MANITOULIN — Every year the Anishinabek 7th Generation Charity, which is the fundraising arm for the 39 First Nation communities in Ontario, seeks to improve the lives of the almost 60,000 people it oversees and acknowledges those who have helped with this initiative with a lifetime achievement award in 12 areas. These include the arts, business, culture, education, environment, health, law and justice, political leadership, public service, communications, sports and trade and technology.
For 2015, the health award went to the Bondi family of Manitoulin and they were nominated by not one, but three First Nation communities including Aundeck Omni Kaning, Sheguiandah and Whitefish River First Nation. Debbie Selent, the director of care for Mnaamodzawin Health Services, which serves the aforementioned communities as well as Sheshegwaning and Zhiibaahaasing First Nation, submitted the nomination to Jason Restoule, the manager of the charity.
“I am personally proud,” she wrote, “to endorse the nomination of the Bondi family for the Anishinabek Nation Lifetime Achievement for their contribution to the pharmaceutical profession. They currently have three locations in Manitowaning, Mindemoya and Little Current.”
“The Bondi family is clearly an outstanding pharmacy, mentors, colleagues, team members, but I believe they should be viewed first as outstanding advocates for our First Nation communities,” wrote Ms. Selent. “It takes special dedication and perseverance to navigate and disseminate non-insured health benefits. The non-insured health benefits system is challenging to access and at times medically necessary medications and supplies. The Bondi family goes above and beyond every time to ensure that the First Nation clients are receiving the right services at the right time. Spending countless hours advocating for clients to receive proper services which other pharmacies do not provide.”
Ms. Selent went on to say, “I professionally don’t know how our First Nations within Mnaamodzawin Health Services would function without the continuous support and advocacy the Bondis have provided. Their exemplary services have ensured our people can stay safely in their home receiving a high level of care. This is shown through our palliative care program, ensuring pain and symptom management is available, advanced wound care supplies; reducing the rates of amputations in our diabetic clients and intravenous therapy for osteomyelitis, cardiomyopathy, infections and pain management to merely name a few. But the impact this has on our high risk population to be able to receive these treatments at home would not be possible if not for this family.”
It was unfortunate that the whole of the Bondis family was busy doing the work they do on the day of the awards ceremony but Steven Bondi, who is the pharmacist for the Guardian Drugstore in Little Current, was able to attend the 17th Annual Evening of Excellence at the Steelworkers Hall in Sudbury on August 19.
Steven Bondi was pleased to accept the award for his family. “When I was notified my first thought was ‘how could we be considered for a lifetime award?’ But then I realized that we have been working in our pharmacies for over 25 years so I suppose that might qualify as a lifetime achievement. Time surely does fly when you enjoy what you do. My second thought was that I had never considered what we were doing to be especially significant. It was just our job. It has been challenging to assist our aboriginal customers in assessing medical supplies and medications because the requirements of the NIHB (Non-Insured Health Benefits) program have changed so much over the years. We are thankful that we have been able to keep up with the changing requirements of the NIHB program. We thank the nominating First Nation communities of Sheguiandah, Whitefish River and Aundeck Omni Kaning for nominating us and letting us know that what we do is appreciated. We endeavour to continue to serve the medical needs of all Islanders in the years to come. For us it is business as usual.”
Michelle Bondi, the pharmacist at the Manitowaning Guardian Drugstore, and Mike Bondi of Mindemoya were not able to attend, but expressed their delight with being chosen for this honour. “We are very pleased to receive this most prestigious award,” Mike Bondi said. “At the same time, all our pharmacists and staff will remain committed to providing our professional services to the Anishinabek communities of Manitoulin Island.”
Other awards were presented to Nancy Allaire, Nipissing FN; John Anderson, Alderville FN; Carl Assance, Beausoleil FN; the late Arlene Barry, Garden River FN; Cecil Bernard George, Kettle and Stony Point FN; and Julie Ozawagosh, Bernard Petahtegoose and Mary Jane Shawbonquit, all of Atikameksheng Anishinawbek (Whitefish Lake First Nation).
The Evening of Excellence also saw the awarding of five Scotiabank Student Excellence Awards which are given to Anishinabek students at the post secondary school level. The scholarships went to Susan Abitong of Solomon Sagamok Anishinawbek, Melanie Knott of Curve Lake FN, Nicole Jacko-Metansinine of Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Jesse Pawis-Steckley of Wasauksing FN and Melissa Twanie of Pic Mobert FN.
The awards were handed out by Patrick Madahbee, the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation and Glen Hare, the Deputy Grand Chief of the Anishinabek Nation and Vice President of the Anishinabek 7th Generation Charity.