Circles of Support and Change Project

Circles of Support and Change:

Transferring Successful Rural Indigenous Practices to Other Rural Contexts

Project Overview, November 2019

What is Circles of Support and Change?

The Circles of Support and Change project is a project of the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA/Women’s Centre) working in partnership with 3 distinct, rural, underserved communities to develop community-led, community-based responses for preventing and responding to gender-based and sexualized violence.

It is rooted in the belief that the knowledge as well as the most appropriate and effective approaches for addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and promoting healthy relationships are held within local communities.   It builds upon learning from the community-led, community-based, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation model, a model which has been replicated in other Indigenous communities.

The project uses a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to centre the voices of survivors of gender-based violence in circles of support that include their chosen families, community members, educators and service providers.  In facilitated circles of support, participants identify and develop community-led responses to gender-based violence along with culturally- and community-relevant healing and wellness circles and practices.

Working collaboratively, each community will:

  1. make visible the strengths and knowledge already held in the community required to address gender-based violence
  2. create a community-relevant action plan for collaborative support and change
  3. disrupt community patterns of gender-based violence
  4. increase accessibility to survivor-specific supports and services through identifying, connecting, training, and supporting informal as well as formal service providers
  5. restore power and well-being to survivors and their chosen families in the aftermath of gender-based violence
  6. reduce vicarious trauma create sustainability for those supporting survivors
  7. identify the gaps in services and supports currently available and advocate to bring in the services necessary to fill those gaps

This work is underway and will continue over the next 5 years.

Who are the Partnering Communities?

The three partnering communities are:

  • the historic African Nova Scotian rural settlements of Upper Big Tracadie, Sunnyville, and Lincolnville;
  • Canso and area; and
  • the Strait Area Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.

Overall project coordination is provided through the Women’s Centre with support from a Project Advisory Committee.  In each community there is a site-specific, community facilitator that is working with community members to identify, develop and coordinate activities that are meaningful to the community.  Representatives from each community along with representatives from Paqtnkek and the Women’s Centre form the Project Advisory Committee and provide insight, guidance and support to the project.

Project Coordinator: Karla Stevens,

Community Facilitators:

African Nova Scotian communities: Tara Reddick, and Tonya Pelley,

Canso and Area communities: Michelle Newell,

Strait Area Campus, NSCC: Danielle Martell,

Project Advisory Committee

  • African Nova Scotian Communities: 3 representatives
  • Canso and Area Communities: 2 representatives
  • Strait Area NSCC Campus: 3 representatives
  • Paqtnkek: 2 representatives
  • Community Facilitators: 4 representatives
  • AWRCSASA Executive Director
  • Service Providers: 3 representatives

Why Is this Project Needed?

In the partnering communities there are vulnerabilities particular to each community that are connected with rural isolation, historic racism and exclusion, out-migration, demise of public services and infrastructure, poverty, and lack of employment opportunities. While these factors increase vulnerability to gender-based violence, there is a long-standing lack of access to culturally relevant, gender-based violence services.

Circles of Support and Change provides spaces in communities where community members can address the impact of these vulnerabilities and create community-led, community-relevant paths for responding to and addressing gender-based violence in all its manifestations and across the life-span.  Together communities can find their voice and language to speak about gender-based violence; reclaim culturally relevant healing practices; build community self-reliance; and address barriers to healing.

We are good at activism for all kinds of things, for civil rights.  Why not this? We can change from victims to survivors. – Voices of Women

How Do I get Involved?

We welcome your involvement.  If you would like more information about the project and how you can get involved, contact the Project Coordinator or the Community Facilitator in your area.

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