Working with local communities as a visitor in Sechelt, BC

 

I don’t think I fully realized how strongly anchored I am to place, nor the effect place has on my identity until I am physically removed from my familiar haunts…

 

I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am a visitor to the traditional territory of the shíshálh people whose land I am on for the duration of my fourth year social work practicum at Sechelt Hospital, and I am very grateful to be here.

Now, nearing the end of my practicum on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC and headed towards graduation, I feel a sense of déjà vu, of not knowing what to expect next. At the beginning of fourth year, I wanted to gain a better understanding of how geography and rurality impact social determinants of health, and how we as visitors (as opposed to someone who is local to the community) could respectfully engage and work with local communities. I think it’s worth saying that doing a rural placement was not something I had planned to do at all until the opportunity came up, and although there have been many moments of self-doubt and reflection, I would definitely recommend doing a rural practicum for those who are interested.

I don’t think I fully realized how strongly anchored I am to place, nor the effect place has on my identity until I am physically removed from my familiar haunts, the bus routes I navigate, and the landmarks of the city I call home. As someone who has never spent more than a month being physically away from family and friends, every step of this journey has been full of learning opportunities. Being away from my support circle, I have had to rely more heavily on intrapersonal self-care, and this forced me to reflect on the effectiveness of my established self-care mechanisms. It was also challenging not to be able to see the rest of my cohort in person to debrief about how practicum is going and to share in each others’ learning.

Some last words: regardless of where we do our final practicum, this semester would probably be the most challenging in our entire undergraduate degree. Being in a rural practicum adds a sense of isolation to the learning process as we are geographically estranged from our colleagues. I think one thing that has really helped me is to remember to have faith in the learning process, and to honour this journey I have undertaken by acknowledging where I am now compared to where I was when I started.