Five women joined the Moccasin Ladies Employment project in Scotchfort in January. This 16-week journey has put them on a path to exploring new employment options.
“The main goal of the project was to empower the ladies and enhance their learning in Mi’kmaq artisan crafts, business, and life skills,” says Tracey Kickham, Facilitator. “Also they were able to make strong employment ties through networking as a result of the project.”
Many speakers and information sessions helped with exploring their options and building skills to enter the workforce. “It delivered over and beyond my expectations,” says one participant. “We were able to develop skills and make decisions about the future.”
“Nutrition, job interviews, and how to prepare and fit into a work setting was a big part of the program,” says another participant.
“We visited Stephen Cousins at Shepherds Farm, and he led us through nutritious meal planning and preparation. A Nutritionist also came into the classroom to advise the women about making healthy food choices and meals.”
“We had gratitude classes and relaxation classes, and sessions to explain our personalities and how this knowledge helps when working together,” says another woman. “This also helps us to understand our relationships at home. We also had a Food Safety course, WHIMS, and CPR.”
Elders from the Scotchfort Reserve came in to talk about their culture and helped with beading and moccasin making. Some in the group are experienced beaders and moccasin makers, and helped the others who were starting out.
“One of the main goals was to make 100 beaded lanyards for a conference,” says Tracey. “The lanyards hold the conference name tags and also can be used as key holders. The process of making the lanyards has started many conversations about ideas for self-employment.
“So many stories were told, and we had so much laughter from the 50-plus hours we put into the lanyards,” says Tracey. “Also, the Chief and the local RCMP were given a lanyard as a gift. Each lanyard represented a story and was made to suit the person.”
The women praised each other’s craft abilities and some want to produce crafts in their homes and community. One participant spoke about her brother-in-law who had cancer and held the beads she made for him to distract himself from the pain he was experiencing.
Some participants are seriously looking at starting a business in their communities. “I am looking into the idea of a business combining work my husband could do and selling my crafts to tourists. I am doing the research right now. This program has helped me find the confidence to continue down this road and not let the thought of failure hold me back.”
One participant plans to go back to school. “I want to get my GED in order to apply to Holland College to take the Early Childhood Care and Education program and then open my own daycare. I have wanted to do this since I was 15 years old.”
Another lady wants to add an extension onto her home that will be a craft shop to make unique gift items. She is already doing custom orders, and as a result of being in this group, she is coming up with marketing ideas.
“I don’t have a particular job in mind, but I feel that coming into this program has been the right step for me,” says one woman, who has been free from the grip of alcohol for about one year. “This program has given me motivation. Now that my life is on a different path, I am starting to think about what is next for me. I have a little girl who looks up to me, and I want to leave a wonderful legacy for her.”
Another participant makes a lot of crafts at Christmas and the group has encouraged her to continue selling her work at a variety of locations, such as the gas bar.
For more information about the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI Employment Services program, visit www.mcpei.ca/Employment_Services.