Support group gets funding
Group offers workshops for those who attended residential school

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Jan 21/00) - The Fort Providence Residential School Society's proposal has received approval from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) to offer healing workshops and do community field work, according to a press release from the society.

The funding will pay for a program co-ordinator, two field workers, an office and healing workshops, the press release states. An office will be opened in Fort Providence and staff hired over the next few months.

A series of public meetings, beginning on Jan. 30 in Fort Simpson, will be held during the next few weeks to inform the public about the society's purpose.

Allyn Rohatyn, a community counsellor in Fort Providence and spokesperson for the society, said the aim is to offer support to those who attended Sacred Heart Mission School in Fort Providence and to anyone else who suffered abuse or trauma in other residential schools. Visits will be made by society representatives to each community in the region, he said.

"The experiences may differ but the end result feelings -- the bitterness, the anger and the hurt and abuse -- basically is the same," Rohatyn said. "Any form of abuse, whether it's sexual or physical, it takes a long time before a person can talk about his feelings ... We want these people to come forward and let us know. From there we gather the information on a confidential basis and we look at bringing in qualified, trained people to do the healing workshops."

The society was formed three years ago and has adopted the motto, "All I want is to be happy," he noted. The board of directors is presently comprised of Joachim Bonnetrouge, Margaret Leishman and Nick Sibbeston.

Although it's not the primary purpose of the society, he said some individuals may go on to seek financial compensation because resulting dysfunctional behaviour may have hampered them from financially supporting themselves or their families.

"But money doesn't buy happiness," he said. "You could have all the money you want in the world but if you're not happy you can't buy that happiness."

Rohatyn declined to reveal the amount of funding requested until a deal with the AHF has been officially signed, which he expects to take place within the next two weeks, he said.