The Sts'ailes' health department turns restrictions into wellness victories.
Shawn Leon, Nevin Leon and Laura Wright get out on the land as part of Sts'ailes' physical distancing activities.
When the Sts'ailes health department, Yeqwethet (“to heal and make things right"), had to cancel its in-person programs due to COVID-19 restrictions, the staff turned it into an opportunity to promote not just wellness, but also physical distancing.
Yeqwethet's distance series was launched in late March by the Community Wellness branch, called Aylexw (“to live"). The six-week challenge, called COVID-19 Outdoor Program, keeps wellness at the forefront of the community and also keeps the health department staff working.
For the ongoing challenge, families are encouraged to do an activity outdoors and submit a picture of the outing to a Facebook group. Because of the importance of physical distancing, group activities are strongly discouraged, and if the photo includes people from different households, the entry is disqualified. On Wednesdays and Fridays, a draw is held for prizes such as gift cards, with a special “pet" draw on Wednesdays for families whose pets were included in their photos. Each family can enter once a day, with a grand prize draw to be held at the end. The program quickly received over 1,400 entries, and the facebook group now boasts over 260 members.
Photo submission from Jewel and Marvin Leon, tending to their garden.
Sayem (meaning “strong"), the Mental Health branch, launched a similar challenge, in the form of a scavenger hunt. Yeqwethet's Mental Health and Addictions Navigator created the program to support youth through cultural healing and connection with the land. Also through a Facebook page, three scavenger hunt challenges per week are posted for students to do with their families, with simple activities such as finding a particular plant or visiting significant cultural locations within the community. One challenge involved painting river rocks, and leaving them around trees in the community. There is a draw held every Friday of the program, and a new initiative on journaling began April 20.
Rocks painted by community members during the mental wellness challenge.
Keeping the timelines fluid is key, according to Janice George, Yeqwethet Director. With so much uncertainty, she says, the focus is to be “uplifting, at a dark time when we are forced into stay-away mode." She is also quick to note that the community is “fortunate to have the luxury of being outdoors while practicing social distancing."
To encourage individual wellness, the Yeqwethet team also moved their weekly in-person yoga class online. This move proved to be a big hit with the community. Whereas the live class drew about six to 10 people each week, the very first online class had 24 participants. Shared on Facebook, the classes are available for community members to do whenever it is convenient.