree takes a holistic approach to meet people on their fitness journey. “We start where people are on the fitness spectrum. To build a healthy strong community, we start with the individual,” she said.
Duscharme encouraged attendees of the AFWB training to include fitness in the programming they offer in their communities. “Strength training, cardio, balance, nutrition, flexibility, range of motion – These things are all connected. Mind, body, spirit.” she said. “Our classes are for everybody. They’re safe. Everybody is equal. We have natural chemicals in our body – endorphins, serotonin – and we only get those when we are moving our body. Fitness is a great way to deal with stress. I chose to deal with my stress through fitness. It worked really well for me.”
Ducharme said that Lemon Cree uses the medicine wheel concept. “We heal together. None of us are exempt from stress in our lives. How we deal with it can support our healing journey. Fitness can be instrumental in that journey.”
Ducharme encouraged attendees to think about solitude in their busy lives. “Be still sometimes – Silence your mind – Shut down. Go into your favourite place and clear your mind – Be silent. If you’re mind is constantly busy, you can’t be open to receiving Spirit. Find a quiet place – even for a minute.”
“It’s never too early or too late to begin your fitness journey,” she said.
To learn more about Lemon Cree, go here: https://lemoncree.com/about-lemon-cree/