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18 in 2018: Surkhab Peerzada of South Riverdale Community Health Centre

2017 was a year of fighting the good fight, and our members had many meaningful wins that created real impact. They secured grants, hired more employees, and had big, productive collaborations with each other.

We chatted with 18 of them to hear about some of their goals for 2018 and get the lowdown on their great 2017 memories. We’re going to spend the rest of the year telling you about what they had to say.

First up is Surkhab Peerzada, Regional Manager for the Choose Health program at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre.

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is one of 75 Community Health Centres in Ontario. At SRCHC, our mission is to improve the lives of people that face barriers to physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being. We do this by providing holistic primary health care services as well as evidence informed programs and services. Choose Health is one of our regional services that spans the breadth of the Toronto Central LHIN in which we provide peer-facilitated health education programs for people living with chronic health conditions. 74 fee-for-service facilitators are involved in the delivery of this program.

What motivated you to start your organization?

I work for the progressive and innovative South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) that within its forward thinking leadership team made a decision in August 2013 to house the Choose Health – TC LHIN’s self-management program at the Centre for Social Innovation-Annex. As an employee of SRCHC and the manager for this Toronto wide peer-delivered health promotion program, I alongside my core team have called CSI-Annex our home, benefitting from its secret sauce.

What was your biggest accomplishment last year?
In 2017 we celebrated five years of successful program delivery in the city of Toronto. Over these years, the program has become an established part of the health and social service continuum and this has afforded us an opportunity to expand. In 2017, a key accomplishment for us has been our partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario through which we now offer peer-facilitated mindfulness focused gallery tours on a monthly basis at the AGO.

Explain the greatest challenge or roadblock you overcame this year?

A question that I have been grappling with for some time is focused on building culture and a sense of belonging for peer facilitators delivering a range of our services in Toronto. Specifically, for me, I have been wondering after ways to build a team culture and sense of belonging in one’s team when all but two members work remotely.

This question comes from the fact that our program’s city-wide health promotion work is carried out by 50 trained peer facilitators who given our funding model are not staff at SRCHC. Moreover, the nature of their community-based work means that after we train and orient them, we support them remotely from CSI-Annex. While over the years, we have established mechanisms to stay connected to them as well as coach and support them on an ongoing basis, I feel that we have not quite yet exacted a culture with a sense of belonging that establishes connectivity to our organization, fully. This is the roadblock that we have actively tried to tackle in 2017.

One part of our solution has been streamlining communication. We now send to peers information on upcoming opportunities, including jobs, which they can engage with to further their professional growth and learning.  Another part has been creating positions to further engage peers into the operations of the program. The most innovative part for me though has been the launch of monthly community coaching circles, where every second Friday afternoon of the month, peers can drop in for learning activities. Think, CSI’s Salad clubs, but built around various health and professional development topics that furthers their knowledge and capacity. E.g., for the first gathering we viewed “Supersize me” and held a discussion about the culture of fast food and food security. Since the launch, I see that these sessions are gaining popularity over the months. For 2018, I am anxious to see whether this germinates organic connections between peer facilitators and over time establish a sense of belonging for them, as is my hope.

What is the most rewarding connection or experience CSI facilitated for you or your organization this year?

Working in the public sector, being surrounded by entrepreneurs who have to generate revenue to operate, I find that my team’s approach to work is that much more fuelled with innovation and efficiency. For 2017, our partnership with the awesome team at 21 Toys is fully credited to CSI. This partnership led some members of the regional program to create Play-Talk! – play your way to better communication©, which we will be piloting in the communities we serve across Toronto in the New Year.

What is a micro-goal you’re determined to complete this year?
Licensing two programs for alternative revenue generation: KAMM© – the self-care mascot and Play-Talk! – play your way to better communication©.

18 in 2018 is an ongoing series to let you know what our members are working on this year. Have your own idea for how to change the world? Become a CSI member today!

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