On Wednesday, April 18, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community observed National Child Abuse Prevention Month with an afternoon of family fun and educational awareness about child abuse prevention at VAII Park. Not only in April, but throughout the year, individuals and organizations are encouraged to play a role in making the Community a better place for children and families by ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children.
The goal of the event was to make sure people are aware of the different programs the Community has to offer families who may be going through difficult situations. Program representatives from social services, behavioral health and other departments, as well as various organizations, gathered together to inform families about the effects of child abuse and neglect.
Representatives from the Community’s Fatherhood and Motherhood programs were present to invite families to attend their meetings. The programs help to unify families if needed, and at the meetings everyone can share and get advice about problems they have going on in their lives. At their booth they did face-painting for the children and handed out free gifts to the adults.
Learning Through Fun
The SRPMIC Health Division provided a fun way for children to learn how to channel negative actions, feelings and experiences into positive ones. The children threw a ball, aiming at various holes labeled with topics such as “education” or different activities. If the ball went into the hole labeled “education,” the staff member would ask a question, such as “How much does a human brain weigh?” The children were offered a multiple-choice answer, and if they got the answer right they got a small prize.
The Salt River Fire Department set up a small physical fitness test. Children had to run through cones while carrying a fire hose, pick up a dummy made of a fire hose and some firefighter gear, and then run back to the beginning. This allowed children to get a flavor for some of what firefighters may experience during their daily work.
Remembering the Community as One Big Family
The event also featured three Community members who reminisced about the days when they were children growing up in the Community. Rowena Duran-Andreas, Roberta “Bobby” Carlos and Kelly Washington spoke about how it was for them growing up in the Community and how as children they never lived in fear of violence.
Carlos remembered riding on horses and in wagons; when kids in the neighborhood would see the horses hitched to a wagon, they would run and jump in and go for a ride. Another thing that she remembered about her childhood was when she and her siblings and friends were out of school, from the time the sun came up from the time the sun went down they were outside playing. They didn’t have very much, but they made do with what they had, including their imaginations.
“We got real innovative with games; it was fun,” said Carlos. “The entire neighborhood kids got together. All the kids knew each other, and the families knew each other; everyone knew where we were, and there was never real concern or worry where the kids were playing because there was always someone watching over us. We would be gone all day and never worry because we had each other to depend on; we always traveled in a group. Now we teach children ‘Stranger Danger,’ [but back then] we didn’t [even] know what that was. We didn’t have to worry about ‘Stranger Danger.’ We didn’t worry about any kind of injuries as a result of violence; we didn’t know what that was. Maybe we grew up really naïve, but we really enjoyed our childhood.”
Carlos’s mom would always take in her nieces and nephews if they needed a safe place to be. Her parents would take them in and provide and care for them like they were their own.
Carlos also remembered that they all took care of each other. “As a group it was always ‘one for all and all for one,’” she explained. “Everyone was aware of the responsibility of taking care of each other. Older kids watched out for the younger kids, and the younger kids never questioned when someone else other than their mom, dad, brother or sister disciplined, guided or corrected them. You accepted it was their role to take care of you and teach you and guide you; everyone took care of each other.
“I really do appreciate growing up here in this Community with the family and friends I had. We are all still friends today—we have to be; we are all related to each other,” said Carlos as she closed.
A dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs was served, and the evening ended with a Jell-O eating contest with children and adult divisions. The kids then played a quick game of tug-of-war before the lights went out and everyone went home.