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An Incurable Case of Brotherly Love - A tribute to both Riyad and Roy Wadia

By Katherine Dodds On December 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

I didn’t know Riyad Wadia, but I know his brother Roy. And because I’ve seen Roy in action, I know Riyad must have been someone very wonderful.

On November 30, ten years ago, Riyad Wadia, India’s first openly gay filmmaker and a behind-the-scenes gay activist died of AIDS. It was two years later when I met his brother Roy who was working at the BCCDC when he accompanied us on a trip to Kitamaat Village with Chee Mamuk (Aboriginal program of the BC CDC) to make a short film about STIs and HIV with youth from the Haisla Nation. Riyad moved Roy to do this kind of health advoacy work, and it’s an honour to his memory that Roy is so dedicated to this cause. And while Kitamaat Village was a far cry from the world of Bollywood celebrity that Roy and his brother Riyad knew, taking the creative approach to health promotion came naturally to Roy.

Roy’s tribute to Riyad, was included by Denise Ryan in the recent Vancouver Sun’s series on the HIV/AIDS epidemic to mark this December’s 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day and Month.

Roy writes: “Riyad was a beautiful soul, loving and giving, missed to this day not only by our mother and myself, but by literally hundreds of people around the world who were lucky enough to know him.” Describing the irony of the fact that while Riyad helped many HIV-positive people get discreet and top-notch medical advice about HIV as well as access to medication, he himself never took any medication for the entire seven-plus years after his diagnosis, Roy wonders “Was it deep-seated self-stigma that stopped him from taking care of his own health especially in a day and age when medication was easily available and all the more when India’s leading generic drug manufacturer, Cipla, run by a family friend, would have provided him ARV free of cost? I still struggle to figure out what the true reason was.”

For those of us who work in health promotion within already marginalized populations, the reality is poignant: stigma can be deadly. The topic of the film made by the Haisla youth was on rumours and how they can travel quickly, like STIs can, in a small community. And like STIs, rumours can be prevented.

Their film  “Stand True” was light hearted and funny, but the night of its ‘world premiere” celebration, when it screened in front of 200 Community members in the Kitamaat Village Rec Centre, invited guest, Charlotte Brooks got up to speak. I witnessed the group of young filmmakers visibly transform. Charlotte talked about how their film’s theme of rumours touched on something so important, and she shared what living with HIV has been like for her, how rumours and stigma caused so much pain to her and to her family. Suddenly those youth knew that they had not only done something cool, they had done something important with their short film. Life-changing even.

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Katherine Dodds AKA "Kat" is the founder of Good Company Communications and HelloCoolWorld.com. Trained in renegade advertising & branding through her work with Adbusters in the '90s, Kat's early induction into the possibilities of the web-world was inspired by the term hypertext, which she immediately found comforting. She is dedicated to cause-related communication and to the development and use of tools that promote democratic processes.

Live at Gathering Wisdom!

By David Ng On October 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Photo credit: FNHA

Kat and I are attending the Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey conference at the Hyatt in foggy Vancouver this week!

The conference also commemorates the inaugeration of the new health authority - the First Nations Health Authority - and began with an emphasis on ceremony. 

Today I attended my first session which was a youth panel on HIV and harm reduction - some of our friends from Chee Mamuk and the First Nations Health Authority were there presenting the Around the Kitchen Table video that we made.   We heard a youth panel talk about HIV and harm reduction, and how HIV is a virus, just like a cold and flu virus, except it has alot of stigma attached to it. It made me think about the first Star in Your Own Stories video project that we did with Chee Mamuk, and how the Haisla youth identified rumours as a major problem in their community, particularly around the issue of HIV. 

The First Nations Health Authority is emphasizing a wellness approach, and destigmatizing HIV is part of this wellness approach.  Instead of spreading misinformation and assumptions, supporting people with HIV in our communities can ensure that our communities are well.

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David Ng is a Hello Cool World veteran with experience going back a decade. David first worked with us when he was just 14 years old as a participant in the youth advisory group for the sexual health education program Condomania. Now an accomplished videographer passionate about the issues of gender and power, he is currently on sabbatical in South Africa while he pursues a Masters in Gender Studies with a focus on international development.

Summer Update! Hello Cool World's Toronto HQ; Our Uts'am Witness Book heading to print!

By Katherine Dodds On June 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

HELLO COOL WORLD CHATTING UP OUR UTS'AM WITNESS BOOK AT OUR MEET & GREET, & TWEET EVENT IN TORONTO! 

We are in the midst of doing the final edits, and it is so thrilling to see our book, 'Picturing Transformation, Nexw-áyantsut' come to life and to know that it will be going to print in a matter of weeks! The book features art works and photos by Nancy Bleck from the last 15 years, i.e. before, during and after the Uts'am Witness Project took place. As I review the essay we've been working on for years now, I've been reflecting on how much this project accomplished and how life-changing it was for so many. On the very first Witness weekend in 1997, all those who made the journey to Sims Creek witnessed the Squamish Nation Assertion of Aboriginal Title document. In that first art show at the Roundhouse later that year, Nancy's 48-foot long banner piece had text from that document, and panorama images from the summer of Witness Ceremonies. the images above and below are details from that banner peice.

In our neck of the woods what had been known in 1997 as "Tree Farm License 38" and slated for complete clear-cutting, has been restored to its traditional name of Nexw-áyantsut, meaning 'Place of Transformation'. As part of the Squamish Nation Sacred Land Use Plan, it now is forever protected. 

This book is a document and a testament to the journey that got us there together.

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CDC 2013 recap

By Maria Martin On March 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

The three days at the CDC Conference was a whirlwind of mid-week fun. The team was there to live-tweet CDC conference happenings + their projects around First Nations health and social media promotion. Many attendees recognized and were aware of our projects and campaigns. We did live tweeting & video interviews throughout the conference, so stay tuned for our vlog post highlighting the event. We asked people what community health meant to them & what community health looked like in First Nations communities. We also interviewed Dr. Evan Adams who explained the connection between community health and the new First Nations Health Authority. The wellness model takes a mind, body, spirit approach.

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Maria Martin is interning with Hello Cool World as part of her community nursing course at VCC.

3 topics to avoid: God, Politics, Immunizations

By David Ng On March 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Day 2 at the First Nations Health conference today started with a presentation on vaccines, which we were of course interested in because of our work with ImmunizeBC. (See Kat Dodds holding a few of our I Have Immunity portfolio pieces to the right.)

The topic of immunizations has been in the media a lot recently, particularly with Simon Fraser University recently coming under fire for allowing an anti-vaccine conference to take place at their Harbor Centre campus.

Andrea Derban explored some of the common myths and misinformation in the public today about vaccines, including the idea that vaccine's "cause" autism, and the idea that the reactions to vaccines that some people get is evidence of the vaccine delivering the full disease itself.

"If someone ever says 'I got the flu from the flu vaccine,' that's like saying 'I got an egg from ground chicken.'"

Looking at the actual science behind vaccines, the presentations today explored some of this widespread misinformation, and suggested that we need to think about the way that we talk to people about immunizations.

The way that we communicate with people - as health care service providers, (and social marketers!) is critical! Polarizing the conversation is not always productive - it's not just about "us versus them". The presentations today implored health care providers to remember that it is their responsibility to promote the most optimal health in their communities, and that immunizations are one of the tools that they have to do so.

After the jump, hear Vancouver's Tyson and Dawn Wozniak tell their story about how, as "natural parents," they decided not to vaccinate their first child. But when their second child arrived, they did more research - and had a change of heart. 

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