Health & Wellness in the North, Eh?

Hey, how’s it going? My name’s Arjun Khabra. I’ve been a resident of Chateh, AB for two and a half months now and have been serving as the Public Health intern for the Dene Tha’ First Nation at their health centre. Little did I know that “public health” and “health and wellness” can literally involve almost anything. I’ve contributed to numerous different events, activities and projects. Not to mention I’m a city slicker that’s just dove head first into the northern lifestyle. I like to think I’ve handled it pretty well.

My work at the health centre has involved helping write a LOI and proposal for the government to ask for funding for a lands project titled the “Dene Tha’ Sasquatch Trail & Paradise Hill Project” (there are some awesome eerie stories of alleged sightings of a creature around the area).  This should allow for a year-round recreational area that allows community members to connect with one another and enjoy the outdoors in order to lead healthier lives. I’ve also been working on starting a newsletter which helps the Health centre communicate news regarding events going on in the community, as well as doctor schedules and health tips or information the health centre would like people to know about. Small isolated communities such as Chateh have limited resources to medical care and only have doctors and nurses in the community a few times a month. Thus, the Health Centre does its best to provide programs and resources which most benefit the people, and that’s what the newsletter is attempting to help accomplish.

A large part of my time is spent working with youth. This means running sports events, informational workshops and other activities and events I can plan and help out with. Some examples include photography and film workshops, Bob Ross art nights, and baking. One big one I was apart of was inviting and bringing sports teams from other communities to play against the Chateh teams. I spent a whole day reffing and running tournaments for ball hockey and volleyball. I’ve also worked at the school to help out with science fairs and math classes. Now I’m even coaching the youth basketball team at the school and getting them ready for the Alberta Indigenous Games. Many parents are concerned their kids are spending too much time indoors and online and not enough time outside and being active, so I’ve been attempting to run events that are more like suggested hobbies so that kids can hopefully latch onto something they enjoy for the long term. 

Outside of work, I have been exposed to a rich First Nations culture and a different way of life. I’ve experienced things like cultural camps, fishing derbies and horseshoe tournaments, fire evacuations and the whole lot. I’ve camped for the first time in my life, fished for the first time in my life, am living alone for the first time in my life and have seen animals and nature in its totally undisturbed and natural setting. I’ve also been swarmed with kids asking for piggy-back rides, asking me to “Hit the woah” and have conducted an ungodly number of Fortnite dances. Overall, I’ve been exposed to the public health needs of small communities, the kind and cathartic ways that come with living in small communities and have enjoyed my time here in Chateh!

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