“We hope that some people going through a hard time will have their hearts lifted,” said Herbert William, a drug and alcohol counsellor with the Lake Babine Nation.
“We’ve gone through the hard part in 2012,” he said in reference to the explosion at the Babine Forest Products mill last January. “We’re trying to make this year different.”
William was talking about the idea behind this year’s National Addiction Awareness Week being hosted in Burns Lake by the Lake Babine Nation. The week is designed to bring people together, First Nation and non First Nation, and show them that there is support in the community for those struggling with addiction.
Curtis Ahenakew, a workshop facilitator, was brought in from Vancouver to provide daily workshops at the Margaret Patrick Memorial Centre. His focus in these workshops was to get people to drop their guard when it comes to talking about their emotions.
“You’re as sick as your secrets,” said Ahenakew to the assembly of young and old participants.
“Laughter opens people up,” he said of his approach in the workshops. Ahenakew starts with drawing people together into a circle and encouraging everyone to participate and not sit around the outside like spectators. If they can crack a smile than he can help them gain insight into their own feelings.
“I ask people, especially elders, how they feel,” Ahenakew said, “and they tell me they don’t know. That’s how unfamiliar many people are with their own emotions.”
It is draining work he said, getting people to open up and share their experiences, but the results are visible every day.
On Nov. 22 Brother Joseph Roy, CSM, came from Vanderhoof and did a sleight of hand show that brought out a lot of the laughter that Ahenakew was looking for.
There were many other presentations and workshops during the week, with lunch served and raffle prizes given away everyday to those in attendance. Other presenters during the week included RCMP Cpl. Alison Coyle and St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald who did a presentation on the harm done to a community when alcohol and drugs are allowed to travel freely among young community members.
“Seventy to eighty per cent of all calls for service are alcohol related,” MacDonald said. “Alcohol is the primary source of all the hurt in our community.”
William said that the week was very successful and he was especially impressed with the youth turnout. There more youth in attendance every day than elders or middle aged people combined.
“The youth sure made a difference,” he said. “I think they really connected with Curtis Ahenakew.”