International Women’s Day Spotlight: Carrington Christmas

For International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting some of the incredible women who give their time and expertise to support Orbis Canada. Board member Carrington Christmas from Toronto, Ontario, is bringing her knowledge of Indigenous communities to the fight against avoidable blindness.

Carrington Christmas is a Black Scotian-Mi’kmaq German woman activist who works in Indigenous education. Inspired by her family and spurred on by the experience of taking Indigenous Studies at Ottawa University, Christmas has become a passionate advocate for her community. She was the Director of Youth Advocacy and Development at the Native Women’s Association of Canada during her time with the organization, and continues to be a sought-after speaker and trainer. In addition, she is a member of the UN’s Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, which brings together Indigenous youth from a diverse range of backgrounds to share their experiences and shape change.

Christmas, who joined the Board of Orbis Canada in 2021, was interested in getting involved with Orbis for several reasons, but was particularly drawn to the work being done at a community level and how tailored it is to each specific location.

Carrington Christmas

I think orga­ni­za­tions can chal­lenge the way they do work and under­stand that just because you do real­ly good work some­where else, doesn’t mean that’s applic­a­ble in every con­text. It requires rela­tion­ships and will­ing­ness to hear from oth­er per­spec­tives, and to make your pro­grams and your resources adapt­able to the peo­ples you’re try­ing to work with. What I like about Orbis is that they work with com­mu­ni­ties to say, how can we work with you?’ I think a lot more orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als look­ing to get into this type of work could learn from that type of approach.”

With a project involving Indigenous Peoples throughout Turtle Island (Canada) being a focus for Orbis Canada in the near future, Christmas felt that, while she cannot speak for the community, she could be helpful providing recommendations and insight on meaningful ways to build relationships with Indigenous communities and organizations. “I really wanted to ensure that we're focusing on community at the grassroots level, and that we're focusing on relationships, and taking our time and understanding that these types of projects can't be rushed, that they require trust and understanding.” She notes how essential it is to ensure the perspectives, knowledge and voices of those in the communities are heard and that they are leading that work.

Christmas also feels the work Orbis does to support gender equity in eye health is essential, and will play an important role in any Canadian projects. “Recognizing the gaps like the discrimination, the lack of access to opportunities that women and girls around the world experience and specifically targeting them, in the places where they may not have those opportunities, is really going to begin to bridge those gaps,” she says.

With a wealth of knowledge about how to create and nurture community, Christmas looks forward to sharing her experiences to improve outcomes for those experiencing vision loss across the globe and here at home.

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