By Ryan Running Rabbit
The COVID-19 vaccines have long been our best way to protect ourselves and one another, but vaccine accessibility has hurt these efforts since the get go. So in March of 2021 Aisokinakio’p was born. In Blackfoot this translates to “a place where you take your body and mind to make it healthy”. Aisokinakio’p was originally a partnership between Siksika Health Services, The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, and OKAKI. It has since expanded into a powerhouse with the addition of Seven Brother Circle, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Metis Nation of Alberta, and Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. The group has been dedicated to making COVID-19 vaccines accessible for communities in NE Calgary and in the downtown core.
In June of 2021, Aisokinakio’p continued it’s partnership now including the Dashmesh Cultural Centre (DCC) in an effort to make vaccines available to Calgary’s Sikh community. This push has proven to be fruitful with more than 10,000 doses being administered through the Aisokinakio’p clinics.
These efforts were commemorated and celebrated on February 4th 2022 at the Dashmesh Cultural Centre. Representatives from all the partners as well as Federal, Provincial, and Municipal figures were on hand for a ceremony of prayer and gift giving. Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek spoke on unity and how this vaccination clinic has brought so many people from different cultures and walks of life. She says that partnerships like this are important for the community. “I’m thrilled to be here with you today, celebrating the successes of cross-culture collaboration,” Gondek states, “Initiatives like this clinic should be emulated in other places in Alberta and across the country.” Her Worship was also presented with gifts pictured in the gallery below.
Dr. Salim Samanani (OKAKI), Dr. Tyler White (SHS), Amanpreet Singh (DCC), Dr. Parminder Thiara (ISC), Shane Gauthier (AFCC), Patritica Jones (Calgary Homeless Foundation), Nicholas Thain (AHS), and Lawrence Gervais (Metis Nation AB) are the leaders or reps from their respective organization and are all instrumental in this offering to the community. “The enemy of immunization programs is mistrust,” Dr. Samanani says, as he spoke on the importance of this clinic and how it was able to offer Calgary’s Sikh community a place to get vaccinated and feel safe. This is a theme echoed throughout the event.
“There were many who doubted that this approach could be effective; we’re proven them wrong,” Tyler white says proudly. “Together, we can – and have made great things happen.” Direct proof of this was provided when MLA for Calgary-Falconridge Devinder Toor says the vaccination rates for the area have skyrocketed thanks to this clinic.
Collaborations like this prove that vaccination and strength in community are the best tools against COVID-19. “We are very proud of the collaboration between the Sikh and Indigenous communities, working together helps make the world a better place,” President of the Dashmesh Cultural Centre, Amanpreet Singh, had to say.
Siksika Health Services thanks the Dashmesh Cultural Centre for all its hospitality.