Southcentral Foundation: Family Wellness Warriors
Program Area: Health, General & Rehabilitative Services
Grants Received: 2002: $650,000
In 2000, the Alaska Division of Family and Youth Services reported that 41% of the children who reported harm were Alaska Native. A review of domestic violence reports in Anchorage between 1989 and 1998 indicates that 24% of the victims were Alaska Native and 21% of the cases prosecuted involved Alaska Native male offenders. During this period of time, half of all sexual assault victims who participated in physical exams were Alaska Native. Each year, an estimated 1,000 Alaska Native women in Anchorage are victims of domestic violence. The statistics paint a stark picture, yet within the challenges facing the Alaska Native community, there are some who see an opportunity for healing, recovery, and wellness.
The Southcentral Foundation (SCF), formed in 1982 as the non-profit arm of the Cook Inlet Region Inc., is working to help the Alaska Native community achieve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Together with Living Waters, a faith-based mentoring and research organization, SCF is implementing the Family Wellness Warriors Initiative, an integrated approach to address the legal, spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of domestic violence, abuse, and neglect among the Native populations in Alaska. This approach, involving both rural and urban Alaska, will encourage and promote family wellness by utilizing Native strengths to counter all types of domestic violence, abuse, and neglect among Alaska Natives.
As explained by Katherine Gottlieb, President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation, "The Family Wellness Warriors Initiative is a movement to reach people at the heart level across the state of Alaska. To encourage people to protect their families from all forms of harm by upholding the traditional roles of each family member. Men are called on to be the protectors of their families; women are encouraged to instill family values providing a safe environment; and children are looked to as the reflectors of our family and community wellness. Look to the children and you will see if we are raising the wellness warriors of the future."
The efforts are gradually changing the Alaska Native community, as the wellness movement begins to take root. "I am becoming more real… and I like it," commented Fritz Geffe, a workshop participant. Tobias Shugak offered an additional perspective, "The Warrior must be a role model in action. Little boys are the warriors and the future fathers of tomorrow. They must know who they are."
Together with SCF and Living Waters, the Family Wellness Warriors Initiative is a collaborative effort with organizational and financial support from the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Health Board, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and the Rasmuson Foundation.