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My Story by Pamela Thompson

Pamela Thompson

June 2020 is the Female Wave of Change Story telling month: Stories matter and we want you to share yours! Today Pamela Thompson, Female Wave of Change Ambassador FAE Canada, shares with you her story how she made her dream come true.

Dream big, believe in yourself, follow your heart and watch the amazing opportunities appear!

“From a young age I’ve been curious about different people and cultures. Rita was a dear family friend who never married and had no children of her own. She was a university professor and enjoyed travelling. She would often send me postcards from her travels to foreign lands. I recall one evening when I was about 4, watching a slide show of Rita’s recent trip and looking around her home at the various treasures she had collected from her adventures. One was a tortoise shell mandolin; another, a beautiful small table inlaid with abalone shell. At that moment I thought to myself, one day I will travel around the world, do good work, and collect treasures like Rita, as fond memories of those experiences.

The power of that childhood dream

Now in my sixth decade reflecting on my life, I realize the power of that childhood dream. I have had the opportunity to live and work on five continents. I studied medical anthropology and sociology in my thirst for knowledge and curiosity to learn about different countries and cultures. I went to graduate school at the University of Edinburgh and was housed in a postgraduate student residence where I mixed and mingled with women and men from many countries including Nigeria, Taiwan, Ireland, and India.

While living and working in the mountains of northern Colombia in the late 1980s, I worked voluntarily with a campesino (peasant farmer) NGO and created a health education program using a child-to-child approach where children ages 9 to 11 taught their younger classmates, siblings and parents on how to prevent accidents in the home, school and community, using non-traditional teaching techniques such as songs, stories, and role-plays.

Educating physicians and nurses about cultural beliefs and practices surrounding health and illness

While a professor at the University of British Columbia, I taught physicians and nurses about cultural beliefs and practices surrounding health and illness, and how they could integrate these into their work with immigrant clients to better understand them and to create treatment plans that integrated the client’s cultural beliefs and practices with the western biomedical model.

Educating Indo-Canadian women about their bodies and taking care for their families

I love interviewing people to capture their experiences and to learn from them. No surprise that I became a qualitative researcher! One of the studies I did included in-depth interviews with immigrant women from 5 different cultural groups on their experience of adjusting to life in Canada. Based on those interviews, I identified that Indo-Canadian women (from India) were most socially isolated and in need of social support and education and secured funding to develop, implement and evaluate a health education program for Indo-Canadian immigrant women that incorporated beliefs and practices from their culture. Women learned about their bodies and how to better care for themselves and their families, as well as information about the Canadian health system and how and when to access it. I hired two Indo-Canadian women who were respected in the Sikh community and worked collaboratively with them to design and implement the 8-week/16 session course on women’s and family health. These women provided stories from their culture that related to the content and those were integrated into the sessions. The program was delivered in Punjabi at the Orientation Adjustment Services for Immigrant Society (OASIS) in the heart of the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver. The results and learnings from this applied research project were powerful!

After the Berlin wall came down in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Russia. The dramatic social change in such a short period of time was remarkable to see!

We are more similar than different

The most memorable, challenging and impactful work experience that reinforced for me that we are more similar than different regardless of our race, religion, language or culture, was a 13 month stint in Afghanistan (from October 2010 till November 2011), where I lived in Kabul and worked with the Ministry of Public Health. I helped them develop their first strategic plan and built the capacity of internal teams to do strategic and operational planning. I have fond memories and am still connected with some of my team.

How can you create big dreams?

When we are children it is easier to dream as we haven’t built up the layers of beliefs and behaviors that help us to feel safe, secure and accepted in the world.

How can you peel away the protective layers you have surrounded your heart with as a result of your life experiences so far?

One way is to spend time in nature. Another is to imagine the type of world you would like to see and journal about it using the stem I see … . For example,                     

I see a world free of war and violence;

                        One where all cultures and religions are accepted

                        Where all people live together in communities that model

                        The values of contribution, collaboration, caring and connection … 

After writing down your dream/desired future vision, feel what it will feel like living in that world you have imagined. Post that vision in a place where you read it and feel it at least once every day for at least 21 days. It is also fun and helpful to create a vision board with images of what that desired future will look like and post it in a place where you see it and feel it every day.

In addition to creating your vision and thinking about the role you may have in creating it, it is extremely important to be open to possibilities and to NOT be so focused on the outcomes that you miss opportunities that may come your way along the journey.

I share these adventures not to shore up my ego, but rather to share lessons learned from over 6 decades on this planet and to demonstrate that when you have a big dream, believe in yourself and follow your heart, amazing opportunities come your way that you could have never imagined!

What’s your big dream? How can you follow your heart and believe in yourself?

Here’s to you and to an amazing life!”

Respectfully submitted by Pamela Thompson, Female Wave of Change Ambassador for Canada and given FWoC permission to share her story

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