Vital People: New program provides journey to healing for Indigenous women affected by trauma

Indigenous women who have been affected by trauma, abuse and neglect can now start to heal thanks to funding for the Indigenous Bridging Program from the Victoria Foundation.

The new program, which started accepting participants last week, is hosted by the Bridges for Women Society.

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The six-month program is aimed at women living on and off the reserve. It takes a holistic approach to healing, with group work, clinical counselling, mentorship and one-on-one support.

Funding for the program means the program can be administered on the reserve, eliminating the need for participants to find and pay for transportation and daycare, two barriers often cited as reasons for non-attendance.

“We are grateful for the support of the Victoria Foundation for making available gender-specific funding through their Gender Equality Fund,” said Patricia Rawson, interim executive director for the non-profit society. “We know that women — especially Indigenous women — are disproportionately affected by violence and trauma in their lives.”

To make the program interesting, administrators have come up with inventive ways to include cultural elements and practices, such as a bannock-cooking demonstration delivered on Zoom.

The goal is to help survivors of trauma discover their strength, said Rawson.

“Trauma affects how we see ourselves — it diminishes us,” said Rawson, who has practiced in the field for 25 years.

Through the help of facilitators, counsellors, mentors and other support workers, the women begin to see a future.

“I remember once asking a woman about her career goal,” said Rawson. “She was shocked because she had never been asked that question before. It was an immense undertaking for her to think about it.”

The Indigenous Bridging Program ties in with other education and employment programs offered by Bridges for Women Society to help women reclaim their lives and build financial security.

“When women become financially independent, they can make choices,” said Rawson. “Having choices forms the core of one’s self-determination.”

For more information, go to bridgesforwomen.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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