Vermont Trauma Conversation
~By Wren Fulner, HWB Feature Blog Writer
In an increasingly divisive political world, intersectional activism is more essential than ever. The recent project of Kristin Henningsen and Kenzie McDonald in Burlington, Vermont to start an inclusive and representational conversation around trauma through a weekend long workshop is an excellent template for healers to address community needs. This event came together through an alchemy of partnership, learning, and listening, with support from a small grant from Herbalists Without Borders, as well as hosting by Railyard Apothecary.
Their work began months before, meeting with the local Vermont Herbalists Without Borders chapter to plan a fundraising herbal spa day and craft fair to support workshop scholarships for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and transgender folks. This diversity was critical to the success of the trauma conversations because “the demographic of the participants should mirror the speakers, and vice versa”. The fundraiser was remarkably successful and raised funds to send between 12 and 15 people to the weekend’s workshop; Kristin and Kenzie are planning another spa day fundraiser gathering soon.
The November weekend workshop itself was a whirlwind of practitioners of all modalities sharing space, from nurses to herbalists to reiki and yoga healers, as well as a collection of insightful speakers, “a really nice mix of science and spirit”. Framing the event as an experiential conversation rather than an academic training was critical to the desired result of a “sense of community and action” for the group. Arriving there took time, however, and through community feedback during the planning stages, Kristin and Kenzie realized the necessity of changing the rhetoric of the event to “trauma informed learning” rather than “training”, moving away from the expectation that a single weekend can provide all the tools one might need to support folks with trauma.
There will certainly be a follow up event in months to come, and the organizers look forward to being able to apply their learnings. More volunteers are needed, as well as earlier advertising in order to connect with the widest diversity of participant identities and modalities. In addition, Kristin and Kenzie wish they would have provided a feedback form at the event itself, rather than after the fact, so as to gather more useful input for future gatherings.
Though the kyriarchy will continue creating trauma that challenges the skills and energy of healers, events such as this foster the community resiliency from which we can find strength to do the work.
A big thank you to Kenzie and Kristin of HWB Vermont.
Wren Fulner is a queer amateur herbalist, a recent transplant to Eugene, Oregon from the cold winters of Minnesota, and writer for the Herbalists Without Borders blog. She is largely self-taught, both in herbalism and writing, and also enjoys hiking by the rugged Pacific Northwest ocean, practicing tarot and astrology, and playing Dungeons and Dragons when she can get a group together. Rose and Tulsi are her favorite herbal allies, though she's recently learning to love Skullcap as well. She hopes to share a house with her partner before too long, on acreage to homestead and establish an enormous garden for nourishment and healing.
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