Integrated Recovery and Holistic Wellness
Integrated Recovery and Holistic Wellness is an Indigenous program created to support the spiritual health of vulnerable Indigenous men and women who suffer from a variety of challenges including addictions, mental health, homelessness, and other multi-generational impacts of colonization. The Medicine Wheel symbolizes (among other things) the inter-dependency and inter-connectedness of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms of our being. The Oasis Society strongly believes that this balance is a critical aspect of wellness. The four quadrants of our programming – Share in Sustenance, Nurture in Nature, Connect with Family, and Celebrate with Community – are a circular path of nourishment in to assist the individual and the community in growth. Each of these activities fosters a sense of family amongst the participants, encourages authentic and supportive interactions, and promotes connectedness, breaking cycles of isolation.
Share in Sustenance
Each week, Oasis hosts a weekly community gathering where individuals are welcomed into a family-style dining room, to eat a home-cooked meal. Around the table we engage in casual conversation, getting to know any new faces and catching up with old ones. As the meal finishes, we serve a cup of tea and sit in circle for a sharing with the eagle feather. At this point each person is invited to respond to three questions: “What is going right?” “What is difficult or challenging?” and “What am I grateful for?” After the sharing, the group cleans up together, with participants sharing in washing, drying, organizing, garbage duties, and other tasks as necessary – basic skills that are exercised in a way that embodies belonging and cooperation. This weekly meal offers an opportunity for connection at a deeper level. Connections made through outreach are another central aspect of this quadrant. Sharing over a cup of coffee or a meal can have a significant impact on someone feeling alone or forgotten. A sense of belonging in a family-like context is an important aspect of the Oasis service model.
Nurture in Nature
Day long or multi-day retreats in a natural setting are an opportunity for a group of participants from the downtown core to travel out of the cityscape to connect with nature, one another, and themselves. Each retreat provides hot meals – from breakfasts with fresh coffee to start the day to traditionally prepared food – each meal is a collaborative effort to prepare the table, cook, wash the dishes and clean up. These may seem like normal activities for most, but are profound in growing community and building basic skills. Throughout the day, the group is accompanied by an Indigenous elder who leads participants in traditional ceremonies and cultural practices. Participants have time to explore nature, visiting waterfalls, beaches and forests. On multi-day retreats, participants also join together to setup and take down the retreat site. At the end of every retreat, participants are invited to participate in a closing circle to give feedback and share the gifts that each received while seeking rejuvenation outside city life.
YouTube – 2007 Nurture in Nature Program
Connect with Family
Another important quadrant of our programs includes the sensitive work of connecting isolated and disconnected individuals back to their families of origin. Oasis works with people on the streets to understand their stories and assist in the process of reconnecting them to the people who loved them first: mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. This often includes visits to various communities on Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. This journey home brings about healing both for the person living on the streets and his/her family. Over time, many life-giving connections have been forged province-wide with families where previously only pain and rejection resided.
Celebrate with Community
The final key element of our programs includes community gatherings and special celebrations. The act of bringing together people with experiences of homelessness and people who are housed to meet and create friendships is critical to building reconciliation in our hearts, communities, and nation. People living on the streets have ongoing opportunities to gather in a home to share a meal and a time of fellowship with a diverse group of community members. For both groups of participants, these interactions birth friendships that teach important and lasting life lessons as well as preventing isolation in the lives of all who participate.
Oasis activities, as listed above, are about a journey to self; a processes of getting to know oneself and one’s own story, finding meaning in that and making healthier choices in response to the newfound strength from within.