On Saturday, September 30, 2023, we honour the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a time for reflection on our tragic and painful past and on how we can make amends moving forward.
Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba is a champion of children’s health, and we’re committed to responding to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action, specifically Action 22:
We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients. (TRC Action item 22)
Thanks to donors’ generosity a special project for reconciliation, led and imagined by Indigenous women, is moving forward at HSC Children’s Hospital – the Indigenous Community Healing Space will provide culturally safe care for Indigenous families. Construction is expected to begin in 2024.
The healing space is just one of the many initiatives the Foundation supports to help kids from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities who need HSC Children’s, like Jenalyn.
I want to share Jenalyn’s story with you, because the Indigenous Healing Space has been designed with families like hers in mind.
In 2021, Jenalyn had flu-like symptoms of headaches, dizziness and tiredness during an outbreak of COVID-19 in her Cree community of Norway House. The family took her to the local hospital for testing, and later she was rushed there by ambulance when her symptoms got worse.
Her condition continued to progress so Jenalyn’s mother, Jennifer, made the decision to take her daughter on the 805 km trip to Winnipeg. They were far from home, and their support system.
At HSC Children’s emergency department, Jenalyn was diagnosed with meningitis causing acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Fourteen days later, Jenalyn was her happy smiling self and ready to go home.
Unfortunately, Jenalyn came down with the same strain again in 2022 and the symptoms came on faster and stronger. This time Jenalyn was medivacked to HSC Children’s where medications were started right away. Jenalyn spent several days sleeping and not responding, but eventually recovered.
Jennifer is grateful to the Children’s Hospital doctors, nurses, and Child Life specialists who took such good care of her daughter and to donors who support the hospital to ensure it is ready for emergency situations for all kids across the province.
Over 60% of kids who need HSC Children’s are from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities just like Jenalyn. In Manitoba Indigenous children are three to five times more likely to be affected by several diseases/conditions that require long-term care, which often means visiting the hospital for years.
The Foundation is deeply committed to supporting families like Jenalyn’s and in 2019 began an intentional journey towards ReconciliACTION. We reached out to Indigenous leaders to learn the best approach for engaging the Indigenous community and supporting reconciliation efforts, began in-depth training for our staff and board, and supported other Indigenous-led projects like the creation of a Spirit Bear mask in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, to help protect Indigenous youth from COVID-19.
Reconciliation is very close to our hearts as an organization. The Foundation will continue to advance our work towards ReconciliACTION under the guidance and direction of the Indigenous Advisory Circle, to honour all the little feet that have walked these lands for thousands of years and those that will walk across these lands in the years to come.
Learn more at goodbear.ca/ReconciliACTION.
Stefano Grande is President and CEO, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.