Circles of Support and Change

Survivors are reporting increased awareness of gender-based violence, the historical strengths of each community and the scope of supports/services. Survivors, their family and friends have increased knowledge about the impact of gender-based violence on youth, elderly, LGBTQ+ community members, children and survivors who have also been victims of racism.

Two community gatherings were held in the Paqt’nkek community to share learning and insights and to reflect on the project impact. The most significant learning from these sessions was the need to develop a strategy for “Supporting the Supporters”.  The staff and committee members of the Paqtnkek project shared the impact of hearing survivor’s stories, supporting community member’s disclosures and the impact of vicarious or secondary trauma. The Circles of Support and Change Community Facilitators were also becoming aware of the impact of their work on their own health and well-being and welcomed the discussion as an opportunity to develop ways to mitigate harm for themselves and other community members. In this project, there is the added stress of living through the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to maintain supports for others. 

The Project Coordinator began to coordinate events in Canso and the African Nova Scotian communities such as wellness circles featuring talking circles and traditional crafts such as dreamcatchers. These sessions also bring in guest facilitators to assist in sharing traditional teachings and healing practices. These events have been well accepted in both communities. It is expected that they will continue in the coming year. 

In the fall of 2020, team members participated in a six-week Coady International Institute course on Developmental Evaluation which led to discussions about the ethical research considerations necessary when working with Indigenous Communities and African Nova Scotian communities. This led to new text in the Evaluation Framework to describe the project’s approaches to working with Indigenous Communities and the African Nova Scotian Communities that are involved in the project. The team also co-authored the Evaluation Framework for the project going forward. 

Taking the time to re-orient the team to the Paqtnkek project was very worthwhile and generated significant learning, particularly the need for a Support the Supporters Strategy. The Paqtnkek Project Committee and community members who participated valued the opportunity to reflect on the impact their project had on the community.  Training the team on Developmental Evaluation was helpful to develop their skills and understanding about the evaluation of the project.