Malanya Hanson is student at Frances Kelsey Secondary School in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC who has received two Junior Student Service awards and two Leader of Tomorrow awards for her volunteer work at school and in the community. She is currently volunteering at the local hospital and working at “getting good enough grades to go to college and become a registered nurse.”
Her guest blog describes how Inclusive Leadership has influenced her life and her career goals.
“Four years ago, when I was in middle school, I was going through a hard time in my life. As I didn’t have a lot of friends, my school counsellor recommended Cowichan Intercultural Society’s Multicultural Leadership Group (MLG). Click here to learn more about MLG.
When I went the following week, I kind of fell in love. In MLG I found friends, a support group to look forward to each week, volunteer work and I was introduced to Inclusive Leadership. I loved how everyone could make friends with anyone. I remember one week we partnered with U-Fix It Bike and Craft Shop (a youth drop-in) to re-enact the “Stone Soup” folk tale about villagers contributing a bit of this and that to make soup for a traveller. We put a stone in the bottom of a big pot, added water, and each person brought carrots, salt, pepper, vegetables and other ingredients. We poured it in bowls and gave it out to people from Warmland House and others on the street who wanted a warm meal It was a nourishing and heart warming street party for all of us.
Eventually I went to an Inclusive Leadership Adventure. Soon after that, I started going around to schools with other youth from MLG, teaching Anti-Discrimination First Aid, Compassionate Communication and other Inclusive Leadership skills. Students really liked doing the workshops about being an active witness instead of a bystander. Now that I have learned, taught and used Anti Discrimination First Aid skills, I know I could apply it in my future work as a nurse to help patients and my fellow nurses. For example, if there were any needs to be accommodated such as the patient’s religion or culture, I could help the patient and their family communicate those needs to the other nurses. Or if there was a conflict in my work environment I could help debrief and defuse the situation to prevent problems from continuing to the point that it stresses patients and staff to the point of overwhelm. This skill of taking people aside to have a conversation helps settle situations and resolve problems.
I am currently a peer counsellor at school and so I use the compassionate communication skills that I have learned through both Inclusive Leadership and peer counselling to talk with people. Teens need someone to listen to them and so these skills help me to be an effective listener. I use compassionate listening a lot in my volunteer work at the hospital. When people are in distress, compassionate listening helps. As a volunteer in the hospital I have to really watch what I say. I can’t just say the first thing that comes to mind. Because of my Compassionate Communication skill set, I am able to slow down to the speed of wisdom and listen to people who are in pain or are angry. I know not to bark back at people or just get angry back. I tell myself that this person is in pain and looking for help for that pain and so needs respect.
One Inclusive Leadership skill is called ‘daring to be different’. I have arthritis and I go to an arthritis camp each summer. One time the group was asked, ‘Who is your role model?” I stood up and said, “I don’t strive to be as good as someone else. I strive to be my own role model and make my own path. I don’t want to just follow in someone’s shoes, I want to be the first Malanya Hanson and not just a person who is the same as someone else.” At the same time, I know I have many different role models and I know that I am a role model for others such as people who are younger than me. I think people like to be close to me and act like me because they feel safe and comfortable with me.
I am grateful for the sense of belonging that Inclusive Leadership and the Multicultural Leadership Group have given me. When I was lost, these two programs showed me what I want to do with my life. The skills I have learned and the experiences I have had made me want to help people. I am grateful for the people I met who have helped me with that. I want to bring that sense of community that Inclusive Leadership has taught me into hospitals throughout my nursing career. Although people tend to be in and out of hospital very quickly, Inclusive Leaders can build community just as quickly. A lot of patients are lonely and in pain. I would hope that I can be a nurse who helps alleviate loneliness by building a sense of community and connection that is compassionate.