My Wehl Internship Story: From Jamaica to Promoting Real-Life Wellness in Toronto

April 10, 2019

In the winter of 2019, Wehl officially went live and was privileged to have its first intern. The timing was perfect for some extra help as we had lots to do to say the least…! We enjoyed mentoring and had much to learn from a fresh perspective and a bright, enthusiastic young student. This is the story of another exciting chapter in Wehl’s journey to encourage prevention and promote wehlness to others, while continuing to strive to model and nurture a corporate culture of wehlness in our work.

As part of the Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion post-graduate program at Centennial College in Toronto, Sherika Nelson interned with us at Wehl for 4 months. Below, Sherika shares with us what inspired her to become interested in the wellness field, her role and experiences as a Wehl intern, and her passion for helping people find the support we all need for making sustainable, healthy changes!

How did I get started in Wellness and Health Promotion?

As a child, I always knew when I grew up I wanted to serve people somehow. When my dad suffered a stroke at 38 years old, my household changed and my family became very health conscious. I quickly realized the importance of having good health and it was then that I decided I wanted to be a health practitioner. I pursued my undergraduate studies in Pharmacy because back home in Jamaica, Pharmacists are usually the first contact for health care as hospital and Doctor visits can be costly.

I was introduced to Health Promotion in Pharmacy school and it ended up being my favorite course in the program and so when I decided to do additional studies, it was on top of my list for specialization.

When doing my research, I came across the Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion (WWHP) program at Centennial College in the School of Community and Health studies. It is considered one of the first post-graduate programs of its kind in Canada. The aim of the program is to promote the total wellbeing of individuals and groups within the corporate and community setting by tackling social issues and using public health policies to make the healthier choice the easier choice.

I decided to apply and in just a few months I was on a plane heading to Canada.

What does wellness means to me?

Although my background is in Health, for a long time wellness was not a big part of my life. I practiced aspects of wellness but I did not label it as wellness nor did I identify it as wellness activities. It was not until coming to Canada and enrolling in the WWHP program that I truly appreciated what wellness is, how I can achieve it and how I can help others achieve their own personal wellness.

Wellness for me has always been two things – balance and self-care (even if I didn’t label it before). I am a strong believer in having a balanced life and being moderate in all things. Wellness for me is the ability to be in tune with your whole body and treat it in a way that will help it meet its fullest potential.

When I am feeling overwhelmed with a task or not feeling at my optimum, it is not unusual for me to literally take a break from life and drive to the country or head to the beach in order to clear my head and rejuvenate. My wellness also includes journaling, being active and eating balanced meals with regular treats for those feel good moments as well as being around people who make my spirit happy.

How do I practice wellness in a big city?

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed in a big city, especially when it is bigger than the entire island you grew up on, but there are things I do to ensure that I remain well physically, spiritually, socially and mentally.

I journal my feelings, thoughts, and experiences regularly. This gives me the opportunity to express myself since I am away from family and friends and can become lonely. I practise mindfulness where I am in tune with my body so I know when I am not at my optimum and do little things to restore my mind such as taking a walk, watching a movie or calling home. That helps me to reset and do things that make me happy.

I am also very active and that is a big part of my wellness. I go to the gym at least 4 times per week and I start my mornings being active as it helps me to be more productive throughout the day. I also go out into the city to see what it has to offer. Living in a big city has its benefits where there are always activities to enjoy.

Working with Wehl

Under the school’s Co-op program, I applied to do my placement with Wehl. I didn’t know what it was but when I read the description, I was very intrigued and interested in the vision for Wehl because if there is nothing I have learned while doing this program and in my personal life, it is that support is necessary for any health or wellness change to take place and Wehl was providing the support that many people need to make that change. When I joined Wehl in January, the platform was in its final beta testing phase and so I got a practical glimpse into what goes into the development of such a platform, the years of planning and designing the program, getting feedback, as well as going back to the drawing board numerous times and working to continuously improve the product.

Working with Wehl has opened my eyes to the world of the online wellness community and how many persons are interested in their wellness. I got a first-hand experience in the day to day running of a social platform, how to get a blog up and running as well as utilizing specific techniques to market a social platform and blog and create content of interest. While there are many people who are interested in their wellness and will be happy for the support, working with Wehl has also shown me that there are many persons who are resistant to changing their lifestyle and that is where my role as Health Promoter becomes apparent.

My role at Wehl

With the platform newly live, my primary role at Wehl was to help promote Wehl as a support for wellness and increase adoption and engagement through organic marketing routes. My work included finding out what was preventing some people from signing up and identifying existing barriers to member engagement. Working on a start-up is all about problem solving and I used that knowledge to determine marketing strategies and activities to help improve sign up, engagement and overall, enhance the member experience on the platform.

I assisted in the planning and development of program ideas and features for the platform that will continue to meet the needs and interests of the members, professionals, and organizations as well as potential future members. In addition, it was my role to help promote the overall health and wellness of the members, create and source high quality content to provide additional support, network with fellow wellness professionals and research and develop a portfolio with current wellness trends in the workplace as well as in online spaces.

Wehl team members

Most of my work was done independently with weekly team meetings in Downtown Toronto as well as virtual update calls. Initially I was concerned as it would be a new experience for me but utilizing tools such as Dropbox and the Project Management software Trello have made it easier to manage my tasks and stay accountable for everything I have done and also to keep Jennifer and the team updated on my work progression.

Tips for future interns

As an intern, there were things I learnt that could not be taught and I saw improvements in my personal development. For students considering doing their placement at Wehl, here are some important tips to make placement the best experience.

  1. Learn as much as you can. This is a learning experience and no matter how much you think you know, there is always the opportunity to learn.
  2. Be organized. It is so easy to get distracted when working remotely and become unproductive but being organized and planning your days will keep you accountable and able to achieve the most out of the experience.
  3. Ask questions. Most of us learn when we ask questions. It is one thing to soak up information but doing personal research and asking questions will only increase your knowledge and improve your growth.
  4. Have fun. This opportunity is not conventional and that’s what makes the experience so unique. Learn as much as you can, become involved in your tasks and have fun while doing so.

What I like about Wehl the most is the everyday, practical approaches to wellness.

My beautiful island Jamaica

Oftentimes in the past when I tried to be more vigilant about my wellness, I would go on blog sites and follow wellness enthusiasts’ journeys on YouTube however for most of them, wellness is a full time job and a lot of their approaches don’t always feel realistic or sustainable for my very busy lifestyle and I could never maintain the changes.

On Wehl, members are real, everyday people who have busy careers, families and not a lot of free time. Being able to see their approaches to wellness in practical ways inspires me to make the time to do things for my personal wellness. The members and wellness professionals are so encouraging and perfection is not a goal in Wehl. Real is almost never perfect.

Join me on Wehl. Let’s achieve Wehlness together because each one can reach one. You can sign up for free at wehl.com and follow me @sherikanelson.

We invite you to join our social platform for wellness at Wehl.com!

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