A Caring Delivery During COVID-19

Funding arrives at a critical time to continue healing and helping in Indigenous communities

Lori Calkins is finding her way back to the traditional and cultural knowledge of her Métis roots.

“Being a learner myself and making that journey back to connection with culture and community and family — and sharing that knowledge that I’m learning with other families — is really meaningful,” she said.

Calkins is an Indigenous birth worker as well as a priest with the Indigenous Ministries Initiative for the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, but specifically she works with Indigenous families during their birthing time.

She works with the birthing person and partner, other supports, and sometimes the extended family, before the baby arrives. She is present at the birth, and she works with them post-partum. “It really depends on what the family needs,” explains Calkins.

What can be and should be a joyous occasion has specific challenges for many Indigenous families who live with the ongoing impacts of the colonial experience, which includes inter-generational trauma from the residential school system and the Sixties Scoop.

“The fact that our systems are set up in a Western colonial way, and not to serve Indigenous families, means that some of my work is advocacy, anti-racism, and social justice kind of work,” Calkins said.

She works on behalf of the families to access services that are needed during birthing, and supports individuals in gaining agency. “When people have trauma, and hospitals don’t have trauma-informed care in place, the experience can create further trauma. That’s hard to witness,” said Calkins.

Being employed by the Anglican church carries meaning as well. “The church ran dozens of residential schools across the country. They directly contributed to the loss of a lot of knowledge and these practices from our communities. This work is a tangible way of engaging in reconciliation and offering restitution, because what the church did had a huge impact on families,” Calkins said.

Her passion for her work and the families runs through her every word. But just as COVID-19 hit, her funding for her work was “pretty well depleted.”

Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) recognized the importance of ensure this work continued happening.

“The Indigenous community has been hit hard by the pandemic and its fallout, making it all the more important that other supports are maintained,” Craig Stumpf-Allen ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement said.

The $45,000 grant from ECF through the government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) came along at just the right time. The Diocese now has funding until February 2021 to continue her work. She acknowledges how it gave her some “breathing room” to apply for other funding in 2021.

“There was a big happy dance when I got that email!”

With social isolation of COVID-19, it’s so important to continue being a part of restoring traditional birthing knowledge and ceremonies to Indigenous communities.

“Everyone will again know how to support families, ”Calkins said, adding, “It’s amazing to have a small role to play in one little part of that.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.