People of KHSC: Yessica Rivera Belsham

News / General

People of KHSC celebrates individuals across KHSC who capture the spirit of caring deeply for patients, families and each other

As June 21 marks National Indigenous People’s Day and Solstice – the longest day of the year, Nursing Support Assistant Yessica Rivera Belsham recognizes the importance of coming together to celebrate Mother Earth, our culture, our languages, and our traditions across Turtle Island.

“My heart is with the people in Northern Ontario communities and the patients we are caring for from this devastating state of emergency and hope they get the resources needed such as adequate housing, clean water, healthcare, and other services,” said Yessica. “I have personally experienced the loss of several family members to COVID-19. I know first-hand the pain and suffering these communities are experiencing.

“There is a great deal of collective grief, especially for Indigenous communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 while simultaneously dealing with the shock and grief of the 215 Indigenous children who never made it home and the missing survivors of the Kamloops Residential School and counting - in addition to the missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit peoples, and continuous intergenerational trauma.

“I am grateful that my workplace provides a safe space where traditional cultural values and beliefs such as smudging, drumming, and singing can transpire. I was recently overwhelmed with a big dark cloud of sadness walking near the pediatric unit and reflecting on all the little ones that never got to go home from the Kamloops Indian Residential School and so many other Residential Schools,” said Yessica.

“I was unable to attend the ceremony in the community because I was scheduled to work, but during my break I was so very grateful to access the Mamawi Room to drum and sing simultaneously with the community in honour and tribute of the 215 Indigenous little ones that never made it home.”

The Mamawi Room in Connell 6 at the KGH site opened in 2016.This space was designed with input from Indigenous patients who were asking for an area to for culturally important ceremonies such as smudging, circle prayer and singing.

“Wearing my orange scrubs at work that day sparked lots of wonderful heart-felt conversations with patients and staff. June 21st and every day is an opportunity to share teachings and traditions and I am glad when staff and patients are curious and ask questions. 

“I am happy to be connected to a community of caring individuals at KHSC where we can learn from each other. I appreciate KHSC for its commitment to diversity, inclusion and a healthy work environment where I can be me - my authentic self.”

When she is not in her role as a Nursing Support Assistant at KHSC, Yessica is the VP of Student Life at the St. Lawrence College Brockville campus and she provides private end-of-life and supportive care in the community. She is also the founder and heart of Ollin.ca, an organization which offers artistic, cultural, and wellness based events, festivals, and other services within and around the Kingston and Ottawa area.