NuSense: COMMUNITY Issue 4
Jenna Demers, “Sharing the Spotlight”
A successful acting career does more than reel in the big bucks. Just ask Sid Bobb, a Gemini-award winning actor. He uses his acting skills to enhance and inspire Canadian and Aboriginal youth. Currently, he hosts Kids’ CBC and is the co-founder of Aanmitaagzi, a professional theatre arts company for Aboriginal people.
Sid got his acting start quite early, joining his high school’s drama club in grade 9. He landed his first role in a professional play when he was only 18, through a family friend. From there, he “just fell into a handful of different jobs,” he says of his acting career.
The modest actor has had multiple television series appearances, as well as film roles, not to mention his spot on Kids’ CBC, which he has held for eight years now. Yet somehow Sid has escaped the city’s bright lights and returned to his First Nation. Along with his wife, Penny Couchie, he is a founder, director, organizer, and facilitator for Aanmitaagzi, his own professional theatre arts company on Nipissing First Nation.
The company has a children’s program geared towards pre-schoolers. Controlling dozens of loud pre-schoolers on stage may seem like a nightmare to most, but Sid just sees it as fun. “I’m like a big kid,” he says. “I just try to provide avenues for them to channel their creativity and misbehaviour, and I just play along with it.”
Sid’s heritage plays a large role in his career, not only in the theatre company built on Nipissing First Nation, but in his career with Kids’ CBC as well. Sid says that the program is “a simplified version of the ethnic diversity of this country.” The characters and hosts are from different geographic regions of Canada. Sid claims that his favourite part of working with Kids’ CBC was the freedom to represent his own nationality. “You just do what you want to come forward,” he says. Free from imposing views, Sid is able to present himself as a First Nations Person in his own way.
“It’s nice to know that the executives are comfortable with me stepping up and stepping out as I see fit,” he adds. They embrace Sid stepping up wholeheartedly, even letting him write a few of the scripts for the show. “They’ve asked me to come write some content related to my own traditions, so I’ve written some small scripts on
feasting a drum, and giveaways. They’re just small things that I can share with the kids about elements of my culture, about giving, sharing, receiving.”
The giving, sharing, and receiving carries over to Sid’s work in the theatre company that he runs. Sid shares the skills and knowledge of theatre that he has gained over
his career with the participants in a practical manner, through acting. When asked why he felt theatre was important to aboriginal youth, Sid responded: “I think theatre is a good way to challenge people to step into various roles and invest in characters; and by extension, you have them stepping into their own role.” Sid relates theatre back to the traditional practices of First Nations people, saying, “one of the common practices we have is preparing young people to speak, it’s really common at some point in your life that you’ll be asked to speak on someone’s behalf.”
Sid explains that theatre is an easy and fun way for aboriginal youth to practice public speaking. The amusement was easily recognized at the Aiming Higher conference held at Nipissing University. Sid ran a workshop at the conference for Aboriginal high school students from across Ontario. His comedic improvisation workshop was geared towards getting comfortable with public speaking, and the room was filled
with laughter. In regards to First Nations youth, he believes that theatre is a strong part of discovering your own identity.“Traditionally it’s a common practice to teach or prepare you to speak in order to know who you are. A part of your identity is finding your own power song. When you create that song you also have to speak to that song,” he explains.
Rather than using acting as an escape, Sid Bobb uses acting as a means of finding his true identity. His undeniable talent, easy personality, and motivational words make Sid Bobb an inspiration to Aboriginal youth in Canada.
Megan Hewitt, “Piebird: This Pie is Not Made Out of Bird!”
Meet Sherry Milford and Yan Roberts, owners of Piebird Bed and Breakfast in Nipissing, Ontario, where they make entirely vegan meals and play with their “goat friends” on a daily basis. They have a one-acre garden, so they are able to produce their own vegetables, herbs, and flowers – enough to sustain them throughout the year. “We are still eating out of the garden in November, and if we had listened to all the old farmers, they would not say that was possible. I think the seasons are changing and people need to change with it,” says Sherry. She emphasizes a need for change and a move towards healthier living.
A large aspect of healthy eating begins with eating herbs and vegetables, which
you can even grow yourself. Sherry and Yan are able to harvest the food from
their garden, which sustains them throughout most of the year. They accommodate
the diversity of their guests by providing entirely vegan meals. “People are super excited to try it. They appreciate the importance of the health aspect and having a health retreat,” says Sherry, who is a nutrition consultant. Sherry explains that “the
biggest challenge is getting people to change and have a non-animal eating diet
in the North, where people feel they have to hunt.”While meat can be a healthy
part of your diet, it does not need to be consumed at every meal. Piebird offers
healthy, vegan food and they even have workshops to show you how to cook these
meals. Sherry and Yan are interested in helping others to achieve a healthy way
Healthy living also includes having a positive outlook on life. Sherry and Yan are very excited about healthy living and they have a lifestyle that many would find desirable. Even though they have to work hard, they are doing what they enjoy. They grow their own food, work together to make their home a better place, and they get to play with
animals. Sherry and Yan have a great love of animals, which has led them to
adopt several abandoned goats. “I feed the animals and snuggle them. We also
have two hens and a rooster now; they are a bunch of babies and are awesome!”
adds Sherry. They are very fond of their animal friends and only use them for
love and companionship. Sherry and Yan do not milk the goats or collect the
chicken eggs. Rather than being used for material purposes, the animals are
simply allowed to frolic in the sun. It may not be traditional, but Sherry finds
harmony in this lifestyle.
Sustainable living consists of using natural resources, including homegrown foods, wood to heat the house, and rainwater for all daily uses. Sherry and Yan have a solar shower. They also collect rainwater on their metal roof. With this limited amount of water, they have to shower according to their resources. By using only rainwater, they are able to appreciate the amount of water that is naturally provided to them. “We are really aware of how much water we use …People don’t understand that water can run out, like with guests in the summer in a drought: it hasn’t rained in six weeks, so there is no water – ‘Here is the biodegradable soap and the river is down the road,’” says Sherry. She believes that people should be aware of the food they intake, the resources they use, and their impact on the universe.
Sherry and Yan are very creative individuals, making use of everything they can. Yan and Sherry give a lot of thought to their impact on the land and waste management. “We have a composting toilet; pretty darn sustainable. Any waste is composted, turns into soil, and goes in the orchard … Waste turns into beautiful soil, contributing to
land again,” exclaims Sherry. While this is a new concept for most people, Sherry says that it helps people to be aware of what goes into their bodies. It helps train guests to eat healthier foods, which will eventually become habit.
Sherry tries to show people by example. She allows them to learn from her life experiences. She provides information on sustainable living and veganism. She teaches people her ideas through farmstays and multiple workshops, so others can benefit from her daily lifestyle. Farmstays allow guests to partake in the daily chores: feeding the animals, harvesting the food, and then sitting down to a delicious vegan meal. “The idea grew organically. We found that guests wanted to help. People want to be a part of something that they don’t have in their daily lives, so we accommodate them and it really is a service. It is called agri-tourism and it is for people who want to get their hands dirty. It’s about physical activity and hangin’ with the animals,” says Sherry. Along with farmstays, they have workshops to teach people how to use herbs for medicinal purposes and how to make vegan meals: “Herb workshop is really
popular. It’s medicinal herbs to take care of our selves naturally. People like the idea of insight into living like us, and creating a community,” says Sherry. Her and her husband Yan help people find a connection to the land and gain energy from its life source.
Piebird is not just a house. It encompasses Sherry and Yan’s ideas about life. They allow life to guide them and make their decisions. They learn from the land, do what needs to be done, and take the path that they were meant for. It has led them to a wonderful lifestyle that many would desire. “I have a home where people can sit by the fire, drink tea, and cuddle animals,” says Sherry, “Everything I have ever done in my life happens here, it makes sense now. I learned what I did so that I can do it here – learning compassion and caring for people. I have recognized that I don’t have to look very far to reach my goals. Everything we do is something people can learn from … It’s about being able to do what we need to get done. It’s better for the planet and the animals; and it’s important. It’s simple: my career is my life, and something I totally
love.” Sherry’s lifestyle has benefited her and provided happiness for both her and her husband. The family found at Piebird is one of both humans and animals, and is an eye-opening experience for all who come to stay.
© NuSense 2011