Hannah Crouse is a psychology and sociology student and this year’s Loewen Health intern at Port Elgin and Region Health Centre.
1. What is your summer internship?
My big project right now, is to get a bus for the Port Elgin School. There are a lot of fantastic after school programs and resources but unfortunately many children do not have a way of getting home. I met with the principal, who told me about the problem. Since speaking with him and other community organizations, the need for transportation is undeniable and one that I would like to help address.
My other big project is creating a program to deal with seniors’ isolation. That came about from delivering some food boxes from the nursing home to seniors. When I went to deliver them, they would come outside and they were so pleased to have some sort of social interaction with someone. They are living alone, and especially now with COVID-19, this is very isolating. The first lady I delivered a food box to cried because she was so excited to see someone. She said, “I am so lonely” and had no one to visit her. I found that heartbreaking. She invited me in and we sat together, played cards, and had a simple chat. I delivered 5 more boxes and found myself doing something similar with each one.
When I got home, I was so sad at seeing how lonely these seniors were, I phoned my Mom. I knew I had to do something. The Tantramar Task force has a student volunteer list so I am going to pair students from Mount A and the Tantramar area with a senior and they will meet once a week. That will help with the loneliness aspect of things, but I am also partnering with the Sackville Farmers Market to buy food from them. I have some grants to cover the cost of food and transportation. So, each week the student will take the food box to their senior buddy and they will cook a meal together. This will also tackle some issues surrounding food insecurity I am very excited about this.
I am also working with different community organizations to help them set up things they have been hoping to do. For example, to put in an accessible programming for healthy living, and creating a Queer-straight Alliance and a Period Poverty/Equity Program for the Port Elgin School.
2. What do you hope to take away from this experience?
At the end of the day, I would like to make a significant difference and I would like the programs that I am able to put in place to be long lasting rather than a bandaid type fix. I want the community to be involved in these projects and to help actionize solutions to concerns they may have.
3. How has the pandemic affected your internship?
My job was a little more structured before the pandemic hit. I was going to be doing charting and helping patients when they come in. More hands on. Then COVID-19 flipped the whole thing upside down in a sense—the world has shifted significantly. I had to adjust to that as well as going into this community I had never been into; it was all very different. And that does not mean that it is bad. It was an adjustment and it is due to how privileged I am in that it was only an adjustment and I could continue to do this work. I know a lot of people are struggling, but as I mentioned I am extremely privileged as I have reliable transportation, somewhere to stay and I am able to feed myself. So, I am able to continue my internship, which I am very grateful for that. I am very fortunate.
4. What has been your favourite part of your internship experience so far?
I see a lot of parallels with my hometown and Port Elgin. I am from Stewiacke, Nova Scotia and grew up on a dairy farm. It is very rural and there is a lot of poverty. I can relate to these people and especially the kids growing up there. The kids are having an especially difficult time due to social exclusion and physical isolation, more so with COVID-19. Also, at the same time, I think having the organizations communicate their needs to me, so I understand what these needs are, rather than putting my values on what should be done, is important. I am currently in the position to make some changes. That is my favorite part.
And I love the school and working with the teachers. They have such good relationships with their kids. The way they talk about their students tells you a great deal about the community they have created at the school. I often think ‘wow, I hope my teachers talked about me like that.’ They put together a graduation video for the grade 8s and they were talking about how much they missed them, many tears were shed!
5. What extracurriculars are you involved in on and off campus?
I have a lot going on. I am on the volleyball team and am the accessibility affairs coordinator for the school this year. You work with different student groups, like MASU, Student Life, the Wellness Centre, to ensure that programs, orientation, and classes are accessible. As well, I chair the accessibility affairs committee and I have meetings with students who have concerns about accessibility. I am trying to create an App, which will have all the information about what is available at Mount Allison. I am also on different MASU committees, take part in Mounties in Motion for student athletes, and the Health Matters Society. Finally, I am on the Tantramar Task force Youth committee, which was formed to address the needs of the community. Here I sit on the Youth and Student Action group while also being a part of subcommittees for food security and caregiving. I also have created two sub-committees myself where we address senior isolation and queer issues in the Tantramar area.
Bonus question: What is one piece of advice you would give to your first-year self?
I think I felt stressed in first-year to do everything and get involved as much as possible. That is great because you find your own community and like-minded people. However, I think there is a certain idea of what success is for students. If I could tell my first-year self one thing, it would be to find what success means to you. Compare yourself to only yourself and not what other people are doing, otherwise you will be so focused on other people that you might not succeed in the things you really want to do. You need to discover your own values and what you want to achieve. There is not finite path to succeeding. Find out what you are passionate about and succeed in your own way. You rock! :)
Hear more about Hannah’s Community Connections program on CHMA radio: https://www.chmafm.com/welcome/youth-and-seniors-cook-together-with-community-connect/