18 January 2011

Working with Aboriginal Youth & Children

I recently spoke at the Association of Canadian Human Ecology Students conference held at the University of Manitoba.  I was asked to speak on my experience working with Aboriginal Youth & Children in the Battleford's, Saskatchewan.

The best part of the conference was meeting people that I hadn't seen since I went to the conference as a student two years ago.

However, here are some of the points that I discussed with the delegates.

  • Sometimes our "defined" work mandate gets blurred.  I was employed as a counsellor at the Sexual Assault Centre, so my obvious mandate was victims of sexual abuse.  However, due to the lack of support services to some reserves, my mandate became blurred.  I wasn't just seeing children and youth who were victims, I was meeting with children who were depressed, anxious, being bullied, parents divorcing, being adopted and so on.
  • We need to understand the medicine wheel.  It is holistic.  It includes the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being of individuals.  Some people have asked what about social well-being?  Isn't that a mix of mental and emotional well-being, and even physical at times (in appearance).  What about sexual well-being? We live in a sex-based society, that tries to separate sex and make it it's own entity.  But sex is a mix of mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual well-being.
  • I learned that children and youth are most important.  Think of a circle with layers. First is the great spirit, second is the children, third is the women, next is the men, next is the elders, all supporting each other with one arm around the person next to them and the other resting on the person in front of them.
  • Rocking a child in a chair realigns their spirit and mind.
  • The best way to break the ice with a child is to get down to their level.  The best way I found to break the ice with school aged children was to play with them in gym class.  This way I became Josh who plays in gym, instead of the pilot counsellor.
  • I began to understand their belief that despite ailments their is still a spirit in a poorly functioning body that can communicate with us, and that wants to be spoken to.
These are just some things I touched on, among many others.  I truly do miss working in the Battleford's, but it helped shape who I am today.