Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised here.

 

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Getting to know our region

Person standing on top of mountain with a view of mountain peaks

One of many mountain vistas in northern B.C.

So I’m a Northern Health recruiter now. But what the heck does a recruiter do? That was my first question when I started this new role a few years ago. My first instruction was to “get to know your region, get to know your people” and I was asked to do this in whatever way made sense to me. I had never been to northwest B.C. and had no idea what I was signing up for. What I did know was that I had to figure out why people would move there and, more importantly, why they love it so much and want to stay there.

Person walking along a glacier

From beaches to glaciers, northern B.C. is a spectacular place to live, play, and work.

When I asked my managers what they liked to do, almost everything was related to the outdoors. Coming from southern B.C., I thought: yeah, yeah, go outside to a crowded campground where you are shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, fighting over space on land and on the water to maybe catch a two-pound rainbow trout before you go home after a long weekend. Boy, was I wrong. The northwest was different. Here, nature and outdoor activities are part of everyday life, not just long weekend ventures. Getting to know my area and my people as a new recruiter soon consisted of me asking my colleagues what they liked to do in their spare time after work and then awkwardly responding with: “Sounds awesome! Can I come?”

Young woman holding a fish in a boat.

Taking a fishing adventure wasn’t necessarily confined to a special occasion – it was part of everyday life!

This simple question – “Can I come?” – culminated in some of the most exciting adventures of my life. I have hiked up spectacular mountains with 360 degree views of jagged mountain ranges and islands. I went on an ocean fishing expedition and caught a 40-pound spring salmon. I crabbed along a deserted sandy beach at sunset. I joined staff as they fished in a nearby river on their lunch hour. I ate lunch at the top of a mountain overlooking one of the largest glaciers in North America. And I walked through incredible old growth coastal rainforest.

Person standing in front of very large tree

Northwest B.C. also has a number of old growth rainforests.

The best part about these experiences is that they were not confined to special occasions or monthly long weekends; they are a part of everyday life. This is why people move to northern B.C. and this is why they love it. By experiencing the day-to-day lifestyle of our staff, I quickly learned the type of person I needed to recruit to this amazing region. In the Lower Mainland and Interior, the question circulating around the water cooler on Monday morning is often “what did you buy this weekend?” In northern B.C., you are more likely to hear “what did you do?”

It is no wonder that many of our staff opt to work part time in northern B.C. One reason, of course, is the affordability: why work more than you have to? But the main reason, I think, is that there are so many outdoor activities right at your doorstep. Whether you like to cross-country ski, downhill ski, kayak, fish, hike, row, or just hear the calming, natural silence that comes with the absence of crowded chaos, you can have this within minutes almost anywhere in northern B.C. If that sounds appealing to you, this is where you need to be.

Young woman sitting on a log on a beach

Beautiful beaches provide places for adventure and reflection in northwest B.C.

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master's degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe. (Ashley no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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