Expanded Understanding of Health

by Kathy Cassels

I gave a second thought to what it means to be healthy as a result of my recent visit to Haida Gwaii.  I went with the intention to learn more about rural, remote student and school experiences, but I came back with so much more.  I’ve always felt quite grounded in my understanding that health is a resource for living; however the concept that my language supports me to be a healthy individual had never entered my mind.  That’s not the perspective Erica, Jay, Brenden, Ryan and Albert in the SHIP program hold.  Their language is vitally important to their sense of who they are, so much so they are interns at HLGAAGILDA XAAYDA KIL NAAY, or in English SHIP, the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program.

They believe that when they speak the Haida language, they know they are Haida. An inspiring pride sweeps over their faces.  An opportunity to hear their experiences as interns at SHIP added to my understanding of what life is like in remote Haida Gwaii.  I learned being in nature calms hearts, and that there are unlimited opportunities to be outside, where they desired to be.  SHIP provides powerful experiences in reciprocal relationships, supporting them to make valued contributions to their community. Erica talked openly of her desire to complete her teaching degree so she could support aging elders, who literally wear themselves out visiting local schools to speak their language.  Erica looks forward to her future when she can help out and make significant contributions as a teacher in her community.  And finally, they shared that the very act of taking the time to have a conversation with them demonstrated I was interested in more than just what I could see, reminding each of them of similar experiences connected to pivotal points in their lives.

Why is DASH committed to supporting all learners to be healthy, engaged and connected to their communities?  Being healthy, engaged and connected adds powerful meaning and purpose to a person’s day to day activities.  One’s health is truly a valuable resource for everyday living.

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