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Nurturing connections between interns, peers and communities

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Nurturing connections between interns, peers, and communities

2023 Annual Report

“When interns become alumni, they will continue to have the support of the Water First staff. But they also leave with an entire cohort of supporters. No matter where they end up post-internship, they will always have the connections that they built through their fifteen months together.”

Jacey Bonertz, Technical Trainer & Project Coordinator
Water First

Participants in a Water First program can count on developing new technical skills related to water sciences or resource management that are aligned with a community’s long-term goals. Beyond these outcomes, it’s the connections developed between interns, peers, and communities that will stand the test of time.

Interpersonal connections are nurtured and deepened in collaborations that continue past one successful project – like our collaboration with the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach in northern Quebec since 2018. In a testament to the long-term nature of the relationship, participants from past projects shared their knowledge from previous training with new participants to help the team pick up the skills they needed.

Graduates of the Drinking Water Internship Program achieve the technical skills and valuable certifications that will serve them on their path to employment in water treatment or to further education. But for many interns, one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is the connections they make. Kyle Porter, a 2023 graduate from Garden River First Nation, had this to say: “I joined because I was seeking an opportunity to become involved in my community, and also to learn new skills. Personally, I find that being able to contribute to the community I belong to brings me closer to my family and friends.”

Spotlight Story

In the spring of 2023, staff from Water First attended the annual Aboriginal Water and Wastewater Association of Ontario (AWWAO) training conference and trade show in Rama First Nation. Nathan Pamajewon, a graduate of the Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program from Shawanaga First Nation, helped organize a special Alumni Network event to bring together graduates and current interns.

Water is life, and I consider this to be an honour to keep it protected for now and the future. I’m glad I learned the process and how to take pride in your work and in keeping everyone safe.”

Nathan Pamajewon, Alumni
Shawanaga First Nation

Spotlight Story

In the spring of 2023, staff from Water First attended the annual Aboriginal Water and Wastewater Association of Ontario (AWWAO) training conference and trade show in Rama First Nation. Nathan Pamajewon, a graduate of the Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program from Shawanaga First Nation, helped organize a special Alumni Network event to bring together graduates and current interns.

“Water is life, and I consider this to be an honour to keep it protected for now and the future. I’m glad I learned the process and how to take pride in your work and in keeping everyone safe.”

Nathan Pamajewon, Alumni
Shawanaga First Nation

Upon graduation, Drinking Water interns are encouraged to join Water First’s Alumni Network. As alumni, they can access ongoing support for their professional journeys in the water science field: access to a newly unveiled online portal, educational opportunities, funding, and a community of fellow professionals to cheer each other on. Revamped and enhanced in 2023, the Alumni Network is a hub for networking, professional development, and ongoing connections with Water First staff and other graduates.

Water First programs also facilitate connections and support reciprocal learning between communities. Environmental Water participants, for example, often have the opportunity to share their learnings and experiences with peers at conferences and community presentations. The connections that develop through Water First partnerships sustain results well into the future.

Spotlight Story

Jaylen Andre, from the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, began his journey with Water First through school workshops when he was 14 years old, in May 2022. He learned about watersheds and water chemistry using Water Rangers kits, which are water quality testing kits designed for educators. Jaylen got to meet Water First’s environmental team and participants, and see the “big kid” versions of the water quality equipment. Jaylen enjoyed the experience so much that he ended up getting hired through a collaboration with the community to work throughout the summer, learning how to do water and fish sampling.

In February 2023, Jaylen, along with two other Naskapi participants, travelled from Kawawachikamach, Quebec to Park Lake, Labrador for a winter water monitoring workshop. At Park Lake, Jaylen made an impression on the guides from Sheshatshiu Innu Nation — they liked working with the Naskapi, and specifically with Jaylen as a youth. They were impressed by his passion and enthusiasm, and by how much he loves being on the land.

Spotlight Story

Jaylen Andre, from the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, began his journey with Water First through school workshops when he was 14 years old, in May 2022. He learned about watersheds and water chemistry using Water Rangers kits, which are water quality testing kits designed for educators. Jaylen got to meet Water First’s environmental team and participants, and see the “big kid” versions of the water quality equipment. Jaylen enjoyed the experience so much that he ended up getting hired through a collaboration with the community to work throughout the summer, learning how to do water and fish sampling.

In February 2023, Jaylen, along with two other Naskapi participants, travelled from Kawawachikamach, Quebec to Park Lake, Labrador for a winter water monitoring workshop. At Park Lake, Jaylen made an impression on the guides from Sheshatshiu Innu Nation — they liked working with the Naskapi, and specifically with Jaylen as a youth. They were impressed by his passion and enthusiasm, and by how much he loves being on the land.

To read more stories like this, check out our

2023 Annual Report

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