The Blog

Follow along as we work towards systems change and help create better outcomes for kids in our community.

Student Blog Post – Sarah Cummings

March 07, 2017

This year, The Winnipeg Boldness Project was able to take on several practicum students thanks to a new student supervisor position that was developed through a partnership with the University of Manitoba. The students have been a huge help with research activities and have learned many new skills along the way.

One of our students, Sarah Cummings, has written a blog post to share a bit about her self, what she has learned here at Boldness, and why it’s important to her:
My name is Sarah Cummings, I am a University of Manitoba Social Work student, in my second year of the concentrated program. I am doing my practicum at The Winnipeg Boldness Project, where I work a lot on researching and reporting for the Boldness team.
My interest in The Winnipeg Boldness Project stemmed from my previous research knowledge. I wanted a practicum that would be able to further strengthen these skills, and this placement was one of the only organizations that was presented as a research placement. As I learned more about The Project, I become interested in the work they were doing and the values they operated from. They operate from a child-centered model, which places the child at the center of the system, surrounded by other systems that impact the child, such as the parents and caregivers, extended family, communities, elders, infrastructures, and the environment. The child-centered model and community-driven approach resonated with me and my values and presented an opportunity to gain knowledge from a community-focused research lens. Learning about a community, from the community, outside of an institutional setting, allows better access to develop insight into the deep wisdoms and strengths present within. It allows me to take a step back and view the community outside systems that can often view the community only in terms of the policies the organizations operate under.
During my time here I’ve developed skills including research skills and interpersonal skills, making sure I am working for the community, and helping co-create initiatives and projects for the community. Research skills include things such as report writing, learning interviewing skills, and learning how to develop research questions. Although these skills are not directly used in the typical social work career, they are extremely transferable. For instance, report writing often needs to be short and without judgement, which looks similar to much of the case writing social workers would do. Additionally, interviewing skills in a research setting will transfer to activities such as case meetings, where social workers need to interview their client, and even their general ability to hold a conversation and come across as involved in the other.
Due to The Winnipeg Boldness Project’s research-focused nature, social work theories are integrated into the everyday work that I do. The child-centered model operates on a similar level to ecological theory, which places the individual at the center, surrounded by the systems that effect it. Ecological theory has been a leading theory in social work for many years and looks at the individual’s circumstances as a result of the environment and systems surrounding it. Theories often blame the individual for deficits and do not take into account larger environmental and historical factors. In essence, they blame the individual for their circumstances. Ecological theory moves away from victim-blaming, and shows the effect larger barriers have on the individual.

Diagram: Ecological theory (right) VS Winnipeg Boldness Child Centred Model (left).

The child-centered model that The Winnipeg Boldness Project operates from replicates this belief and looks at the individuals in the North End, as well as the problems present in the community, and instead of blaming the individual or their parents, it looks at their circumstances, the histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the continuation of colonization, the everyday racism and discrimination they face, etc., and attempts to remove the barriers by asking the community what they need and want.
This practicum is a unique practicum that provides me with a lot of training that is highly transferable to my future social work career and allows me the insight that other placements would likely not offer.

Land Acknowledgement

The Winnipeg Boldness Project resides in and works on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe), Anishinabewaki (Oji-Cree), Dené, Michif Piyii (Métis), Nêhiyawak (Cree), and Očhéthi Sakowin (Dakota). We recognize that we have benefited from and continue to benefit from colonization on the Treaty 1, Treaty 3, and Treaty 5 Territories.

It is important to also acknowledge how we benefit in this territory at the cost to Indigenous Peoples. Winnipeg has been drinking clean water for over a century via an aqueduct from Shoal Lake. In 1917, 3000 acres of Treaty 3 was declared property of the city of Winnipeg to build the aqueduct. This aqueduct was built over ancestral burial ground, to build these structures, the ancestors were disinterred and reburied. Construction of the aqueduct changed the waters significantly, causing the peninsula to become a man-made island. This now isolated Nation faced many challenges as a direct result from this aqueduct; Necessities like water, groceries, schools, and mail were only accessible via the dangerous trek to the mainland. Lives of adults and children were lost crossing to and from the mainland. Freedom Road, an all-weather road access finally opened summer 2019, over a century after displacement. This road, a testament to the success of Indigenous-led solutions, helps bring materials to build schools and a water treatment plant.

“I always think of it, even when I turn on the tap I’m like this comes from our community and this water probably contains our ancestors and the spirits of our ancestor. I think about the hardships of the people from Shoal Lake 40 who have gone through so many things for the benefit of Winnipeg’s drinking water,” says Angelina McLeod.1

Another benefit we reap in Winnipeg at a cost to Indigenous Peoples and land is the Hydro Electricity Development in Treaty 5. To optimize water movement for greatest power production the Province of Manitoba increased waterflow by creating the Churchill River Diversion in 1976. The modification of the waterflow caused flooding, shoreline erosion, and changes to water quality. This destruction of habitat has caused disruption to waterway travel, fishing, and hunting.