Violence and issues around community safety are so prevalent that organizers of the recent Building Bridges event were hoping, at the very least, to begin a dialogue.
“I think that happened,” says Joanne Mills co-ordinator of the K’aa Laa hla Naay Sleep Well House.
Having community members come to the event organized in a collaboration between RCMP, the Islands Women Society victim assistance program and women’s counseling program, and the Kaa Laa hla Naay Sleep Well House, was an important part of the afternoon (Nov. 4) too.
Dialogue can’t be created without the community, says Ms Mills.
Some who showed up surprised the organizers, but she says that speaks to the community interest in looking at the issues.
And participants did a lot of thinking on what the issues are and what actions can be taken to increase safety in the various communities.
Domestic violence is at the forefront of community concerns, but some serious underlying issues involve the availability of drugs in the community, gambling and its impact on people’s lives, and lack of 24-hour taxi service in south-end communities.
Ideas like finding positive male role models for young men, police working with youth on things like a canoe project, personally calling attention and saying “no” to abusive behaviors, encouraging programs like “Tribes” in schools that are based on respect, better enforcement of restraining orders, and much more came to the forefront.
The follow up is also important says Ms Mills.
She says there will likely be a series of small follow-up forums in each community in the future.
As for her work at the K’aa Laa hla Naay Sleep Well House, she said the forum helped her and the other four staff members there strengthen their resolve.
The house offers a safe place for women and children, but the workers provide many other services like a family violence support group for men and women, craft groups and other crisis services.
Ms Mills says, from the beginning the K’aa Laa hla Naay Sleep Well House has taken direction from the community. They are always open to hearing more about what programs people would like to have available.
They have a survey out in the community, and she is still hoping to get more feedback. The organization is growing quickly and the next step, she says is to explore men’s programming.
As a trainer, she has put a lot of effort into getting a variety of workshops on the islands, like suicide prevention training. Building capacity among the people who are interested in the work is essential, she says.
“We have so many natural helpers,” she says, reminding us of the communities many strengths as well.
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