Water First Internship

The inaugural Water First Internship project started in spring 2017, a partnership between Water First, the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, Wikwemikong First Nation, Keewaytinook Okimakanak & the Union of Ontario Indians.

 

The internship recruited 14 youth from seven First Nations communities on Manitoulin Island to receive drinking water treatment training.

 

The Water First Internship helps interns gain the certifications they need to work in a water treatment plant, and to begin their careers as stewards of their community’s health and well being. Ultimately, through technical trainings, the internship program increases the local pool of skilled water treatment operators, which helps solve and prevent boil water advisories both now and in the long term.

The Interns

  • Naomi Mandamin, Wikwemikong First Nation

    Naomi Mandamin was born in Sudbury 32 years ago and moved to Wikwemikong when she was in Grade 5. As a result, she says with a smile, “I’m not a bush person, I’m a city girl.”

    She’s also been fascinated with science for as long as she can remember.
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  • Paige Manitowabi, Wikwemikong First Nation

    Paige Manitowabi is excited to take what she’s learning as a Water First intern and combine it with her growing interest in traditional Anishinaabe ways. That mix of knowledge, she thinks, could be the key to solving a lot of problems.
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  • Eric Vautour, Sheguiandah First Nation

    A young man with an activist’s heart, Eric Vautour has been involved with water and environmental issues since high school. As a teenager he worked on Sheguiandah’s Green Plan Project, a program that engaged youth in environmental actions like shoreline cleanups.
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  • Chris Wemigwans, Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation

     At 46 years old, Chris Wemigwans sees the Water First Internship as a chance to learn valuable skills and lay the groundwork for a possible career in his home community.

    “I’d love to stay on here at the water plant,” he said, twelve weeks into the 18-month Internship that includes training in water monitoring, treatment, and distribution.
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  • Dallas Goodfellow, Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation

    Dallas Goodfellow was born in Sault Ste. Marie, and moved to Aundeck Omni Kaning when he was in Grade 3. He had a job at the AOK water treatment plant while he was in high school, and has worked since high school at a local fish farm.
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  • Chelsea Antoine Debassige, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation

    When Chelsea Antoine Debassige first heard about the Water First Internship and the training it provides, she thought, “what on earth is a water quality analyst?”

    Now, she has passed her water quality analyst exam herself.

    The Water First Internship has given Chelsea a chance to work in her home community (the most remote on Manitoulin Island), while giving her hope for gainful employment in the future.
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  • Cassidy Beaudin, M’Chigeeng First Nation

    An avid outdoorsman, 19-year-old Cassidy Beaudin is keen to someday turn his Water First Internship experience into a job as a treatment plant operator.

    “Water is the key to life, I’ve always known how important it is,” he said. “And I really like being part of making clean water.”

    After graduating high school last year, Cassidy completed one semester of the Environmental Technician program at Canadore College, but found the course wasn’t exactly what he was looking for.
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  • Amy Waboose, Whitefish River First Nation

    “A lot of people are oblivious about the water,” says 23-year-old Amy Waboose. “But for our culture, water is life. It’s important, and I try to teach my son the same.”

    Amy hopes the skills and experience she gains with Water First can lead to a career in water treatment.
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  • Alex Nahwegahbow, Whitefish River First Nation

    Alex Nahwegahbow is hoping to finish the Water First Internship with his Operator-In-Training certification and a job at a water treatment plant. “This is a great opportunity,” he said. “I like this work, and it’s a good job to get into.”

    The 25-year-old completed one year of a Police Foundations diploma at college after finishing high school, but found it hard to be away from his home community.
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  • Alex Cartagena, Sheshegwaning First Nation

    At 28, Alex Cartagena has worked a lot of jobs since high school – in carpentry, in forestry, and at the quarry. When that last job at the quarry ended due to a shutdown, he found himself unemployed, with two children and bills to pay.
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The Communities

The Staff

The Staff

  • John Millar

    Executive Director & Founder

  • John has extensive experience in non-profit management and a track record of organizational growth and capacity building. John has worked with a variety of organizations in education, international development and environmental sectors and has overseen the development and growth of many successful non-profit programs.

  • Kendra Driscoll

    Water Quality Specialist

  • Before working for Water First, Kendra was the Environmental Coordinator for Wahnapitae First Nation, and she also taught Environmental Science at Cambrian College. Kendra has a background in water quality monitoring and environmental chemistry. She completed a Masters of Chemical Science from Laurentian University in Environmental Chemistry. Kendra has a passion for water protection through science education.

  • Jag Saini

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.



Fish Habitat Restoration

Water First has partnered with several First Nation communities to expand its fish habitat restoration work in 2017.

 

Through funding provided by the Environmental Damages Fund, Water First is spending a second season working on the Temagami First Nation – Water First Walleye Spawning Habitat Restoration Project. In 2016 a large Walleye spawning shoal at the mouth of Gull Creek on Lake Temagami was restored and improved to benefit spawning fish, and this summer that restoration work continues on an adjacent site. Both sites were disturbed due to historic logging activities on the lake.

 

The spring of 2017 saw Water First begin a similar 18-month Walleye spawning habitat restoration project that partners with Kebaowek First Nation on Lake Kipawa, Quebec. This project is employing and training three members of the local community to restore two sites on the lake over two seasons, while also providing training in related professional skill development and capacity building.

 

Through funding provided by the Ontario Community Environment Fund, three 6-month fish habitat restoration projects are currently underway. Water First is working with Sagamok First Nation to prevent bank erosion along the La Cloche River, with Matachewan First Nation to create a new spawning habitat in Beaver Lake, and with Taykwa Tagamou Nation to decrease surface runoff into the Abitibi river.

The Communities

The Staff

The Staff

  • Jesse Wright

    Fish Habitat Project Coordinator

  • Jesse’s professional background includes extensive work as a wilderness fishing guide and environmental educator. His work at Water First focuses on fish habitat restoration in partnership with First Nations communities. He holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from York University.

  • Jag Saini

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.



Water Tree

Water First runs its Water Tree Projects through the generous funding provided by the Ontario Community Environment Fund and the Harbinger Foundation.

 

These projects have two overarching goals:

 

  1. To increase knowledge and interest in the water sciences among First Nations youth, exposing them to the potential of a career-path in the water science industry.
  2. To improve the overall health of a First Nations community’s watershed by planting trees along local waterways to reduce the harmful impacts of erosion.

 

During each week-long visit, students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 8 participate in water science workshops and plant tree seedlings within their community. Using a range of educational tools such as microscopes, watershed models, water testing lab equipment, and a drone, the workshops provide opportunities for hands-on, inquiry-based learning within the water science field. Applying their knowledge from the workshops, students also plant up to 500 seedlings per community to help remediate their local watersheds. Seedlings are planted along waterways to improve water absorption and prevent bank erosion. To date, over 1,500 students have participated in the Water Tree Project and 3,200 seedlings have been planted!

The Communities

The Staff

The Staff

  • Jag Saini

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.



Baseline Water Quality Study

Young adults are trained to take water samples at various sites of interest identified at the community level, testing for contaminants and water quality parameters that affect drinking water and environmental water quality.

 

The data collected belongs to the First Nation and helps guard against future water quality impacts, while increasing local skills related to water resource management.

 

The Communities

The Staff

The Staff

  • Kendra Driscoll

    Water Quality Specialist

  • Before working for Water First, Kendra was the Environmental Coordinator for Wahnapitae First Nation, and she also taught Environmental Science at Cambrian College. Kendra has a background in water quality monitoring and environmental chemistry. She completed a Masters of Chemical Science from Laurentian University in Environmental Chemistry. Kendra has a passion for water protection through science education.

  • Jag Saini

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.



Custom Projects

Water First can create a custom water project designed to address a community’s priorities.

 

We’ve collaborated with a variety of communities to implement Mercury studies in fish, deliver specialized water sampling trainings, and participate in Elder consultations around water contaminants of concern. Wherever possible, Water First hires and trains locally to implement these projects and to ensure that community priorities are met, while water science skills are learned and retained by First Nations communities.