2009 Winners

Northeast Public Sector

Vivian Recollet - Sudbury

Dee Adrian

Her title says health educator/promoter, but Vivian Recollet is the village it takes to raise a child or care for a community.

For six years, Recollet has been reaching out and healing the Sudbury community through the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre.

Her work has been the culmination of her own life traumas, successes and experiences.

At 15 years old, after watching nurses treat her stepfather with care and compassion, Recollet decided on the spot to become a nurse.

“I thought to myself, ‘How can I be the best help to my (First Nation) people,’” she said.

“It’s a decision I don’t regret because it has taken me to all levels of health services...”

Part of her lifelong role of helping her people involves educating other health services, pharmacies, of their rights, their benefits, and the available resources.

“You have to act fast. Be aware of the resources to be able to help people when they need it,” Recollet said.

One of Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre’s most renowned programs is the diabetes support group, a program Recollet developed that attracts between 17 and 46 people each session.

“We talk about the signs, the symptoms, and the resources available to them.”

But the group is much more than that.

“We sit together, meet, have lunch and learn about the disease,” Recollet said.

“It’s about managing and living well with diabetes, the food, the lifestyle changes. A lot of times doctors just give you a piece of paper and send you out the door, but there’s a lot more to it: There’s the emotional, spiritual and physical changes,” Recollet said.

There is a trauma associated with being diagnosed, she said, explaining some people worry about how they can cope with the changes. Waking up one day to find a limb has been amputated can be devastating, she said.

Recollet doesn’t have diabetes herself and she will tell you, “I don’t know everything they need,” but she will do everything in her power to obtain whatever her peoples need. In doing so for others, she benefits through relationships.

In October of last year, Recollet received an Ontario medal for Good Citizenship.

Recollet grew up on Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island where she experienced first hand the impacts of alcoholism and abuse in her family.

In spite of her odds, she graduated from a registered nurse program at 17 and was hired at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto where she worked with war veterans.

“It was so comical,” she said laughing as she described how the veterans loved to pull pranks.

“They all had such a great sense of humour,” Recollet said.

“One time I was trying to find this one veteran’s other shoe, but I just couldn’t, and he just busted out laughing.

“He was an amputee. He only had one leg,” she said. “They were a great bunch of people to work with.”

Recollet also saw a lot of the vulnerable side of life by working with Toronto’s homeless community.

She knows what it is like to be put in a vulnerable situation after being jostled around from foster homes and then back to her parents. Her parents didn’t know how to raise children because they were brought up in the same abusive system, she said.

Only when Recollet walked through her pain did she understand who she is today.

Recollet changed history. She raised her family with compassion and love. She also understands the physical pain of the homeless.

Some years ago, Recollet was in a car accident that left her in severe back pain.

It was not until a friend applied a Reiki technique on her, Recollet felt this soothing cool sensation.

She then learned Reiki and how to apply it to the numerous transient homeless people who walked through the hospital doors daily.

It was a way for her to help them immediately instead of resorting to more drugs.