Despite having one the highest percentages of Indigenous populations in the country, many Manitobans still know very little about the different Aboriginal cultures that thrive in our province.
It’s one of the reasons I was so excited to be chosen as a student intern for a work placement this past summer at the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Inc. (MICEC).
The Winnipeg Foundation’s Summer Internship Program matched me with MICEC in what turned out to be a mutually beneficial experience.
MICEC is a provincial, non-profit, charitable and educational organization that works to promote awareness and understanding of Indigenous culture for all Manitobans.
MICEC houses more than 10,000 books and videos, along with hundreds of artefacts and works of art. There are many programs and services as well, giving the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community a wonderful opportunity to learn about First Nations cultures.
My internship with MICEC was extremely busy. One thing I noticed is that it seemed everyone at MICEC did not have a specific job description. All staff contributed to the tasks that needed completion, and to wherever the help was needed most.
One of my assignments was to work on MICEC’s Summer Kick-Off Barbeque. My main priorities were to pick up donations from nearby grocery stores, as well as to do food prep the day before the barbeque. Driving to pick up donations kept me busy as there were several places I had to visit. Food preparation also took a while mainly because I’m not the greatest at cutting watermelons.
During the barbeque, I spent my time serving the food, working alongside several coworkers. Whenever I had a moment to step away from serving, I went around picking up garbage and cleaning up.
Once the barbeque was over, I helped with the take down of the tables, chairs and other equipment. The last couple of hours at work were spent filling out a report on the event, citing the positives and negatives for reference in coming years.
Another major event I worked on during my internship was the Canadian Native Fastball Championships (CNFC), an annual tournament that takes place on the August long weekend. I helped to organize and produce the opening and closing ceremonies for the event.
In addition to these major assignments, I also did some minor tasks around the centre, such as organizing the library books, cleaning up the kitchen and weeding the garden. But, believe it or not, one of my most difficult tasks involved bingo.
Every Thursday afternoon, MICEC hosts a bingo fundraiser, so the mornings tend to be used for preparation for the event. While on my internship, I was given the task to make sandwiches for the canteen. Once I had completed that, I headed over to the hall across the street to help setup for the bingo.
The first time I had participated in bingo at MICEC, I can easily admit I was overwhelmed. As sad as it may sound, I have never played bingo before and actually had a difficult time figuring out several of the rules.
One particular Thursday was quite stressful, only because several staff members were absent so some of us had to double up on positions. I was fortunate enough to be working in the canteen the entire time, which was far more relaxing than selling bingo tickets.
On top of the stress of already having less staff members present to help out with bingo, we also had a group in for the entire day for a workshop on soapstone carving, as well as a press conference occurring in the afternoon. Those two events also contributed to the shortened staff available for bingo on that Thursday.
Luckily, I wasn’t to be concerned with either the visiting group or the press conference, as my main focus for the day was on bingo. Once bingo was over, we cleaned up the hall, and by the time that was done, it was time to go home. That was always a plus about Thursdays – the day always seemed to just fly by.
For the remainder of my summer internship, I spent time working on the Canadian Native Fastball Championships. I created a PowerPoint for the CNFC coaches meeting and made a video stream of photos from past CNFC’s.
I really enjoyed my internship at MICEC. It was hard work, rewarding and I was able to be creative. I always learned about Aboriginal cultures in Manitoba and the many activities and events celebrated in these communities.
Overall, it was a very fulfilling job and a great way to spend my summer.
Abby Cronin is one of 15 high school students sponsored by the Winnipeg Foundation this summer to work alongside non-profit organizations within the city. To read more stories about the 2015 Summer Internship Program, click here.