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How this man plans to help other parents in his Manitoba First Nation heal from trauma


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William Gaywish returned to his home community in southwestern Manitoba in hopes of healing, after finding himself in a bad place and experiencing addiction while living in Winnipeg.

But the Rolling River First Nation father couldn’t find the help he needed in the rural community just south of Riding Mountain National Park.

Now, he is one of several people starting a men’s group there.

He and other members of the group “returned to our community to try to get back on track, and it’s been a long journey,” Gaywish said.

Many people in his community are dealing with the effects of intergenerational trauma, he said, and the ongoing impacts of residential schools and substance use.

“It all starts there, and we have to work together. If we don’t work together, everything is going to fail,” Gaywish said.

Her goal is to create a better future for her nine children, she said.

“We dealt with me and my mom going through the trauma of residential schools and everything, and now we’re looking at my kids, and that’s what it’s about…this group,” Gaywish said.

“[It’s] about children: how trauma affects them and what we can do to help them.

Trauma conference focuses on action plans

Gaywish was among the attendees Wednesday at a conference in Brandon on the topic of trauma treatment, organized by Home Counseling and Wellness, a private company.

Catherine Arnold, co-owner of the company, said the hope is to establish a committee in Brandon made up of community members and service providers focused on change and what people can do on an institutional and individual level to address trauma.

One of the event’s goals was to help participants create plans for their own communities and offer the opportunity to have “very vulnerable and open conversations about what we can do as individuals, and just as a society, to create that change,” she said. said.

Catherine Arnold is co-owner of Home Counseling and Wellness, which organized the conference. When it comes to change, “a lot of people don’t even know where to start,” she says. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

As part of the conference, the participants created an action plan to address the trauma affecting their communities.

The finalized action plan will be available to agencies and groups in Brandon and surrounding rural areas, and will be updated as needed based on concerns and ideas that arise in the community, Arnold said.

When it comes to change, “a lot of people don’t even know where to start,” he said.

“These are those little pieces that we can take. It builds that trust, compassion, and empathy within us.”

Brandon has Community Mobilization Westman, a network of social service providers, but in rural areas, more help is needed to connect community members to resources, Arnold said.

He said that for counsellors, service providers and others trying to help, Indigeneity needs to be a key part of the conversation because of the intergenerational trauma created by colonialism, including residential schools and the sixties scoop.

“We want people to be able to feel safe and trust us, and that takes time,” he said.

Essential Community Connection

Angela Mitchell, who attended the two-day workshop on behalf of Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services, says traumatized people are often unable to stand up for themselves.

That’s why it’s up to those who can, including professionals, to step up and “get going” to help, Mitchell said. Making connections in the community is critical to starting the healing process, she said.

Gaywish said she was inspired by the idea that the community can work together to provide support.

“I think a community raises children, right?” he said.

“And it’s not just one person. It’s the whole community.”

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