CATIE – Visual AIDS: Wingspan with Claudette Cardinal

gr_positive-side-titleMy name is Claudette Cardinal and I have been living with HIV for almost 20 years. Originally from Edmonton, I now live in West Vancouver. I am Cree. I am a grandmother six times over. In the spring of 2010, a leadership training for HIV-positive women started me on my path of transformation.

PLDI Logo finalEgg: germ of a new life. I first heard about Positive Leadership Development Institute training through my local AIDS service organization, the Positive Women’s Network. My hope was to find out who I was as a leader.

Caterpillar: a time of growth. The training was challenging, but the camaraderie and sense of oneness among the group inspired me. It felt very safe. I could see right away how we were all leaders by the way we were networking and helping one another. Having that support upon completing the training made me feel like I was coming out of my cocoon and flourishing.

Chrysalis: a time of change. Since then, I’ve taken three more trainings—to explore my leadership potential, improve my communications skills and learn about board governance. These enabled me to find out who I really am.

ButterflyButterfly: metamorphosis completed. Now an Elder, I sit on the board of directors for Positive Living BC and I am a peer research assistant for a national HIV study. My next step is to go back to school. I try to empower as many women as I can in my daily life.

Upon completing the training, I went on a wellness retreat for positive Aboriginal women. While walking along the banks of the Chehalis River, we saw this butterfly. Like these creatures, we all have the power within us to grow. Even if you don’t think you do, it’s there—you can transform, spread your wings and take flight.