Third-year students in the Selkirk College Nursing Program are helping lead the charge to bring awareness and raise funds for hungry, homeless and hurting people in West Kootenay communities.
Since 2011, Coldest Night of the Year walks have been held across Canada where millions of dollars have been raised for local charities serving some of the most vulnerable people. Students in the Nursing Program have been helping organizers hit their fundraising mark in Nelson and Castlegar since 2016, and will once again be on the frontlines on Saturday, February 22.
Third-year students in the Nursing Program at Selkirk College are helping organize and raise awareness for this year’s Coldest Night of the Year walks in Castlegar and Nelson that take place on February 22. (L-R) Nick Crichton, Tori Nevakshonoff and Anthony St. Onge are bringing new elements to their education through participation in the event.
“We will be driving change in the future,” says student Nick Crichton, one of four Nursing Program students involved in this year’s events. “It’s important that all students in post-secondary get involved because they will influence how our communities will look in the future. We need to understand what is being done well and identify where people are really struggling so that we can do better.”
Experiential Learning Provides Impactful Insight
Third-year Nursing Program students are required to take part in a practicum during their Winter Semester of study in a variety of areas like the Street Nursing Outreach Program, the Options for Sexual Health Clinic, naloxone training and other programs/projects around the region. Crichton is joined by classmates Tori Nevakshonoff, Anthony St. Onge and Christina Champlin on the Coldest Night of the Year posting.
“It was eye-opening to learn about the issue in Castlegar because it is a lot more hidden in this community than others,” says Nevakshonoff. “It’s about sleeping in cars, sleeping in tents, couch surfing… it’s not something that is as visible.”
Born-and-raised in Castlegar, Nevakshonoff says having the opportunity to explore issues related to homelessness and the crisis faced by vulnerable people in her community is an important element of her education and understanding.
“There are services available in Castlegar, but there is not a lot of community education about what is actually happening,” says Nevakshonoff, who graduated high school from Stanley Humphries Secondary. “Our goal is to get out into the classrooms of Selkirk College and the community to help provide education.”
St. Onge moved to Nelson from Saskatoon in order to immerse himself in mountain lifestyle. With three years of study at the University of Saskatchewan under his educational belt, shortly after he arrived to the West Kootenay he decided to switch career paths and chose nursing because of his desire to help people. Both of St. Onge’s parents are social workers, so the 28-year-old comes to his practicum assignment knowing how difficult life can be for those below the poverty line.
“Homelessness can hit anyone, so many Canadians are two paycheques away from not being able to pay their rent,” says St. Onge. “It’s a very real issue and it’s something that impacts people at unexpected times of their lives. Helping get the education out in our communities can create an environment of understanding which goes a long ways towards making a difference.”
There are several ways to get involved in the local Coldest Night of the Year events in both Castlegar and Nelson. Fundraise as a team/individual, donate or volunteer to help reach goals in your community. Find out more about the Nelson walk here. Get more information about the Castlegar walk here.