A broad partnership between Walpole Island First Nation, The Municipality of Chatham-Kent through Family Service Kent, and members of the United Way Community Partners COVID-19 Situation Response Indigenous Table are working together to assist Indigenous persons living in urban communities within Chatham-Kent.
The Indigenous Peer Navigator role is a friendly advocate who collaborates with people and various health service agencies to meet individual needs, officials said in a media release.
The first position of its kind, the idea to have a dedicated individual to act as a bridge between cultures began at the COVID-19 Situation Indigenous Table of Chatham-Kent several months ago.
“I’m happy to have this position because we have a person who can build trust, bridge the gaps and work together in a good way, for all the people that we serve,” stated Donna Isaac-Day, Justice Team Leader, Walpole Island First Nation, in a media release.
“We can’t do this alone. We have to work together.”
The role is hosted by Family Service Kent, to serve all the Chatham-Kent area.
“I am grateful that our organization has been given an opportunity to participate in this important initiative,” stated Brad Davis, Executive Director of Family Service Kent, in a press release.
“It has been an inspiring journey so far, and we are just getting started.”
The Indigenous Support Table was initially eligible for a $15,000 grant, and combined with support from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent through Family Service Kent, nearly $94,000 in funding is going toward creating this role.
“We are pleased to be part of this broad partnership, and to help assist many people during these challenging times,” stated Dr. April Rietdyk, General Manager, Community Human Services at the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, in a media release.
“We look forward to engaging with our urban Indigenous citizens and building relationships with our First Nations neighbours.”
Lana Parenteau is from Delaware First Nation and has taken on the position of Indigenous Peer Navigator.
She has years of experience working in home care and with AIDS Support Chatham-Kent, the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy, and most recently was employed at Francis Place Independent Seniors’ Home.
Her work has already begun in the community.
“Anushiik (thank you) Creator for hearing ‘my prayers’, by placing me where I can best serve ‘Our People’,” Parenteau said in a media release.
“What an honor to have been chosen for this amazing opportunity of the Indigenous Peer Navigator. I am excited to be working with our community agencies to support, advocate so we can provide access to the best possible care for ‘Our People’. Thank you all for your support.”
Described as a ‘pathfinder of hope’ and a ‘Gramma bear’, Parenteau will be responsible for establishing a dignifying and purposeful relationship with urban Indigenous persons, assisting people with community integration activities, and maintaining an awareness of current community resources including health care services, social, economic, recreational, employment, and educational services and resources, officials say.
The Indigenous Peer Navigator is a guide, coach, and community resource, but is not a case manager, medical expert, drug abuse counselor, or mental health specialist.
Parenteau said she works “for the love of the people, from the heart.”
A Community Welcoming Ceremony will take place on Friday, September 18 to introduce Parenteau in her new role.