When Christina Linton looks back at her life she finds it hard to believe some of the experiences she’s adventured through. As a photojournalist, for more than a decade she has travelled the world capturing memorable moments and sharing stories.
Throughout the pandemic, as one of two activity directors at the Dr John M Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast, she helped residents continue to make memorable moments and stay connected despite various long-term care facility visitation and gathering restrictions.
“I’ve always been somebody that liked to meet people, get to know them, hear their stories and help others,” Ms Linton said.
With these interests at heart, she gravitated toward photojournalism after high school and completed a four-year college program in Ontario.
From there her business and reputation as a photographer grew.
She began to specialize in livestock photography which took her to a variety of locations including PEI to capture shows.
Ms Linton became a regular photographer at Old Home Week in Charlottetown, the Dundas Plowing Match and other shows in the area. Her photos for these were used in a variety of publications such as Atlantic Beef and Sheep magazine.
With this experience under her belt she became an official photographer at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, a role she held for more than a decade.
The Royal is an annual show where the best in Canada’s agricultural industries exhibit everything from cattle to food products like maple syrup or jams and jellies. The fair also hosts some of Canada’s most competitive horse shows.
From there Ms Linton was offered the opportunity to take photos for the World Dairy Expo. She accepted the opportunity and photographed the major expo in the United States which hosts one of the best known dairy cattle shows in the world.
“It was really a privilege,” Ms Linton said.
Throughout all of this her favourite part of livestock photography was the friendly network of people she met and got to know.
“The shows are very family focused and there are always lots of generations there. It was great to go to the shows and see familiar faces. I’d be at the Royal and see some of the people I’d met from PEI at Old Home Week,” she said.
Over the years Ms Linton also gained NGO clients such as Mennonite Central Committee or Unite For Sight.
“I’d travel with a writer and take pictures they would use to promote their fundraising and their projects,” she explained.
This work brought her into a variety of situations. She witnessed war zones, poverty and the aftermath of genocide.
“The goal was always to hear people’s stories, be a voice for those people and make sure they’re not forgotten,” she said.
“You see a lot of hard things in the world. That can be tough. You see the best in people, and the worst in people sometimes, but I like to focus on the best because people are so resilient.”
She said she would often be capturing those moments of resilience and light as the NGOs she was working for were always working to improve situations.
While Ms Linton loved travelling around as a photographer more recently she started to look for a change.
“I really had a lot of great experiences,” she said. “But I was gone a lot of the year, and the industry is changing.”
With family living in PEI, she started to consider shifting to work in the community.
Once again her love for getting to know people and helping others guided her to apply to work at Gillis Lodge.
She started out as a resident care worker in 2018.
“It’s one of the jobs where you get to spend the most time with the residents,” she said.
Ms Linton felt at home at the lodge.
“My mom has always said I’m an old soul,” she joked. “I always liked Murder She Wrote and the Golden Girls since I was a kid. Working with seniors was natural to me and I love spending time with them.”
After about two years of working in this position, Ms Linton moved into the activities department.
“While Christina was in the resident care worker role she took initiative and coordinated events on her own time,” Kathy Wilson Taylor, administrator of the lodge, said.
When the Lodge needed an activities director last March, Ms Linton seemed like a good fit.
She got to work discerning what would be meaningful to residents and started to make things happen. This included everything from setting up video chats with family who couldn’t visit their loved ones to bringing in a goat to visit the lodge for entertainment and a sense of connection.
Together with Emily Hart who joined as an additional activities director, Ms Linton set up a makeshift Tim Horton’s drive-thru in the lodge and helped residents launch messages in bottles into the Northumberland Strait among other activities. Then when residents heard about a fire at Le Chez Nous long-term care home in Prince County, she helped residents reach out and send Valentine’s Day treats, goodies and cards wishing the residents well.
“It’s all about what could be meaningful for people at the lodge and how can we help them have those meaningful experiences,” she said.
“I love making them smile and just brightening their day.”
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic