In a one-day retreat, the Access to Racial & Cultural Health Institute Inc., or ARCH Institute, in collaboration with the V.I. Health Department’s Behavioral Health Division, held a wellness circle Friday for youths between the ages of 13 to 17 years old at Fort Fredrik in Frederiksted.
The children participated in meditation and yoga, made scented body butter, painting and expressive dance. The retreat is part of strategies that were developed in March during the V.I. Youth Health Equity and Leaders Symposium,” to address emerging health threats affecting our adolescent population across the territory.
Director of the V.I. Department of Health Behavioral Health Division, Zulima Webster, said, “Our goal is to teach them self-care and to let them know that there are spaces that they could feel safe and feel comfortable enough to open up because they do carry a lot from what goes on within the community.”
“There so much going on so we just want them to have a day of release,” said Webster.
Executive Director of ARCH Institute Duane Howell Arch said that the program generally works with 12 – 30-year-olds because they consider up to 30 as a young adult. The selection process for the retreat specifically went based on five children from the ARCH Institute program and a few directly affected by teen murders. The children also had to be between the ages of 12–17 years old who have experienced some type of trauma within the last 18 – 24 months.
“The work we do with ARCH is we build strong connections. We try to make sure we have long-term relationships with the youth we work with,” said Howell.
“The wellness retreat is really how we are addressing trauma, adverse childhood experiences.” Howell said that traumas can be from a pet dying, being stressed at home there isn’t one trauma more important than the other.
“One of the things we stray away from is we do not allow anybody to come in our space and question a teen, ‘What do you have to stress about?’” said Howell.
Howell said that ARCH does encourage counseling. “Not all of us have access to therapy. Not all of us have access to ARCH.”
Howell also said because their budget isn’t large, they must become very creative, and their small funding is based with the Centers for Disease Control. He also said the nonprofit and others do suffer from insufficient funding because of where we are located.
The goal of the retreat is for children to learn skills on how to cope and strategies on how to express themselves.
Other sponsors for the event were Fort Frederik, for allowing the children to use their space, and Feather Leaf Inn, who donated the yoga mats.