Andrew (not his real name) was a consistent Tuesday evening participant; we did not know him prior to his arrival at NorthWind. He was quiet the first few times that he attended the Tuesday Night LifeBuild sessions, but then he became an active member within the group. He often tried to rally other friends and family to attend the sessions, because he had felt and experienced the true value of the sessions himself.
As an older Indigenous man, it was no surprise that Andrew was dealing with his childhood trauma from Residential Schooling. What was surprising was when, after eight months, he decided to open up within the group one evening, and the story he shared forever impacted the head coach. He mentioned that he had been hesitant to speak of, or draw attention to, the fact that he went to a Residential School. He had been carrying the weight of so many emotions relating to his experiences and had not felt safe anywhere to speak of it. He had stopped attending any groups anywhere because he had felt unsafe in the environments, pressured to share the darker parts of his story, and had witnessed situations where participants were shamed for some things they shared.
Andrew heard about LifeBuild at NorthWind’s Sunday Gathering; he decided, with hesitation, to see what it was about. He has since shared on numerous occasions, how “this place is different.” He was scared at first but continued to attend and, with time, started participating more, and walking his journey of healing.
During one activity, ‘An Identity Tree’, Andrew felt safe enough to mention, with no detail, that he had attended a Residential School. He then spoke of the comfort level he felt amongst the group, mentioning that it was ‘different’ than other groups he attended in the community.
With the way the LifeBuild program is structured and the community which is built within the sessions, Andrew was able to start his healing journey from the trauma of Residential Schooling, in a low-pressure setting, and when he was ready. Since that session, it has taken Andrew another six months to feel comfortable even entertaining the idea of counselling, but he has been asking more questions and showing interest. He is someone who attends programs regularly and will have the LifeBuild head coach check in with him, if his attendance fluctuates.
We have hope that one day he will be able to step into a counselling office to continue the deep healing he desires. Until then, he is supported through the LifeBuild program, and other NorthWind programs that he attends.