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Pair to speak on FASD, HIV/AIDS

Raising awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and HIV/AIDS are the goals of two guest speakers lined up for later this month at Couchiching First Nation.

“Everybody is always welcome,” noted Connie Calder, co-ordinator for Couchiching’s FASD program, which is putting together the event along with Couchiching’s Healthy Babies program, native alcohol and drug abuse program, and treatment support services.

“We want lots of people to come,” she stressed.

The two speakers are slated to be at the Couchiching multi-use facility on March 23-24 starting at 10 a.m. both days.

“We’re going to have a speaker, a young woman from Winnipeg, her name is Jessica Siddle, and she’s a young woman who was diagnosed from birth with FASD,” Calder said of the presentation slated for the first day.

Siddle speaks with people about what her life has been like, living with FASD, and urging women not to consume alcohol if they are going to be having children.

Then the second day will feature Rene Boucher, who has been living with HIV/AIDS for the past 20 years.

Boucher has spent 15 years of those years speaking out about his experience living with HIV/AIDS, which includes being near death in 1997 until access to new drugs and treatment meant he was able to recover.

Since then, Boucher has continued to speak out as an HIV/AIDS advocate and educator, stressing the need for proper and affordable care being available for aboriginal people in all First Nations—not just in larger urban centres.

Lunch (hotdogs, chips, fruit, and a beverage) will be provided both days, and there also will be door prizes and gift bags for the first 50 kids who attend each day.

As part of the two days, a drum social also is planned from 5-9 p.m. on March 23.

“Everyone is welcome, it’s open for all to come out,” stressed Debbie Fairbanks, with Couchiching Treatment and Support Services, about both the guest speakers and the evening drum social.

The drum social also marks a wrap-up to a 20-week youth leadership program being run with Shooniyaa Wa-Biidoong, Fairbanks added.

The program has worked with youth on their employment skills, such as interviewing skills, and their “DriveWise” programs—even helping some to secure jobs locally.

There also will be a feast as part of the drum social, added Fairbanks, which is free for all who come out.

“Everyone is welcome,” Fairbanks reiterated. “Bring your regalia, come out and support the young people.”

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