IndigenEYEZ: Healing Trauma with Joy and Connection
“IndigenEYEZ is medicine for relationships,” says Program Director Kelly Terbasket. IndigenEYEZ is also a PYE partner, and one of the most powerful applications of our Creative Community Model that we’ve seen.
After more than 20 years managing community projects, Kelly co-founded IndigenEYEZ to heal First Nations communities by inspiring an intergenerational legacy of well-being among Aboriginal people in BC, Canada and elsewhere. Kelly has Syilx and European roots, and lives in her family’s ancestral home in the south Okanagan Valley.
Kelly explains what drives her: “I feel and have lived the results of colonization and residential schools. I experience the fragmentation of communities, families, and nations on a daily basis.”
The resulting trauma has led to deep, widespread suffering among First Nations people, including a recent, acute suicide crisis in the Attawapiskat community of northern Ontario. Kelly points out, “This disaster hit the news, of course, but the same problems exist in all our communities—it’s across the entire country.”
IndigenEYEZ offers adult community leadership trainings and youth camps, all focused on mending the broken down relationships caused by more than a century of oppression. The goal is to strengthen four essential relationships: with self, with others, with nature, and with culture. “By healing these connections, we can address the social determinants of health challenges,” Kelly says. According to Health Canada, First Nations people face disproportionately high rates of chronic and contagious diseases, mental health issues, and shorter life expectancy.
Kelly explains, “We must rebuild our capacity for healthy relationships. It’s hard to move forward without safety and trust.” That’s where PYE’s framework comes in.
“The Creative Community Model to me is the antidote to fragmented relationships, building trust and safety. In the hands of people, it provides tools to rebuild communities.”
PYE Co-Founder and CEO Peggy Taylor provides mentorship to Kelly, as well as facilitation support for IndigenEYEZ adult trainings. All the while, Kelly continually tailors the Creative Community Model to meet the needs and embrace the cultures of First Nations communities. In 2015 alone, in only its second full year of operation, IndigenEYEZ directly reached over 550 participants and unleashed exponential ripple effects. Last year’s youth camps welcomed 125 youth and 40 adults from ten different First Nations, and one IndigenEYEZ camp was covered by the CBC.
The need for IndigenEYEZ programs is great, stretching the work beyond its roots in BC. Says Kelly, “We’re working in only a small portion of the places we’re asked to go: health forums, strategic planning groups, conferences, you name it.” Government funding to assist with rebuilding Aboriginal communities is limited, so IndigenEYEZ needs additional support to grow its impact. Currently, a fundraiser is set up to send 10 First Nations youth to this summer’s IndigenEYEZ camp.
There is much progress to be made, and much pain to ease, but Kelly lights up when talking about her work. “It fills my heart up when I see people laughing together! To see them connect like that, and have fun.”
Want to learn more? Click here to visit the website of IndigenEYEZ.