Back from left: Tom Lambert, Megan Wabigwan, Polly Bobiwash (UOI Host), Vernon Ogima (Facilitator), Reg Canard, Ginger Randle, Sheri (Shkebe) Gowan, Tamara Ashawasega, Vera Cochrane, Abby Paul, Maurice Machendagoos and Brandon Manuel. Front from left: Marilyn Stevens, Lorraine Toulouse, Jennifer Peltier, Sandra Martin, Kim Murray, Sarah Fisher, Tina Francis. – Photo by Janet Blackned

By Janet Blackned
This past year, the Union of Ontario Indians Labour Market Development Department (LMDD) held workshops with a focus on “Self-Care” for LDM employees of the employment and training offices of the Anishinabek Nation.
The discussion about self-care training for Employment Counsellors began at one of the LDM meetings in 2016, and with additional funding for capacity building and professional development allocated through the Aboriginal Skills Employment and Training Strategy (ASETS), the timing was right to host this training. Employment counsellors act as mentors, confidants, and pseudo-social workers for the wide variety of clients they meet and engage with on a daily basis.
What about their own “self-care”? Whom do they talk to? Whom can they confide in? And how do you frame it around confidentiality of client /counselor privilege? Thus, the LMDD Director, Polly Bobiwash, sought out facilitators that would provide “self-care training” our front-line workers required to address these concerns.
LDMs, are sub-agreements of the Aboriginal Skills Employment and Training Strategy – federal-funded programming for employment and training in Nipissing First Nation, Mnidoo Mnising, M’Chigeeng First Nation, Long Lake #58 First Nation, Gezhtoojig Employment and Training Services, Anishinabek Employment and Training and Fort William First Nation, Thessalon First Nation and Whitesand First Nation.
In May 2017, the LMDD hosted the first “self-care” workshop in North Bay for Mental Health First Aid First Nations, a program developed with aboriginal content by the Canadian Mental Health Association. The workshop was facilitated by Mary Wabano and Roger Chum. Both are professionally certified to provide this training, geared to first nation front-line workers, throughout Ontario and as far as the Yukon.
The three-day session had engaging discussions, information sharing and roleplaying with eager participation. Overall, it was a welcome breath of fresh air for the participants and most felt they were in a place of comfort.
In October 2017, the second “self-care” three-day workshop was held – Employment Advisor Training, facilitated by Vernon Ogima from the Fort William First Nation who has experience and expertise in employment counselling. Other LDMs were invited to participate; North Shore Tribal Council, Ogemawahj Tribal Council (Rama) and Wikwemikong. The program material was produced from The Margaret Anderson Foundation and provided techniques and processes on the assessment component of employment counselling.
The workshops provided the tools and resources of how Employment Advisors can take care of “self-care” at work or in their personal life. On December 12-14 we look forward to another workshop – Supportive Approaches through Innovative Learning (SAIL).