top of page
Search
  • Gayle Baker

Welcoming Our Ambassadors!

June 23

Nine joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering welcoming some of the coordinators of our new Ambassador Program, David Norget, Karen Olsson, Grant Fredrickson, and Chamber Manager, Alexander Fischer-Jean. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we began by learning that this exciting new program is designed to transform Ganges into a friendlier space for all, forging those important connections that were damaged by our COVID isolation and fears.


This new Ambassador Program illustrates those connections as it is a community partnership between:

  • The Salt Spring Health Advancement Network (SSHAN) Mental Wellness Initiative,

  • The Salt Spring Community Health Society (SSCHS),

  • The RCMP,

  • The Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce,

  • The Community Alliance’s ASK Salt Spring, and

  • CRD’s Gary Holman, who is financially-supporting the initiation of this program through a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid.

As five of our guests were Ambassadors, we asked them Why? One began with a laugh: saying popularity. But, we soon learned that all shared a strong desire to serve our community by increasing well-being through connections. This initiative is designed to increase connections with all in our village, including business owners, struggling seniors, young mothers with strollers navigating our challenging sidewalks, and those more marginalised community members needing information and/or support.


Just beginning, two teams of two have been out and about for the past two weeks donning their green We Care vests. With eight Ambassadors ready to go and the doors open to more volunteers (ssiambassadors@gmail.com), it is expected that these numbers will grow quickly.


We were curious about the initial experiences of these two Ambassador teams. We learned that their first shift was focused upon introducing themselves to both those they met on our streets as well as our retail community. One Ambassador noted that the next week that welcome had already turned into an enthusiastic Nice to see you again!


While these Ambassadors are committed to enhancing connections throughout our community, they are also aware that there are more vulnerable members of our community who may need additional services. This could include mental health support or even, in rare cases, intervention from those more equipped to help. Determined to forge connections no matter what the need, an Ambassador reminded us: An enemy is someone whose story you have not heard.


If someone is clearly in need of counselling support, will Ambassadors step up? The answer varies depending upon the training of each Ambassador. All Ambassadors receive training before beginning (plus a RCMP Criminal Record Check and liability coverage). Also, many Ambassadors are among the over 90 graduates of Salt Spring Community Health Society’s (SSCHS) Mental Health First Aid training (https://saltspringcommunityhealth.ca/upcoming-events/) a program currently on hold but expected to begin again. Others - sometimes the same individuals - are volunteers with the joint SSHAN and SSCHS Mental Wellness Initiative: (https://www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com/mental-wellness-initiative-team-provides-update-and-appeals-for-funds/).

While the degree of intervention offered will vary between Ambassadors, depending upon their individual skills, all are committed to offering warm attention, a smile, and the support of one community member for another - slowly, but steadily, rebuilding healthy connections that are so critical to the well-being of our community.


Exploring an even greater level of support for those in need, a participant asked whether Ambassadors will carry Naloxone (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/opioids/naloxone.html). Requiring training, this will be an individual Ambassador’s decision - but this participant did offer to supply these kits to those who decide to get the required training.


Even smiling at all who pass is quite unique. One participant noted that this smiling roadside behaviour is considered odd when she smiles at strangers in other towns. Seeking a neighbourliness largely absent in so many other communities, these Ambassadors are committed to bringing that smile back to Ganges.


Recognizable by wearing green vests embroidered with a multicolour heart saying WE Care and brightly coloured name tag lanyards, during the hottest days, some will also sport a pretty amazing beverage backpack. Used for the Olympics, Ambassador Grant acquired them and Chamber Manager, Alexander, did a heroic job of sanitising them, buying needed new hoses, and readying them to carry water when hot weather necessitates extra hydration. (Unlikely to need all four fully-operational beverage backpacks, the plan is to offer two to the RCMP so that they can also carry water in their vehicles to offer on hot days)


And, not to be stored during the colder months, these beverage backpacks will be used for hot water. Conveniently, they also come with fanny packs perfect for both cups as well as tea and hot chocolate when a warm drink is needed.


Having learned a great deal about this Ambassador Program, we also learned a bit about our participants and the many hats they wear. Damian, Chair of the CHiR.FM non-profit society, was with us and later interviewed our guests, available at ASK Salt Spring Answered. Also with us was a representative of the Lookout Society (https://lookoutsociety.ca/), currently operating the Kings Lane supportive community with accommodations for up to 18. Welcoming an invitation, it is hoped that they will be our special ASK Salt Spring guests Friday, July 21, 11-1, in the SIMS Lobby. Stay tuned.

Ambassador Karen Olsson spoke briefly about a new Salt Spring Community Health Society (SSCHS) initiative to operate a fully-electric mobile health unit. While mental health will be one focus, this clinic will also provide primary health care services.On hold after a series of disappointing grant rejections, a generous private donation has recently funded a down payment for an electric vehicle (estimated to cost $91,000). Additional costs will include installation of the all electric health unit plus medical equipment, computers, insurance, etc. The total cost is estimated to be around $275,000.00. Some of this additional funding has been promised; SSCHS will also launch a community fund-raising drive.

David Norget also spoke of heavy competition for mental health money. While there is quite a lot of money available, the Mental Wellness Initiative is still looking for full funding in the face of a number of rejections. Two current initiatives are:

  1. Volunteer Counseling Program, an initiative that offers up to 10 hours a year of free mental health counselling, coaching, or related mental health services for those who cannot afford to pay. Even before formal recruitment has begun, six mental health service providers have already committed.

  2. Peer Support Project includes expanded community based support through the Pathway to Hope (Min of Mental Health & Addictions) model of peers supporting peers. The Ambassador Program is a slightly different version of this.

The Mental Wellness Initiative is currently engaged in a community fundraising appeal for support: (https://saltspringexchange.com/list/salt-springs-mental-wellness-initiative-fundraising-campaign/). Already, two donors have offered a challenge: They will each contribute $5,000 if that amount is matched by other donors. Come on, Salt Spring. . .open your hearts and wallets (E-transfer - donations@saltspringcommunityhealth.ca. Please specify SSHAN - Mental Wellness Initiative in the message section of your transfer).


As our time together was drawing to a close, we invite you to look for our green-vested Ambassadors around Ganges smiling at you. We hope you smile back :). And, if you want to join this team, please email ssiambassadors@gmail.com for more information.


With a sincere Thank-you to our Ambassador enthusiasts, we acknowledged their vision, hard work, and the optimism needed to build a program to create those invaluable connections in our community. (Thank-you Grant, Karen, Gloria, David, Alexander. . .and the other enthusiasts who could not join us for this ASK Salt Spring gathering!)


We are taking a holiday this week, Friday, June 30.


Please join us next Friday, July 7, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Lobby to welcome MLA Adam Olsen.


What would you like to ask him?

  • As it is summer break, and you are focused on constituent issues, what are your highest priority issues?

  • Do you have any more information about the proposed provincial housing relegations expected this fall? Do you think they will impact Salt Spring?

  • What other legislation to you expect to be the focus of the fall legislative session?

  • What would you like to see accomplished by the end of 2023?

  • And?


Please join us July 7, 11-1, in the SIMS Lobby to welcome Adam!

Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings and

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!


22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page