Working Hands, Working Minds at the South East District Continue to Promote Community Engagement

By: Busayo Osobade January, 2019

From providing consulting services, and enhancing awareness to leadership development, the South East Sport Culture and Recreation District (South East District) is a “one-stop shop” for culture, sport and recreation information and resources in Saskatchewan’s south east region. Executive Director Joni Hagen works with her team to create and implement activities that will help move the community forward towards a more inclusive culture, sport and recreation system. 

Hagen says the District is working towards promoting and increasing the awareness of its works with equity groups, and to motivate the system and community to embrace the benefits of diversity.  She recently spoke to Busayo Osobade of Engage magazine about herself and how the District promotes cultural activity and diversity at the grassroots level.

What does leadership mean to you?

Creating meaningful relationships with people that are rooted in trust is my guiding insight that I aspire to when it comes to leadership. I feel it’s imperative to have the skills such as respect, empathy, listening and communication when interacting with people or working with teams.

What is the District doing to promote cultural activity, awareness and diversity in the community?

We are currently working with SaskCulture to build our own internal diversity plan for our organization. We are partnering with provincial agencies, such as Common Weal, to bring Ally Affirmations workshops to the South East, which are focused on reconciliation and bridging. We also offer a mini-workshop to community boards on the topic of inclusive programming among other things. 

What is the importance of culture and diversity in the District?

I truly believe that vibrant, healthy communities depend on engaged community citizens, these are people who feel a sense of belonging, feel respected and valued for who they are. To me, it’s all about acceptance and respect and recognizing that we are all different! We have such a diverse population, and I believe there is a lot of negative perceptions and misconceptions, and that we can move past these if we focus on education, and having those difficult dialogues, etc.

“I truly believe that vibrant, health communities depend on engaged community citizens, these are people who feel a sense of belonging, feel respected and valued for who they are.” ~ Joni Hagen.

 What cultural activities do you enjoy?

I love photography! I enjoy being creative with my camera! I also love to cook and bake – just recently I learned a culinary family tradition from my mom, on how to make Norwegian potato lefse! My dream is to someday be able to play a musical instrument - the drums would be awesome!

What are the future directions and goals you’d want to achieve for the District?

We want to offer meaningful and valuable services for our member communities. We continue to build relationships with the eight Indigenous communities in the District, and ensure that groups and organizations know who we are and have an understanding of what we have to offer.

The South East District is one of the seven Districts supported through the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund that help local groups and organizations ensure that culture, sport and recreation programming thrive in the province.