Compassionate Employee Shows the Strength of using a culturally aware approach

Putting the individual or family at the center of things is crucial to effective service delivery. This means considering their history, background, and safety to meaningfully focus on their particular needs.

Cultural awareness is a huge part of the strength of WJS as an organization. Dorene Guillon deeply understands this in her work with Children and Family services.

Working primarily with clients who are First Nations, Dorene’s own ancestry and past significantly informs her approach to care.

“The connection to who you are is really important,” she says. Growing up, Dorene says she was ashamed of her identity and felt no meaningful connection to her Métis ancestry. She struggled as a single parent, and she didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere. But later in life, Dorene got her mother’s First Nations status and Band membership recognized, and it provided a shift for her to recognize her own self worth.

“I started accepting and allowing myself to embrace that I am First Nations and that I should love myself,” she says. “That’s where the services start with people: letting them know there is nothing to be ashamed of as First Nations.”

Dorene promotes understanding and awareness of people’s pasts and the intergenerational pain that impacts them and their community to this day.

“I think it helps to share a sense of belonging and love,” Dorene says.

Dorene brings this evidence-based, cultural awareness to her clients. She speaks as much as possible in their language, incorporates the use of traditional beliefs and tools like medicine wheels into parenting supports, and connects people to community and cultural resources, such as a ladies’ sweat lodge, drum making, spiritual teachings, and learnings from Elders. These are some of the day to day activities that transform lives for families.

This culturally-informed approach has shown Dorene just how resilient and successful her people can be.

“With the proper tools and support, we can move our people to be self-sufficient,” she says. “We do not have to be statistics.”