The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Health Education Domestic Violence Prevention Program hosted a Family Wellness Conference on October 17 at the Lehi Community Building. The event was designed to share techniques for promoting wellness, self-awareness and communication skills. About 30 people attended, many of whom were couples.
“We needed to find a different approach to the issue of domestic violence,” said Vurlene Notsinneh-Bowekaty, a Community health educator for the SRPMIC Domestic Violence Program.
The guest presenter for the day was Royal Martin of the Navajo Nation. Martin has worked for over 20 years in such tribal departments as the Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Health.
As the conference began, most of the attendees were very quiet and timid toward each other. Then Martin asked everyone to stand up, form a large circle and go around to introduce themselves, saying where they were from. This started to break down barriers and a lot of guests started to become more comfortable.
Martin discussed the topic of wellness and asked everyone what it meant to them personally. He shared his experience of wellness as both a cancer survivor and a veteran, and recommended that whatever the participants learn about wellness during the conference, they must share it with others and also at home with their families.
The group then entered a discussion of self-awareness. To illustrate the concept, Martin asked random individuals to stand up and, without looking, to guess the color of their own shoelaces. Many got it right, but others had to look down after their guesses to make sure.
After the discussion came an interactive activity that dealt with movement, laughter, communication and comfort zones. Martin explained that this was called taking a “positive risk.” Another positive-risk obstacle was blowing up a balloon and finding a random person in the room to work with to pop the balloon. But they couldn’t use their hands; they had to place the balloon between them and use only their chests.
Throughout the day, the group participated in many ice-breakers that utilized active communication techniques. Before the lunch break there was a drawing exercise. Individuals paired up and sat back-to-back, with one person designated as the “scriber” and the other the “describer.” The describers had to describe a picture that was handed to them and tell the scribers how to draw it, trying to communicate the most effective instructions they could so the scriber could re-create the picture without seeing it. Then they switched roles and repeated the exercise.
After the drawing exercise, each pair went up and told the group how they described their picture and how well they understood their directions from one another. Some showed great communication, while it was clear that others needed to perfect theirs.
Martin explained that through these exercises the participants had conquered the fear of speaking in front of others and were able to give a presentation to strangers, which is one of the most difficult fears to overcome.
The group went over many other techniques to help with family wellness throughout the day.
Planning for the event began in July. “We needed to find a way to teach people how to become better individuals in the Community,” said Notsinneh-Bowekaty, adding that she hoped she and her staff had passed on some valuable skills and helped increase self-awareness, self-respect and self-confidence among the participants.