2021: A Healing Journey During Covid-19
In Cynthia Erickson’s Words – Founder of My Grandma’s House
During the pandemic we rode on snow machines, went sledding, made Mother’s Day cards, picked berries, sewed neck warmers, made jam, baked, went caroling and made ornaments and gifts. We tried our best to take away the stress and anxiety in our lives. I do a lot long distance and on social media with kids all over Alaska! They know they can always message or call me. It’s been challenging for many.
I took a Laughing Yoga class last spring right before the pandemic. I am planning to do this with the kids and we are excited!! Humor is a MUST! We always have so much fun! It is a blessing for me to be with the children. They are so full of innocence, happiness and love! We have such wonderful children. I hope all of you get inspired to take some children under your wing to give them some extra love, fun and memories. They will remember you and think of the safe environment. It does make a huge impact in their life. They in turn will be better people, better leaders, parents and community members.
Any activity you do with the kids is special. I always say, it doesn’t take money to make a child’s day. Moments are special. Sit on the bank and watch them swim, pick berries, slide down, have a game night.
One of the kids said, ”I wish we had a My Grandma’s House in every village. It is a place we can go to be kids and know we are loved. We sometimes don’t have good homes and need a place to get away.”
About My Grandma’s House
We are the ones We’ve been waiting for!
Cynthia Erickson started My Grandma’s House In 2010 after 6 suicide events took place in the interior villages – she personally knew all of them. The devastating news broke her heart and she knew something had to be done to protect the youth. Erickson’s home transformed into My Grandma’s House. Like many grandmothers, her home is a welcoming, warm and safe haven for the children to come to.
Fun in Tanana!
Activities At My Grandma’s House
The children do many culturally-fun and engaging activities like, beading birch bark earrings, sewing kuspuks and neck warmers, baking, sledding, swimming, picking berries, making jam, jarring moose and fish. The gathering is typically informal with no specific topic. Their purpose at My Grandma’s House is to have a lot of fun, talk about life events, and exchange laughs. When a youth has something personal going on in his/her life or has happened a safe conversation takes place. Erickson expressed that discussions on suicides and sexual abuse in rural Alaska are common themes at her home. At My Grandma’s House, the youth work out coping strategies and ways to deal with those difficult subjects.
Their motto is to always welcome openness and honesty with the children. Erickson said, “They know more than we give them credit for. They go through a lot in their life and need to be armed with knowledge, care, and know who can help and give them resources for support.”
My Grandma’s House website
I have a dream…
I have a dream that someday we will have this in every village for our children. I don’t know how, but I will always keep dreaming and making a better place for our children. They deserve the best life ever! We need to do this; we owe that to every one of our beautiful children! – Cynthia Erickson (Founder of My Grandma’s House)
2020: Catching fish, not COVID-19
The Native Village of Kiana
Kiana is a traditional village on the Kobuk River about 55 miles away from Kotzebue. Because of COVID-19 cases close by, Kiana had to lock down several times. Youth couldn’t gather in groups, so they couldn’t go to the rec center, or traditional dance, or play sports.
The Youth Development and Culture Grant from RurAL CAP let them have a fishing project. Youth could check out a fishing pole and fish on the river. Adults helped them clean the fish and put it in the freezer. They dreamed of giving it to the Elders in the winter at Christmas.
One 12-year-old said she didn’t fish. Other kids were having so much fun, she told the coordinator, “Hey – I went fishing and it wasn’t so bad.” The next day, she came into the office, holding a nice-sized salmon – “Look, what I got! My first fish ever!” Cleaning it and saving it for the Elders filled her with happiness.
The program let the kids find a way to have a good activity where they could safely distance. Masks were worn at all time during the entire fishing activity – from picking up a pole to cleaning and storing the fish. They found a way to learn and practice an important subsistence skill.
2020: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Production
A Short Video in Support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October
Traditional stories keep our traditions alive. Koahnic Broadcast Corp and Rising Indigenous Voices Radio partnered together to create a 10-part interactive, multimedia series called The Storyteller.
2019: Circle Peacemaking
Working with the Youth
As a Critical Incident Stress Management Counselor; the community pulled together in a talking circle and gave each other confidence to open their “story” or feelings. As for the school: the talking circle was set up by grade ( up to 6th/7th grade, then 9th to 12th grade) discussion was made to ensure healing awareness and the signs of needing further counseling was given and recommended. Younger children in school were given a story and two counselors role played by explaining a specific incident, who acted/reacted naturally, and what can be done and to who the children can talk with an adult/counselor about the incident. Each agency was broken down by 1st responders and incident supporters (front desk clerks/dispatcher/family & friends). A debriefing was completed in a healing circle. At times, those who did not participate in the healing circle were invited one on one for a debriefing. Further counseling was recommended most of the time by their assigned Behavior Health Aide or by the assigned psychiatrist. Community activities were recommended; A weekly luncheon was recommended with ALL 1st Responders with an invite of staff supporters.
2019: Circle Peacemaking
Sharing ways of productive living: one day at a time!
The Circle Process – A Positive Impact on Dillingham.
The Senior Center positively in terms of more openness understanding and acceptance of the possibility with the incorporation of our Elders affirmations. A potlatch recovery sobriety celebration Dance follows with drumming. The first Elders BEAYM is tentatively on November- 8th, in other words we have been practicing, and we have been given matching Kuspaqs I am now beginning to work on finding youth dancers with Norma Hiratsuka at the Dillingham School District to set up framework of beading and dance lessons for the first Elders BEAYM on November 8th.
2019: Calricaraq – Healthy Living
“Wilderness is the best medicine.” – Louisia Walker
I have had two prior Calricaraq trainings before coming to the RurAL CAP March 2019 training. Honestly, I feel more comfortable opening up and sharing stories of suicides and the impact it has on today’s youth. The first two trainings, I was nervous and overwhelmed with the information but over time, I gained more knowledge and experience telling stories in the school classroom. I have become stronger and braver. My eyes are more open to understanding and helping others stay culturally connected and safe.
A dear family member of mine committed suicide when I was seven years old. For a very long time, the emptiness of his presence left me angry and devastated. Decades later, now with 9 beautiful children who keep me busy 24/7, I feel I have a different and healthier perspective on life thanks to the knowledge I picked up from attending the Calricaraq trainings. My motto for keeping the youth culturally connected and humble is: “Wilderness is the best medicine”. Being outside can unload life’s worries and stressors while breathing fresh air of positivity.
Please share with us how the services and trainings provided by RurAL CAP have impacted your community through your servicing role?
Share today! We’d love to hear your story!
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