I was so proud to see the 10 interns graduate.
Not only because we had been through so much together over the last 15 months. And not only because I knew how much they had learned and grown both personally and professionally. But because looking at these 10 smiling and proud faces, I knew that they had been part of an innovative program THAT WORKED. And that will work again.
If we want to have clean water in Indigenous communities, we need different approaches than what we’ve done in the past. THIS PROGRAM IS IT.
There are three key elements to its success:
- it is led by the community;
- both science and traditional knowledge are critical pieces of the curriculum; and
- interns learn in many ways including in-class, hands-on workshops, professional conferences and in their community’s water treatment facilities.
If any of these elements were missing, it simply would not be as effective.
In many communities, a critical challenge to getting clean drinking water is the shortage of skilled people to work in water treatment plants. Water First’s Internship Program addresses this by training young people to become Certified Water Treatment Operators who can work in their own communities.
There are so many things about this program that I’m proud of. As a scientist, I developed a curriculum and taught from a Western science and research perspective. But it was also the involvement of Elders and incorporating traditional knowledge and traditional ways of knowing that made this program so successful. The students came alive when they were training in the field, out on the land and water, incorporating both scientific and traditional practices. You could see how inspired they were when they met with Elders or had Indigenous guest speakers talking to them. To see themselves reflected in the speakers was important because representation matters.
Of the 10 graduates, one has gone back to college to pursue further training in the environmental field; eight are working in water treatment plants or in environmental roles in their communities or the surrounding area; and one is considering job offers. They have become a network of support for each other, and role models to other young people in First Nations’ communities. And with their new skills, they can deliver safe, clean drinking water to their communities for a generation to come. They are part of the solution to a problem that has been plaguing many First Nations communities for so long.
I hope you’ll join us in this innovative and impactful program.
Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc.
Water Quality Specialist, Water First
P.S. I hope you’ll invest in this innovative approach and be part of addressing this serious issue in a meaningful way. You can donate online here, and please consider making a monthly donation. It helps us to know we can count on your support all year long.