First Nations intern gives back to her community

After spending three months in Zambia working with the Woman for Change Organization, Ashley Dennehy hasn’t slowed down

Ashley Dennehy has taken her experiences in Africa as a guide for First Nations in Hobbema.

Ashley Dennehy has taken her experiences in Africa as a guide for First Nations in Hobbema.

After spending three months in Zambia working with the Woman for Change Organization, Ashley Dennehy hasn’t slowed down striving to make a difference in her community.

Since April, the Hobbema woman has actively participated in a number of different forums, working to encourage and empower First Nations people.

“Since the Ponoka story, opportunities have just opened and doors have just opened,” said Dennehy.

After her return to Canada, Dennehy threw a good part of her energy into fundraising to create two sustainable boreholes (wells with hand pumps), one for the Lundazi district and the other for the Senanga district. WorleyParsons, an Edmonton resource and energy company, contacted Dennehy and they’re working with her to sink the boreholes.

“From there, word of mouth brought more opportunities.”

She was also invited to speak at the First Nations Sustainability Conference, which will be broadcast on APTN in February. “I was actually asked to sit on the committee and be a youth advocate.

The conference honoured members of the community from several levels of academics, including post-secondary.

In November Dennehy was also a guest speaker at the Samson Education Trust Fund banquet. “I guess I kind of talked about some of my experiences in Africa and how it was relatable to being a First Nations (student) in post-secondary.”

In Zambia, Dennehy spent time in a village where two girls were being sponsored by Canadians to attend school, but were failing. This was an experience Dennehy could relate to; when she first attended post-secondary she wasn’t doing well due to external factors.

Dennehy is also profiled in a book, Leading the Way, that recently went on sale at Amazon.com. The book was written as a guide to help individuals develop leadership skills.

“I met the author, Dave Douglas, prior to moving to Africa at a pre-departure,” Dennehy explained. “He had actually given all 10 of the interns a copy of his first book.”

A few months ago Douglas contacted Dennehy to get an update on her journey and her experiences. “So it kind of just talks about in the community and in Africa. I’m also really grateful because I’m the only First Nations featured in the book.”

Dennehy was thankful Douglas was interested in highlighting First Nations’ issues.

Before she travelled to Africa, Dennehy was attending the University of Victoria for a bachelor of education degree. She’s now in the process of applying to two new schools. The one she’s really hoping for is the Coady International Institute in Nova Scotia.

“I’ve decided to change goals and my education,” said Dennehy. “It just makes sense now. After living abroad and coming back I realized I didn’t really want to teach.”

Dennehy is switching from a bachelor of education to a bachelor of arts with an international development major and a community development minor.

The Indigenous Women’s Leadership program she’s looking at takes only 10 First Nations woman each year and gives them the skills to become better leaders.

Another of Dennehy’s long-term goals is to start a non-profit organization to empower girls and woman. “I guess I just like the whole indigenous person helping other indigenous people.”

Between her international projects, education, speaking appearances and community youth work, Dennehy still doesn’t feel overwhelmed. “I feel when you really love it it’s not overwhelming. When you’re really invested in it it’s not a job. When you’re so determined to make a positive change in your community it’s not a job.”

Dennehy also believes because the Samson Cree Nation is a bigger reserve, the work she’s doing, and its impacts and results, will ripple out to other First Nations communities.