The dinner is delicious!  I have come a few minutes early to this weekly community dinner to meet the people who run the Warriors Against Violence program, and Kayla who is working in the kitchen with her sister. Susila Dharma Canada supports this project in Vancouver that aims to decrease domestic violence and help nurture healthy family relationships.

SD Canada’s annual grant to Warriors Against Violence Society [1] covers Kayla’s salary to prepare a weekly meal for the Monday night participants of a program that supports people who have decided to heal their lives from the impact of violence. Tonight it is the monthly potluck when a wider community is invited.

Slowly people start trickling in through the lane door of Kiwassa Neighbourhood House in Vancouver – singles, couples, friends, families and volunteers.  They take a seat at the long table and chat amongst themselves and I can feel this really is a community of people who have come here to support each other.  I meet Marnie who is famous for baking fabulous bread (she brings about 10 loaves) and cosy blankets she makes with her husband Ken. The coffee is flowing and everyone is relaxed. A little boy plays under the buffet table and soon we all stand for a prayer of thanks for the meal and being together.  “Elders first!” and before I know it, I am pushed up to join Joe and Joyce Fossella who began the WAVS 25 years ago. “…because you are an elder.” I don’t realize I am an elder even though I am probably the oldest person in the room.  Then the children, the women (our birth givers) and the men are served.

Soon my plate is full of smoked salmon and vegetable chowder, two kinds of fry bread, salmon sandwiches made of thick slices of Marnie’s fresh bread, potato salad and green salad that Amelia has brought.  There is a buffalo and moose meat stew that Blair made.  I sit and chat with Thelma who serves on the board of Warriors Against Violence and joke around with Blair hawking raffle tickets for the five-pound chocolate bar, while Frieda hands around tickets for the other raffle. Eden from Eritrea, who works as a facilitator, is busy running the draw as each winner comes up, selects a favoured item from the table and draws the next lucky ticket. At the end of the second raffles there are about 18 winners carrying off bread, jams, sweaters, pillows, a cash prize, Tim Horton’s gift card and a giant chocolate bar.  There are lots of laughs.

After the meal, some go home and the program’s participants drift upstairs to join the healing circle.  I am invited to attend as long as I keep confidentiality and I feel honoured to be invited and welcomed.  Blair is lighting the sage in the middle of the room and smudging himself as he prepares for the circle to start.  With a large eagle feather over our heads, in turn we each ‘wash’ ourselves in sage smoke ending the ritual with the words “all my relations.” The purpose of the indigenous tradition of smudging is to clear negative energy and to create a sacred space.  So begins an evening of twenty-five men and women introducing themselves and their heritage, sharing their feelings, the stories of their lives and the challenges they face. These are brave people trying to move their lives from going down the ‘black road’ of violence and self-destruction to the ‘red road’ of living and honouring their indigenous values to heal themselves and their families.

After three hours of sharing and support in this sacred space, I thank Joe, and Blair and walk out into the clear, crisp night. I feel so grateful that in our small way we through Susila Dharma Canada and Subud Vancouver are able to support Warriors Against Violence.  The world I have just heard described is so foreign to my life experience and I know this is one way to contribute to the historical healing that we need as Canadians.  I believe we need to empower indigenous people to create their unique and healing ‘red road.’ I am so thankful for people like Joe and Joyce, Blair, Val, Thelma, Frieda, Eden and many others I met around the long table who struggle to keep this program going.  From what I have just witnessed, I think it is working.   “All my relations.”

by Rosanna Hille

[1] The goals of WAVS are to:

  • decrease violence in homes and in our community.
  • provide teachings of how to deal with anger & violence within spousal relationships and family dynamics.
  • minimize and decrease incidents of child apprehension by Family Services.
  • maintain a healthy lifestyle and build healthy relationships.
  • have the opportunity to participate in cultural teachings and events.
  • decrease the sense of isolation and to increase social networking.

Find out more about WAV on their website, where you will find a selection of videos.