We are excited to welcome Neish McLean to the YLAI Network’s guest blog! As a 2017 YLAI Fellow and Co-Founder and Executive Director of TransWave Jamaica, Neish speaks to the YLAI Network team from Jamaica about incorporating healthy practices into everyday activities that can impact both your work life and personal life.
Can you tell me a little about your work? How does your work relate to health and work towards the benefits of building a healthy community to generate economic prosperity?
As the Co-Founder and Executive Director of TransWave Jamaica, I lead a team that is dedicated to promoting transgender health and well-being through advocacy, visibility, and awareness. We engage members of the transgender and gender-non-confirming community through a holistic approach to health and wellness. Building a healthy trans community means that persons of trans experience can reach their full potential and participate meaningfully in nation building. It means that the community would have overcome displacement, unemployment, isolation and other factors that challenge our physical and mental health and well-being in order to contribute to economic prosperity. Working towards these goals is in line with Vision 2030 for Jamaica which aims to position Jamaica as an ideal place to live, work, raise families and do business. In particular, we have developed an arm of TransWave Jamaica that we have called TransActive. TransActive aims to build a spirit of health, fitness, and camaraderie for persons of trans experience and engages allies as well in activities such as 5ks, hikes and yoga.
Why did you decide to participate in that? What prompted your interest in it?
TransWave Jamaica was founded in August 2015 out of the need to have a holistic approach to advocacy for persons of trans experience and to engage in activities that engaged the community beyond HIV treatment and care. We decided to launch TransActive, especially, as an initiative that looks at health more holistically and seeks to mainstream health and wellness. Additionally, we understand that trans bodies are subjected to undue scrutiny and criticism and as such, we wanted to find meaningful ways to allow persons of trans experience to affirm as well as celebrate their bodies regardless of where they are in their transition.
What is one way that someone who is not working specifically on health issues or strengthening healthy outcomes can incorporate them into their work or daily life?
Life tends to get really busy, really fast. Entrepreneurs and professionals find it challenging to invest in their own health and well-being and self-care tends to not be a priority. I see self-care as critical to my professional development as I’m unable to reach my personal and professional goals if I’m not well. A shifting in approach to health can go a long way and can start with simple things – such as meditation, increasing fruits, veggies, and water as a part of your diet.
Were you worried about working in this field? Have you had any concerns about openly discussing health related issues in your community?
No, I’ve never been worried about discussing health issues. I’m really passionate about the work I do and it’s very much more than work for me…it’s life. My friends tease me sometimes but I know it’s in jest. I’ve seen the small things they have done to improve their own health and that means the world to me. My open discussion of health issues also allows people to access me with their questions and I do my best to advise. I love that I can merge my background in Psychology as well as Sports Management in my work and life.
What is something you’re looking forward to with this organization? What is next on the agenda?
The team is looking forward to broadening TransActive to develop our fitness line – inclusive of branded fitness gears and a health, wellness and lifestyle magazine. As a social enterprise, we are thinking about sustainability and how we can be creative with our initiatives beyond donor funding. We’re excited to incorporate the community as fitness instructors, writers, and artists so that they too can use their talents to support themselves as well.
What advice would you give someone who is facing challenges to being a leader committed to building a healthy community in their work or home?
My advice is to lead by showing your own commitment to improving your life and engendering the same healthy principles. Being accountable, however, does not mean perfection. It means sharing not just the successes of working on a healthy life but also sharing the challenges so that you’re relatable to your community. Doing so will show your commitment to self and your genuine interest in building a healthy community that will help your work in the long run.
Where can you find Neish? Be sure to follow Neish on any of the following social media platforms. Twitter, Instagram – @trans_wave and Facebook – Transwaveja, and the TransWave Jamaica organization website.