Life hasn’t always been easy for Josephine Charlie.
So when she sees the struggles of students who visit the Indigenous Student Centre at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), she can relate, and offer a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on.
She recalls a student who would show up at her office every morning and cry. Every single school day.
“She would tell me how her life sucked, how she was struggling with school, bills, her kids. I would listen and support her and encourage her to go on. She went on and finished her certificate. And her diploma. And her bachelor’s degree. And now she’s out there, working and helping others.”
It is for this approach to serving and helping students that Josephine is being recognized as one of two winners of the UFV Staff Excellence award for 2019.
Josephine started at UFV as a student herself in her mid-40s, earning a Social Services diploma in 2005. She was drawn to becoming involved with Indigenous activities on campus right from the start.
“I saw a sign pointing to what was then called the Aboriginal Resource Centre and I went to check it out. I liked the feel of the place. They welcomed everyone who walked in. So I started to volunteer there. I would put out coffee and food for the students.”
She volunteered for several years and then became a work-study student. When Josephine completed her diploma, she had two part-time contracts before being hired into her role as Activities and Cultural Assistant.
At the Indigenous Student Centre she organizes National Indigenous Peoples Day and Métis Day events, puts on monthly lunches for students, and leads arts and crafts activities such as making dream catchers, mini button blankets, drums, rattles, and medicine bags.
But she’s also known for putting her heart into her work, and feeding hungry bellies.
“I make my own lunch in the centre kitchen every day, and I’m not going to make a small portion and eat it in front of students who are hungry, so I make enough to share.”
Josephine’s own journey to wellness was helped by the support of the Elders in the Sto:lo community.
Originally from the Stlatlimx Nation and the Seton Lake Band, Josephine was sent to the Kamloops Indian Residential School, so she grew up with little awareness of her culture. Her husband is Sto:lo, and she is grateful to the elders who have guided her journey.
Now she dedicates her life to helping others, and is happy to be doing it at UFV.
“When I walk through the doors of UFV I want to be the best person I can be.”