When and where did you complete your practicum?
I completed my practicum during the summer of 2019 at the Health Promotions office of Fred Victor, a Toronto-wide agency focusing its work on assisting populations experiencing homelessness and poverty.
What are your academic/research interests?
My interests are in improving the health of marginalized populations through community development, systems change, and advocacy. Specifically, I’m interested in studying the health of racialized youth. Growing up in a predominately low-income, immigrant Toronto neighbourhood showed me how societal factors profoundly impact the livelihoods of racialized youth. As a result, I have focused my work on building capacity amongst marginalized communities.
What are your career goals, and did your practicum experience change them in any way?
A portion of this practicum included supporting the Health Promotions office in a petition to Toronto City Council advocating for improved resources in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood. This experience demonstrated the important work done at the community and municipal level to support marginalized populations in Toronto. Consequently, this practicum reinforced my goal to work in the community development field to further empower marginalized communities.
What were your primary responsibilities at your agency?
My practicum included a combination of front-line work and municipal-level advocacy. This included engaging with community members accessing Fred Victor services by facilitating and developing programming for weekly peer support groups. I also worked with community stakeholders to collaborate on neighbourhood projects. This entailed attending regular meetings, writing letters to Toronto City Council and developing knowledge translation materials including infographics that were distributed to residents.
What was most rewarding about your practicum experience?
One of the tasks in my practicum required writing letters to Toronto City Councillors on behalf of community stakeholders. These letters were sent to City Council as part of a motion that was voted on and passed unanimously. This experience reminded me of the importance of community advocacy and the work that can be achieved when municipal governance, community members, and local agencies work together.
What advice would you offer a prospective student who is considering an opportunity with your practicum site?
This practicum is ideal for students who want to work in a front-line setting while gaining experience in creating health promotion resources including program development, evaluation tools surveys, and knowledge translation infographics. Day to day tasks varied at the Health Promotions office and students are given the autonomy to lead and create projects of interest addressing the needs facing communities affected by housing, homelessness and poverty in Toronto. A prospective student should have experience working with marginalized populations and an interest in community development.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your practicum experience?
During my practicum, I learned the importance of combining both front-line work with advocacy and systems level thinking. The peer-support groups that I led for community members were often filled with discussions of changes needed at the systems-level to improve their daily lives. I took these discussions into consideration when developing advocacy tools, including letters addressed to Toronto City Councillors that advocated for improved resources in their neighbourhood to help community members. It was important for me to hear the perspective of service-users to accurately advocate for their needs. As a result, I believe it is important to have experience working with the community directly when developing comprehensive health promotion tools.