“This is a place where people really claim their power.”
Twenty-five years ago when London InterCommunity Health Centre began, there were four staff members. Anthoula Doumkou, now the Planning and Community Programs Manager, was one of them. The first of its kind in London, the Health Centre offered and continues to provide a health promotion model of care that works with clients through all stages of life.
Under the umbrella of Planning and Community Programs, there are three large teams: Children, Youth, and Family Programs; Immigrant and Ethnocultural Programs; and Poverty, Homelessness, and Options.
“The greatest wealth for the Health Centre has and remains to be the staff and volunteers. There are a lot of programs and funds and funding partners coming into the Centre, only because the people who work here are absolutely brilliant. They’re passionate, they’re committed to the Health Centre and the work it does with its communities. Because they are creative, we have a number of programs running.”
“We shift the paradigm in community health,” Anthoula says.
We see an individual with their resources and their skills and their survivability rather than the negative aspects that perceived to be lacking. That makes a world difference.
Working with the individual allows for creative solutions and interdisciplinary initiatives, with the goal of addressing specific situations. “We facilitate the realization of clients’ capacities and support each other throughout this ongoing process. It is a wonderful way of being. You tap into what’s very special about a person. For me that’s a key piece to our work. We appreciate the complexity of human beings.”
Anthoula elaborates on her observations: “We don’t use one solution fits all. We did that when we were four [employees], we’re doing that when we’re 100. Regardless of our collective growth, we remain a place with soul and I think that’s a very special thing to have.”
Through initiatives like the Community Advisory Council, the Health Centre is able to respond directly to the community’s needs. This health centre is a place committed to relationships, to trust, and to collaboration. For Anthoula, the Council embodies the value of on-the-ground input from community ambassadors.
“Community is a place you feel you belong to and a place to which to you are accountable. It’s a place that’s home. It looks different for everyone and you can have more than one community. But it is about a sense of belonging and control over your life.”
Twenty-five years later and Anthoula still feels the same love for the centre that was present at the start, due in no small part to the Health Centre's capacity to respond to the communities it serves. "Reciprocity is creative. Reciprocity is being open to learning and open to working with the participant's beliefs and values in making shared decisions; the participant is the centre of the process."