Community Health and Wellness Coordinator – Shawna Lum-Thompson – City of Richmond
Q: Tell me a little bit about how you came to this profession
A: I didn’t know that I was going to pursue a career in recreation. As a kid, I participated in recreation activities at my local community centre. From there I volunteered at after school programs and summer day camps and things snowballed from there. In university, I studied kinesiology with a focus on health promotion and worked as a Summer Camp Leader, Group Fitness Instructor and Peer Health Educator with co-op terms in workplace wellness and seniors recreation. I always enjoyed the people I worked with and the difference I was able to make, which kept me coming back. After graduation I worked in a number or fitness, wellness, and recreation roles that ultimately led me to becoming the Community Health and Wellness Coordinator for the City of Richmond and an instructor for Sport and Recreation at Vancouver Community College.
Q: What would a day in your life look like?
A: Every day is super different… Right now, we’re opening a new fitness facility. So we’re determining what programs we’re going to offer, hiring staff, setting up equipment, sorting out storage, and working with marketing. I might also work on some ‘big picture’ items with respect to projects and systems to improve wellbeing for those who live, work and play in Richmond. Day to day, this could be developing a workshop, reading some research, and connecting with community stakeholders to bring them into the conversation.
Q: In what areas do you feel like you have seen improvement in the overall health and wellness of the community?
A: I work with my team to deliver fitness programs and services, as well as the other fitness coordinators across the City of Richmond. We provide a variety of opportunities for people to get out and be active. But it’s not just about people moving their bodies. A huge part of what we do is creating opportunities for social connection. For example, in our Heart and Diabetes Wellness program the participants bond through shared experiences and go out for coffee together and celebrate birthdays. There’s a huge sense of camaraderie and community that we’re really proud to be a part of.
Q: What was your favorite initiative/program launched?
A: Something I’m really excited about is Richmond’s Community Wellness Strategy. It’s a 5-year plan that was developed in partnership between the City of Richmond, Vancouver Coastal Health-Richmond and the Richmond School District. It looks at wellness broadly, including physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellbeing, social connectedness, equity, healthy environments, and wellness literacy. I think it’s progressive, it’s innovative. I love that we have organizations committed to working together to move the needle on things like physical activity and mental wellbeing. We can do so much more together when we align our assets and work collaborative towards improved wellbeing for people in Richmond.
Q: What is your favorite part about being a community health and wellness coordinator?
A: I get to help make a positive difference in people’s lives. I really like that it’s proactive. Recreation plays a huge part in not only keeping us physically healthy, but living a vibrant, fulfilling life!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter this role in the future?
A: Get involved. Participate in programs, talk to the staff, find opportunities to volunteer or to get in and instruct different programs yourself. I also recommend looking at the different post-secondary opportunities. More and more I’m starting to see a shift in the industry where employers are looking for people who have an educational background in recreation.