#OneEastToronto – Meet Inaara Qamber

Inaara smiling

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 100 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together with community members to better connect local care and services.

In this special edition of #OneEastToronto, we’re sharing the stories of the people who play an important role in ensuring community health ambassadors have the tools they need to connect local residents with health, social and community services.

Meet Inaara Qamber, Community Health Ambassador Lead at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services.

“I was an international student and completed my undergraduate degree at York University in Health Studies. Through my program, I learned about social determinants of health, health inequity and systemic barriers that community members may face in various neighbourhoods. In particular, I focused on policy and its impact on systemic racism. For example, not everyone has the same access to the resources they need, which can increase stress and impact mental wellness.

After university, I started to look for work in the community when I came across the community health ambassador lead role. I liked that it was hands-on and that I would have an opportunity to work with newcomers and priority communities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I led our community health ambassadors in collaborating with partners like Michael Garron Hospital and Toronto Public Health to arrange low-barrier vaccine clinics. Ambassadors played a really big role at these clinics: they conducted outreach to ensure people knew about them, helped out on-site at the clinics, and shared valuable feedback – like extending hours – so as many people as possible could be vaccinated.

During this time, our team also provided Presto cards to local residents, helped address food insecurity by sharing meals and assisting with grocery distribution, and went door-to-door to share information. This helped people remain safe and healthy, including those who experience challenges related to language and transportation.

Our ambassador team later supported with mental health services and cancer screening resources to help address issues that were worsened by the pandemic. I remember attending a training session at Michael Garron Hospital for cancer screening with our Access Alliance ambassadors. During the session, we learned about current preventative cancer screening statistics and how we can more effectively share information about this service with people in the community. We were surprised to see data indicating low rates of cancer screening in our respective neighbourhoods due to the pandemic.

This showed there was a need to share information with our communities. We received postcards, flyers and other content from Cancer Care Ontario, and used those materials to conduct rigorous outreach to increase awareness about available services in the community for cancer screening.

As a community health ambassador lead, I support my team, answer questions they have and provide direction for how and what work we should be doing in the community. It is essential to have empathy – to hear and listen to team members and community. Communication and conflict resolution skills are also imperative. Through this role, I have learned to appreciate and recognize that people come from different walks of life.

The pandemic showed the importance of community health ambassadors and the work they do in empowering others. Ambassadors may be parents, partners and caregivers – they have many identities and lived experiences that allow them to better connect with the people they serve. Thanks to the increased supports, training and resources we’ve been able to provide ambassadors during the pandemic, many of them have shared they feel more confident in their roles.”

Get to know Inaara more through a quick Q&A!

  • Movie or TV show? TV show. My favourite TV show is Games of Thrones. I love Aria Stark! Each character is unique and I like how characters are developed in the show. They start from one place and completely evolve into someone different based on their experiences.
  • If you could time travel, where or when would you go? I would want to travel to the future. Maybe 10 years from now. I want to see what I’m doing and if I accomplished what I thought I would. I hope I have my own car by then. That is something I want to achieve on my own.
  • What’s next on your bucket list? Travel! I would ideally like to explore Canada, especially Jasper and Banff, Alberta.
  • Who is your role model, or someone you’ve been inspired by? My dad. He is someone who is very involved back home in our community. I witnessed him work hard every single day, without complaining or taking breaks. He has done a lot in his life, career and for his community but he never takes credit for it. He just does it – he is such a humble and down-to- earth person.

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