The Aboriginal Resource Centre launched its second annual Fit Nish Challenge this week aimed at getting students fitter and trimmer.
The challenge officially began on Feb. 1 and is an eight week fitness program developed by the Humber North-campus based ARC for Aboriginal students. Participants support one another in an effort lose weight over the next eight weeks.
The program aims at making it fun for students to exercise regularly, eat healthy and lose weight.
“It has become very popular amongst the students and encourages them to live a good lifestyle,” said Quazance Boissoneau, ARC’s Aboriginal liaison officer.
The Fit Nish Challenge is one of the many programs created by ARC to help improve the health and wellness of Aboriginal students at Humber College.
The ARC also provides students with health resources from organizations such as National Aboriginal Diabetes Association to help promote physical fitness and healthy nutrition. The ARC can refer a student in need of medical care to the Student Wellness Centre or other organizations like Anishnawbe Health Toronto, which has three medical centres for the indigenous community in the downtown core.
“Stress from school, personal problems, depression or feeling lonely are just some of the mental health issues some of our students may have,” said Grace Esquega, ARC’s coordinator.
The ARC has an elder on campus if students need advice or someone to talk to.
“We also work with the Student Wellness Centre to help students find appropriate counselling that fits their needs,” said Esquega.
The ARC also gives Aboriginal students the chance to learn about their culture and traditions. The students have access to smudging, elder’s circles and traditional medicines such as cedar tea or sage.
Learning about their own culture helps them learn about themselves and is an integral part of an individual’s wellness, staff at the centre say.
“If you don’t know about your own culture you miss a part of yourself which affects your mental well-being,” said Boisoneau.
“The ARC also gives non-Aboriginals a chance to learn about Aboriginal peoples and their culture,” said Shelley Charles, ARC’s advisor on Aboriginal Relations.
Humber is seeking to set the standard among post-secondary institutions in Ontario when it comes to Aboriginal health and wellness. The more than 600 Aboriginal students at the college now have more access to health and wellness programs than in the recent past.
However, more could always be done in terms of health programming to make certain that all Aboriginal students can access it, say some.
“It would be nice to have more workshops on personal training, nutrition and mental health for students,” said Sabrina Angeconeb, ARC’s fitness programming coordinator.
The ARC’s goal is to add more health programs and keep Aboriginal students informed about health issues that may be affecting them while ensuring Aboriginal students have access to proper medical care and health information.