Water First Internship Program

Water First Internship Program

The boil water advisory crisis in First
Nations communities across Canada sadly involves 20% of First Nations
communities that cannot drink their tap water. Provincially it is 40%, four out of ten First Nations, that cannot drink their water. What Water First is doing
about that, in the area in which we focus, is on education and training. Where we
focus is on recruitment of young adults, young Indigenous adults, to the field of
water treatment, to the field of environmental water quality monitoring,
and we support them to obtain their entry-level certifications and to enter
the professional field as young professionals. The Water First Internship is a 15 month paid program for youth and young adults. They receive training in
water treatment and environmental water quality monitoring. They also work in
their home community water treatment plants. Working through this internship
has taught me the power of meaningful collaboration with Indigenous
communities to solve water challenges so this program was really a teamwork and
collaborative effort between our partners at the Tribal Council, the
individual community members, the water treatment plant operators and the
interns themselves. Amy Waboose was one of our most enthusiastic interns. She
always lit up the room when she came to class for the workshops and really
brought everybody up. During the internship we tried to blend traditional
knowledge from the Elders and the Western knowledge that we were teaching.
Some of the things that we did were starting our workshop with a smudge
ceremony. In the Anishinaabe culture, traditionally speaking, women are the
protectors of water, they are the Water Walkers. The water treatment field
itself is generally dominated by men. I was glad to see that during the Water
First Internship, of the ten interns that graduated, four of them were female and
Amy was one of them and she’s working full-time at a water treatment plant in Birch Island. The most exciting thing about being in
the internship was meeting everybody, meeting all the new people, meeting my
new bosses. It’s just getting out there and being recognized for this work. Well a typical day at the plant is I get to the water plant, have a coffee, chitchat with
my boss, and then we’re working. I’m going out, I’m checking the low-lift making
sure everything’s working, the pressure relief valve, and then from there I’m
going to the elevator storage reservoir to make sure the water is safe for
everybody to drink through the distribution system. After that it’s
I come to the plant, I sit in the lab for an hour of my day, an hour and a half, and
I’m testing it, I’m making sure the chlorine, there’s enough chlorine, and not
too little of chlorine. I just want to make sure it’s healthy. It’s my community,
it’s where I come from, I take pride in what I do.
Fitting into this internship, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was signing
up for. I came in here for a job and I ended here with a career. My family’s set
from this. Having this for my son and I is the best thing. Before this job, I didn’t care where the
water came from. I turned that tap on and it was that. As soon as I got this job,
and knowing what the operators do behind the scene and they don’t really get
recognized for it, is the change there. You need to find people that take
pride in it and they want to have that for their next generation. That’s why I’m
doing it is for my family, for everybody here. You don’t have to worry, you have,
you’ll have this. The Water First internship program over the next three
to five years, the plan is to expand the program to an
additional 75 First Nations communities primarily in Ontario and perhaps to some
neighbouring provinces. What people can do to support the internship is
they can reach out to Water First, they can donate, they can become
volunteers, help us work on awareness of the programs that we do and you know
both among Canadians and among Indigenous communities that we hope to
be working even more with. We wouldn’t be here today
as an organization and particularly with the internship program if we didn’t have
the support of donors.

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About the Author: John Markowski

1 Comment

  1. Being apart of the Water First Internship has lifted my spirit, in knowing that clean sustainable water for our future generations is possible.

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