Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hope & Healing for our Community

Adult Education Elders Present at State Conference  
By Laura Jijon

Mr. Anderson Lee
Our Adult Education Center is honored to have four Elders from the Senior Employment Training Program of New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services (NMALTS) at North Campus.  In addition to providing our Elders with job training, we also encourage them to share their wisdom and experience with our community. They have been so successful that we wanted them to share their community involvement with others at the 38th Annual NMALTS Conference August 23 and 24 at Isleta Resort. Their presentation was entitled Hope and Healing for Our Community and focused on how storytelling is the heart of traditional community building.

Adult Education Director, Laura Jijon, briefly introduced the presentation, explaining how North Campus is committed to inspiring hope and bringing healing to our area and introduced each participant. Elder, Mr. Anderson Lee began with a traditional Navajo morning song, then Elder, Mr. Harry Lee offered a traditional Navajo blessing for the gathering. He then continued by sharing a map of Navajoland and explaining how Gallup is located within the Four sacred mountains and offered a context for where we are and the inspiration of our work.

Ms. Diane Butler
Next Elder, Ms. Diane Butler joined in,  performing a children’s story that the three of them had   The storytelling included a number of handmade Navajo hogans and other structures so that children and their families would not only be inspired to read but also  be proud of their traditions.  For four years, our Adult Education Center has collaborated with the international organization, 4th World ATD, and one of their projects is the Story Garden at the Gallup Flea Market. Our Elders prepared activities for the children, read and told stories in English and Navajo, and encouraged parents and grandparents to be more involved in their children’s formal and traditional education.
prepared for the Gallup Flea Market.

Ms. Butler also shared about a book that our adult education students published with the help of 4th World ATD. These stories called “The Roles We Play” are  autobiographies that included the personal traumas so many of our students experience. Seeing the narratives of their lives in print, including photos of themselves surrounded by classmates and other supporters, transformed their stories of pain into strength and hope, and began the healing process for many.

Mr. Aaron Evans and Mr. Harry Lee
Next, Elder, Mr. Aaron Evans shared his experiences of being the Master of Ceremonies at the annual Quilts of Valor Ceremony held at North Campus every June.  He explained how the ceremony becomes a story of healing for local veterans as they are wrapped in the comfort of a quilt made my local women who are concerned about the suffering of those who have experienced war.  Many veterans leave the ceremony expressing their gratitude for having their sacrifices recognized and appreciating the understanding and warmth of their community represented by the quilt.

Finally, our center’s Lead Teacher, Mr. Shawn Ashley, concluded, sharing how working with the Elders has helped him understand and appreciate grandparents, and how our Elders can serve as grandparents in a community where many children, young people, and adults may not have Elders in their lives or have damaged relationships with them.  He spoke how this is a form of healing, infusing hope into our community.

 We were grateful to have our Division Chair, Mr. LD Lovett in attendance as well as ALTS representative Ms. Tup Tupper who placed our Elders at North Campus. What was most remarkable to all of us was that our presentation at the conference was packed—standing room only! Over 100 people crowded into the room and those who couldn’t get in asked if we’d be making another presentation at the conference. When we finished, all of the presenters were inundated with wonderful, encouraging comments and numerous invitations to visit Senior and Community Centers around the state to help other communities find creative, meaningful, and traditional ways to encourage the contributions of Elders to heal their communities.

Our North Campus students and staff are so proud of our Elders, and we hope the entire UNM-G family is as well!