May 13, 2019
The South Surrey / White Rock Learning Centre recognized an opportunity for more wellness events for Surrey School's Indigenous youth and families, and decided to launch the "Young Wellness Warrior Winter Gathering." This one-night event included activities related to all four of FNHA's wellness streams, and had a strong focus on commitment to health and wellness. Toni Burbridge-Courchene, Aboriginal Child and Youth Care Worker with Surrey Schools, helped to coordinate this event. She reflected on the planning goals. "We wanted to engage children, youth and families to commit to themselves and each other how they will tend to their health and wellness," said Toni. "We see the benefits of advocating for youths to become 'Wellness Champions.'" A shared commitment to health and wellness Organizers had the pleasure of witnessing commitment from youth right away. Many youth were a part of the journey to plan the gathering, and even though weather was not on their side, many attendees showed up to the South Surrey Learning Centre on event day in the middle of a snow storm! The community's commitment to health and wellness was made even more apparent when every participant contributed a personal wellness goal to the Community Mural, which was created by event organizers. Some of the goals shared included drinking more water, drinking less sugary drinks and playing outside more. Presence of youth leadership In addition to helping to plan the event, youth also led certain activities at the gathering. Indigenous youth taught pow wow dancing to participants and shared their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual journeys to become dancers. "At first the older youth were uncertain about learning pow wow dancing, but in the end we had all the participants learning to dance together," beamed Toni. Pow wow dancing represents FNHA's Being Active and Nurturing Spirit wellness streams. Kama Money, English, Art Teacher + Aboriginal Advocate, South Surrey / White Rock Learning Centre, noted these hands-on activities were a big hit. "Both the elementary and high school students were fully engaged in the activities. It was fun to watch them move and learn together," says Kama. Traditional aspects of nutrition
The Eating Healthy wellness stream was represented in the form of delicious homemade protein balls and rose-hip jams that families could taste test and then learn about the recipes. The big focus, however, was on drinking habits. Organizers wanted attendees to start thinking, "How much sugar is in your drink?" A Rethink your Drink station used poster boards to provide visuals of how much sugar was in certain drinks, such as pop and sports drinks.
"The Rethink your Drink station was such a success," says Toni. "The poster boards are staying up at the school to continue the discussion of how much sugar is in our drinks. People found the visuals very helpful."
The Rethink your Drink initiative also informed attendees on healthy and traditional alternatives to sugary drinks. There was a tea-making session and traditional-medicine teas were available for taste test, and families were able to take their favourite new teas home. The school plans to continue this by having more tea-making sessions with
students during school hours.
Keep tobacco sacred
Another educational take away was related to traditional tobacco. Toni taught groups to plant traditional tobacco, which they then took home. She was joined by Tracey Jirak, FNHA Tobacco Cessation Coordinator who spoke about the effects that commercial cigarettes can have on your health, and provided helpful resources to stop smoking to those in need.
The staff at South Surrey / White Rock Learning Centre supported students in making the Young Wellness Warrior Gathering a success. They want to continue to work with the FNHA to build resilient, strength-based, culturally safe places and opportunities for Indigenous people.