Normally this space is used to talk about the cool and exciting things that Propellus staff have been doing in the past couple of weeks around the community but this week we will be sharing the absolutely enriching experience Doug and Jeff had last weekend at the Alberta Community Council on HIV’s (ACCH) Positive Voices Conference.
Our Propellus team members left bright and early Friday morning and braved a blizzard with white-out conditions in Doug’s trusty Honda Civic with All-Season Tires to arrive at the Jasper Park Mountain Lodge on Friday afternoon. From there our dynamic duo worked with participants through an exercise to articulate their specific personal journey with HIV. The participants were extremely generous and welcoming to Doug and Jeff and helped to educate and enlighten the two on the stigmas and barriers people with HIV face each and every day as they try to navigate a health care system that is often times ill-informed on the challenges they face. That evening Doug and Jeff were invited to participate in a traditional Indigenous Smudging Ceremony hosted by Elder Taz Bouchier. Later they were treated to dinner with the participants and entertainment from world renowned cellist Robert Bardston.
On Saturday, Doug and Jeff worked with participants to identify group norms and values, their organizational culture and their personal strengths. Jeff was game to work the group through a number of improvisational theatre techniques and exercises and the group was more than ready to participate. Throughout the day many laughs were had and the group started to bond together and work through the exercises as a team. That evening Doug and Jeff retreated to a local five star restaurant called “SUBWAY” to plan the activities for the final session on Sunday morning. On the way to “SUBWAY” Doug and Jeff were lucky to see a number of elk on the side roads of Jasper’s main street and take in some of the beautiful scenery. That evening Doug retreated to an early night’s sleep and Jeff went back to his room to watch the critically acclaimed film “John Wick” in preparation for Sunday’s Oscar Awards.
On Sunday, Doug and Jeff reconvened with the participants and formulated two working groups. One group was tasked with creating a systems map of all the organizations/initiatives related to their cause. The other group worked on evaluating the recently developed strategic plan for the Positive Voices Caucus and creating a rubric for evaluating their relevancy. The groups worked diligently throughout the morning and then presented their results to the others before the end of the session. What was most immediately evident was that they were applying the tools and exercises they had learned in previous sessions to work together for a common cause. It was absolutely amazing to see their progress and a true joy to be able to help them along the way. Doug and Jeff headed back and made sure to make one last stop at another five star establishment called “McDonald’s” in Canmore before making their way home.
Upon reflecting on the weekend, Doug and Jeff felt really great about the work they get to do in their jobs. Previous to this experience the two of them were absolutely ignorant of the types of struggles and stigma that the HIV population faces. The participants of the workshops were so friendly and accommodating to Doug and Jeff, despite their ignorance, and after all was said in done Doug and Jeff learned as much as they taught.