Spotlight on WISH’s in-house Elder
Kwaakwii, also known as Elder Terri, is a proud Haida woman from Haida Gwaii, who came to the Lower Mainland about 30 years ago.
“I moved down here to help with my grandchildren,” Elder Terri explains. “My most rewarding role in life is being a single mom of my beautiful daughter and my amazing son. They continue to teach me and give me strength and courage to rise to the occasion to become the mom and woman that I strive to be.”
Elder Terri first came WISH three years ago when her sister told her about an Indigenous-led program. “I was glad that there was a program like that for our women to get back to their traditions and culture and sharing that with them,” she says.
Her journey began as a participant in the program and in less than three years she became WISH’s in-house Elder. “I take immense pride and honour in my role of residential Elder here at WISH,” she shares. She now helps guide the program in addition to attending group sessions to offer support and teachings to participants.
“I bring diverse experiences working with health care, legal, and non-profit organizations, and it is especially here where I thrive and feel a sense of belonging. I have gained resilience, courage, and strength through my own personal struggles and continue to develop my personal and professional life by being mindful, aware, empathetic and compassionate,” Elder Terri adds. “I believe taking a culturally-centred approach means listening and softening the heart.”
Elder Terri is at WISH five days a week. When asked what she would like others to know about IHSP she highlights the importance of healing.
“The healing part was really important for me. It changed my life. The cultural activities validated me. I feel like I am a better Elder since taking the program,” she explains.
“I know there are a lot of ladies out there that don’t know where they are from and that, in itself, can be very emotional, even just talking about it gets emotional for me,” she adds. “I still meet a lot of women that are First Nations but they don’t have a clue about their Nation and try to point them into the direction of Residential School Survivors Groups where there are a lot of Elders from different Nations and that, in itself, is a stepping stone for them.”
When asked what being a resident Elder means to her, she mentions the joy it brings her to contribute her knowledge and wisdom to the community.