Fernie is home to an impressive number of women making things happen in our community. From those with roles in local government and organizations to those who have created and operate businesses lining our downtown to those providing support through educational and medical positions. It is so refreshing and encouraging.
Over the last couple of years I have noticed a group of women making a substantial difference in the lives of children in our community. I pass their offices multiple times a week, when I bring my daughter to preschool and am always impressed by the positivity they exude. Simone Bourassa is the fearless leader behind the East Kootenay Behaviour Intervention Program and I was curious to learn how she got this program off the ground… a program I am sure many would feel lost without.
Originally from Yellowknife, Simone has been living in Fernie for fourteen years. Like many before her and many to follow, she came for a ski season and never left. With an undergrad degree in Psychology and a masters in Integrated Studies and Applied Behaviour Analysis, she tells me she’s always been interested in why people do the things they do. “I find human behaviour and the science behind the brain fascinating,” she adds.
Prior to arriving in Fernie, Simone had worked as a behaviour interventionist. Once here, she had a position at a hotel and with Bear Aware… doing what it takes to live the life we all love in Fernie. She was presenting at a preschool in Elkfordfor Bear Aware when she was approached by a teacher, asking if she was ‘the one’ with experience in behavioural intervention. “I ended up helping with families who had kids diagnosed on the spectrum. Then I went on to do a workshop… and started working less at the hotel and more as a private contractor in behaviour intervention.” Simone could see the increased need for these services and recognized an opportunity. She and a colleague decided to start a permanent program for families in the East Kootenays.
Through the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC, which offers programs such as Bellies to Babies, Success by Six, Early Years among many others, the East Kootenay Behaviour Intervention Program was born in 2011 and has grown to service Elkford, Sparwood, Fernie, Jaffray, Cranbrook, Invermere and Golden. “We have 16 staff in total, all women,” Simone tells me. Not only do these women work on developmental milestones and goals for kids on the autism spectrum or those with developmental challenges (currently, their youngest client is 2.5 years old and their eldest 19), they support one another and have become a strong team. “Our staff are between the ages of 25 and 35. Many are furthering their education and are working hard at a challenging job that has a positive impact on other people’s life. Many do not have partners, so they’re doing it all on their own… and it’s so inspiring.” As she talks about them, you can see that they have created great relationships. Friendships. This crew is there for one another. And it’s a big reason they are so successful.
It’s been an exciting 14 years for Simone since she moved to Fernie, and above all else she has learned one important lesson. “We can all create change in ourselves. It’s interesting to see those changes in the kids and the families we work with and even in yourself after having worked with them. My education and job have changed me and how I think,” and I have quickly learned that Simone is someone who embraces change and continues to find ways to effect change in those around her. She has a lot of plans for this program, including community outreach through workshops and parent and community training. “There are a lot of kids who are young now but won’t always be. Communities need to understand and accept, and I’m really happy to share knowledge.”
We look forward to learning more and seeing the continued positive change you bring to Fernie and beyond, Simone!
For those interested in this program, visit Bip.ccscranbrook.ca. The Autism Community Training website(Actcommunity.ca) provides information for those on the autism spectrum including funding. For kids who aren’t on the spectrum, there are additional funding sources available. Contact the program coordinator for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-426-3344.
1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here? September 2004, this will be 14 year and it was a ski season that brought me here.
2. Where did you first live in town? I lived in a one bedroom apartment across from the hospital before they were nice.
3. What was your first impression?I love this place. I remember thinking it smelled amazing in the summer and fall.
4. What keeps you here? The friends that are now my family and the environment, our surroundings and all the playing you can do. And the community as a whole. It’s just an amazing place.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie memory? The first time I rode Dirt Diggler.
6. What is your favourite time of the year in Fernie and why? I love winter and summer equally. I came here for the winter, but I love summer. I love biking, I love the heat. But I love powder days. Pretty much any day it doesn’t rain is my favourite day in Fernie.
7. Where do you see Fernie in 5 to 10 years? I hope it stays kind of the same. Small and close knit and wonderful.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? I usually start my day by teaching or going to a yoga class. And then walking my dogs.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. I have a black belt in karate.
10. Quote to live by: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. Dr. Seuss.