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 Welcome to the newest addition to the GPVSB website: Member Spotlight. This special feature showcases GPVSB’s most valuable assets– our members! Spotlighting members from across the GPVSB spectrum, Member Spotlight reflects the rich tapestry of our membership and profiles active Non-profit and business organizations. If you would like to be featured in this section please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Create your own member story: join GPVSB today! 

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City of Grande Prairie Cultural Integration Academy

 

A True Connection

By Erin Murphy

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Solomon Okhifoh Program Facilitator for the CIA (Cultural Integration Academy)

 

 

“The best way to have a safe community is true connection”- Solomon Okihfoh

When Solomon had accepted the position for the CIA program he was interested joining the Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau to connect with the central hub of the volunteer community. Once he had learned what the bureau does, he realized becoming a member would benefit from his CIA program and he would receive a lot of support and resources.

When Solomon started, he requested a list of volunteers, so he could send potential volunteers opportunities within his CIA program. Joining Volunteer services has allowed him to make the volunteer community aware of the great opportunities the CIA program had to offer.

CIA is an initiative for the crime prevention department within the city of Grande Prairie, there are continents of the program:

1.      Education Continent: Newcomers to Canada get to learn various information and services that are offered in our city.

2.      Family Mentorship: A local family is paired with new comers to the area and the mentor family act as a support system for these individuals, as well as learning the way of life in our area. They are encouraged to attend local events and to volunteer together so that the new comers can feel welcomed and apart of the community.

At the moment Solomon and the CIA program only serves the City of Grande Prairie.

This program benefits the Grande Prairie community greatly because it opens up opportunities to become involved in the community. They can expand their regular routine and learn about the services, events and volunteer opportunities. This will help everyone feel welcomed, wanted and valued in our community.  Some of the volunteers from Solomon’s program had participated in the community garden, the Rotary house, the street performer’s festival and the Tour of Alberta that had taken place in Grande Prairie in early September.

Family mentorship volunteers helps bridge the gap for new comers to Canada, specifically for the Grande Prairie area. They help eliminate stereotypes and racism. By build the community capacity and local support capacity, this ensures that the mentor family and the mentee family are learning cross cultural skills.

When recruiting volunteers, a one day training program in affiliation with the Suicide Prevention Centre called “community helpers training” which teaches the ethics of helping. Solomon follows up with the volunteers once a month to see how the progress is going, any needs are addressed to fix challenges they might have. The training and follow ups help Solomon equip the volunteers with resources and knowledge to have a positive experience for both the mentee and the mentor.

Volunteers can get involved by applying for the mentee opportunity. There is an interview process, if they meet the criteria for the position they will complete the one day training “community helpers training”.  Once training is completed they are paired with a mentee family.

For more information on the Cultural Integration Academy you can contact the Grande Prairie Crime Prevention at:

780-882-7813

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HIV North

 

Serviceable For All

By Bryanna Webb, Project Coordinator

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HIV North is a non-profit organization who joined as a member with the Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau in 2014. The renewal of the membership was important to the organization because it provides good networking opportunities with other community members and that’s with the professional and non-profit organizations as well as volunteers in our community. Belcourt further explained, “There are some terrific opportunities to be able to participate in education and community events through the GPVSB which is nice, easier to make the connections and make it happen”. By having such a beneficial membership, it has helped to seek volunteers for last year’s AIDS Walk; visible volunteer opportunities for the staff in the community as well. The educational opportunities have been good and network opportunities for leaders in the community. “So, I’ve attended a couple executive director meetings which have been interesting,” Belcourt noted.

As the executive director of HIV North, Sue Belcourt has very broad responsibilities; everything from answering the phone to doing financial statements. Her main duty is to make sure the organization is running well and has the resources to do their jobs, human resources as much as financial resources. A big part also is to scout out funding opportunities, applying for grants and recording once received the money. The organization provides towards corporate sector, healthcare sector, education sector; which does include sexual health education. They offer a variety of workshops and presentations which include HIV, STI, homophobia, GLBTQ. Each workshop and all presentations are tailored made for each type of audience. Go out into the community and see what the need is and develop a workshop with the materials that are specific to that population; for example if there were an Aboriginal community that needed a workshop cultural based, they would then work with the Elders of that community.

HIV North serves Northern Alberta; north of Fox Creek up to the North-West Territories boarder, out to the British Columbia boarder, and then down to Grande Cache. “There is another location in Lloydminster but we are the full North Peace of this province” Belcourt reassured.

“We provide straight forward support for individuals who need to be supported in a very non-judgemental way” Belcourt states how they benefit the community and its individuals. Help those trying to navigate the system. A lot of client navigation and outreach support is done. Time is the biggest challenge! She then expressed, “We have a wonderful team of amazing people who do amazing things but there never seems to be enough time to do the work we want to do”. People don’t want to talk about HIV. Volunteer needs being met right through to talking and understanding.

Volunteers can do anything right from helping in the office to out in the community.  Many programming require specific people who can relate to those in the drop-in clinics and also cooking a meal for groups. Some community events such as parade float for July 1st, setting up of chairs, and help taking in registration. A benefit the volunteers will acquire is to have fun! Belcourt adds “I think every volunteer can be guaranteed a fun and worth-while experience.” It is a great chance to give back to the community.  A lot of the clients are living in high-risk situations and are very vulnerable, whether street involved or even youth whom are impressionable, by volunteering it is a prime opportunity to have a positive impact and feel good doing it. To become involved as a volunteer, just call there they can inform potential volunteers as to what’s happening. As for long-term, there is a volunteer application form to fill in and will be kept on file along with the rest of the process such as a criminal record check.

People need to understand that they are here to help everybody in the community! Services are free. They provide a variety of workshops and presentations which are offered and will be done at any organization free of charge. Each workshop or session is tailored for the audience, especially so that needs are being met. “I think people assume we only work with marginalized folks and we don’t, a significant part of our work is with that population, but we will go out to the corporate sector, healthcare sector, anywhere for educational workshops for anybody” Belcourt suggests. HIV North always needs volunteers. Keeping that in mind, AIDS Walk is September 20, 2015 this year in Grande Prairie. Many other resources we offer include women’s drop in, a street nurse, and harm reduction education and supplies.

In Summary, HIV North is very accepting and accomplishes what needs to be done in a non-judgemental matter for working towards a vision of a world without AIDS.

 

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