Piapot FN goes visual with COVID-safety photo billboards

 
The old cliché says a picture is worth a thousand words; Piapot First Nation figures seven more won’t hurt.
 
The Cree nation north of Regina is using photo-billboards with short, seven-word phrases to remind its members to stay COVID-safe through the pandemic.
 
Each of the four, double-sided billboards feature images of band members doing safety protocols to stop the spread of the coronavirus: A young toddler wears a racoon face shield while munching on a snack; a middle-aged man wearing a mask readies his hands for a squirt of hand sanitizer; and, among others, a girl is washing her hands while wearing her pink Barbie mask.
 
“I’m so glad we decided to use band members (as models), instead of just strangers on the signs. I think when people see themselves out there, their family sees them, and then they’ll share it more,” Piapot communications manager Kristin Francis said.
 
Piapot’s leadership has been keen to educate the community’s members about the dangers and safety measures of COVID-19, she said.
 
Each sign’s image has one of two phrases written beside it: “Be Safe Our Lives Depend On You,” and “Be Safe Your Community Depends On You.”
 
The signs went up in mid-January, placed at high-traffic locations — the main roads into and out of the community, near the band office and at the First Nation’s main crossroads.
 
“It would be the last image they would see when they’re leaving … if they see familiar faces, it would make you think about your own children, and your Kokum and Moshum (grandma and grandpa),” Francis said.
 
Piapot leadership gave her creative control to design the billboards, she said. Part of the goal with real, physical signs is catching elders’ attention.
 
“Chief (Mark Fox) was adamant about it: (They) don’t have social media ... so they’re not seeing all the communications out there.”
 
Piapot’s total recorded COVID-19 infections is still below 100; 88 people in the community have caught the virus, based on numbers Francis provided.
 
As of Monday, there were zero active cases in the community. One band member has died after testing positive for the virus. The band has 688 members living on reserve.
 
Fifty-two band members have been vaccinated with both doses, while another eight have received their first doses, Francis said.
 
Band administrators have kept Piapot’s school and office closed since November, when a viral outbreak was declared there.
 
Data from Indigenous Services Canada shows COVID-19 infections in Saskatchewan First Nations have consistently been at or greater than 242 infections per week through the first two months of 2021.
 
The lone exception is last week (Feb. 21-27), when ISC recorded 24 cases; infections have been declining slowly since a mid-January high of 663.
 
Francis said administrators are now busy disbursing payments of $150 to all 2,550 band members, as part of financial relief efforts. It’s the second such payment Piapot leadership has given out.
 
She said they’re eager to open the community’s youth centre, which is to host virtual Cree and craft-making lessons for Piapot’s kids.
 
eradford@postmedia.com
 
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