23 September 2018

Internship in New Zealand ‘life-changing’ for a Métis student of the University of Manitoba

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), as part of its continuous outreach efforts about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), shares this article related to Goals 3 and 10, submitted by the University of Manitoba, a UNAI member institution located in Canada.

23 September 2018 - A student of the University of Manitoba (Canada), a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), successfully participated in an internship programme within the framework of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES), which aims to mobilize young global leaders to create lasting impacts both at home and abroad. 

Valdine Flaming, a student of the Interdisciplinary Master's Program in Disability Studies offered by this institution of higher education, is an advocate for people with multiple sclerosis. She lives with this condition and is also a member of the Métis, a group of people in Canada who trace their descent to First Nations (Indigenous) peoples and European settlers. 

"People who are both Indigenous and disabled often struggle on the fringes of the health-care system", says Flaming. “You’re doubly invisible”, she adds. Her drive to help others, and to understand chronic disease in a broader context, led her to pursue graduate studies related to disabilities. She has finished her coursework and started her thesis research.

Last year, when Flaming applied for the QES to spend three months immersed in health research among the Maori people of New Zealand, she never imagined how much the experience would empower and validate her as a Métis scholar. “It was life-changing and I came back having clearly located myself as Métis, and unafraid to lead”, she notes.

Flaming interned at the Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development in Whanganui, New Zealand. She assisted with a research project that evaluated health programs aimed at preventing chronic conditions among Maori. Though she had often felt “not native enough” and afraid to speak out as a Métis person in Canada, she says she was affirmed and accepted without question as Indigenous in Whanganui. “That really changed the way I saw myself”, she notes. For her Master’s thesis research, she hopes to “focus on the lived experiences of Métis women with chronic illness”. “My scholarship experience gave me insight and confidence to talk about my ideas and experiences in a way that recognizes the collective strength of disabled Métis people”.

The QES programme at the University of Manitoba focuses on global and Indigenous health. Launched in 2016, it is administered by Ongomiizwin – Research, part of the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. “The students get valuable research or fieldwork experience, develop leadership skills and expand their global outlook,” says Natalie Riediger, director of the programme, who also highlights: “They learn the importance of partnering with communities in Indigenous and global health research”.