Activating change: Bringing French and English together

A St. Thomas University alumna will have the opportunity to facilitate a conversation between francophone and anglophone communities.

Valérie Foulem was named one of New Brunswick’s seven Youth Activators of Change by Dialogue NB, an award given to people aged 15 to 30 that want to make a difference in their community through a project or initiative.

“We all have a different project that we want to bring to our specific regions to make our own individual regions an easier place to live and a little bit easier to accommodate people,” Foulem said.

For Foulem, the Youth Activator of Change award came as a complete surprise. She had forgotten she applied in June. Still, she said she is flattered to have been chosen.

The social work graduate’s project will focus on the Chaleur region of the province, which is near Bathurst.

Foulem said she didn’t think there was a place in her community that allowed people to express their creativity.

“One thing that I noticed, and a couple other people noticed, is the lack of a creative space,” she said.

She wants to work on implementing a project surrounding arts and culture – something that can help smooth out the language barrier.

“I think that’s a really good way to get people communicating and get people on the same page.”

Foulem said she notices the hurt that people feel about the province’s language issue.

“There’s a lot of strife between people and us friendly neighbourhood bilinguals who are job stealers.”

She learned English by watching television without her parents knowing. She said her bilingualism has helped her in the long run.

Foulem works at Nepisiguit Family Services and Mind Body Solutions as a counsellor.

At Mind Body Solutions, social workers like Foulem take the client’s full context into account, including financial stability, job and stress.

“One thing that I believe in [is] we’re not just a mind or a body, we’re a whole person.”

She sees problems in her community, such as cliques leaving newcomers feeling like they don’t belong, and seniors feeling lonely and isolated. As a social worker, she wants to solve these problems because that’s what she does.

“It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride of excitement and also fear,” she said.

“I hope I measure up to their expectation.”

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