We’re happy to introduce Monte Strong, who is taking the lead on the new Hepatitis C Leadership Project, which is in development. Read about other members of our team in the Meet the People at PAN series.
What sparked your interest in working in the HIV or hepatitis C community?
A few years ago I decided to become more involved with community by participating in programs and volunteering. I gained more awareness, met people, formed relationships, and pursued opportunities to practice skills. It all strengthened my sense of community connection which is something I value.
One experience that particularly inspired me was participating in PLDI’s Core Leadership Training in June 2018. I felt so energized during that weekend. My interactions with fellow participants, the trainers, and the beautiful natural setting left a distinct impression. I later latched onto an opportunity to be a trainer assistant for some PLDI training sessions. Witnessing connections form among participants and bonding with the trainers was, and still is, very rewarding.
What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the “real” world?
I want my work at Pacific AIDS Network to directly contribute to the leadership skills development of people who have ‘living’ hepatitis C and HIV experience. If I can help set the stage for someone to transform themselves into being their own leader and one for others, I believe they will experience an increased sense of community empowerment and quality of life.
What’s an exciting thing you are working on now?
Exciting is the key word here. We are developing a Hepatitis C Leadership Project, and we are striving for some fantastic outcomes like inspired community engagement and the foundation laid for a future Hepatitis C Leadership Program that will honour, “Nothing about us without us”.
A great place to start has been exploring vital project components such as vision, strategy, tools, processes, and most importantly, relationships within the community. As the project progresses, these aspects will become more tangible and start clicking together. At that point I just know there will be some amazing community conversations that will pave the way to our desired outcomes.
As the project coordinator, I will be a leader in the capacity of orchestrating all the evolving project components into something cohesive and effective that I hope will nurture a self-empowered hepatitis C community.
If you had unlimited funds, what parts of community work would you invest in?
Unlimited funds? Wow, what an opportunity that would be for our community. I would invest in:
1. Expansion of community support services to strengthen varying scales of communication, interpersonal connection, learning & development, and advocacy
2. Obtainment of healthcare equity in terms of access to treatment, housing, nutrition, and employment opportunities for people living with HIV and hepatitis C
3. Exploration of cutting-edge treatment development for HIV and hepatitis C to ensure successful cascade of care to minimize harmful physical effects
4. Exploration of cutting-edge medical research towards a cure for HIV and a vaccine for hepatitis C
Dream big when money is not a barrier.
If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent or superpower you’d like to be gifted with and why?
A fun question gets a fun answer. I would choose the power of flight. Imagine soaring above it all, willing yourself in any direction at impressive speeds, or gently landing atop a remote mountain. The sense of freedom would be exhilarating.
Just think of the range of heroic to practical applications of being able to fly: swooping in to save people from harm’s way, rapidly transporting the injured to hospital, or patrolling crime from a bird’s eye perspective . Let’s not forget the daily convenience of no more clumsy ladders, waiting for elevators, traffic jams, or costly plane tickets!