Building a wailing wall at the Houston Community Garden is only the beginning of the Stepping Stones project.
Stepping Stones Coordinator Belinda Lacombe says Stepping Stones is a year long project started Feb. 1, 2013, with the goal of making Houston more inclusive for people living with or at risk of mental illness or addictions.
“And we’re all together, we all have our own addictions,” said Lacombe.
“It’s not to group those people over there… it’s equalling out the field… you drink coffee in the morning? That’s an addiction,” she said.
The Stepping Stones idea was sparked at the Indigenous Community Safety Training, and a group came together shortly after that to flesh out the idea and develop a funding proposal.
Funded by Community Action Initiative, 10 to 15 people formed a leadership council to guide the project, including Coordinator Lacombe, Sandy Wetterstrom, food and horticulture coordinator, Andrea Newell, assistant coordinator and Marian Ells, operations manager.
Stepping Stones is currently housed at the Community Garden, where they are learning how to interact with each other, be inclusive, and make the garden a safe, comfortable place to be, said Lacombe.
The wailing wall, built last Friday, is part of that.
“Everyone will invest something here, and essentially what that’s going to do is give a sense of belonging,” Lacombe said.
In addition to giving people a sense of ownership and belonging at the garden, the wall will also give them a place to process and let go of things happening in their lives, Lacombe said.
“Its a place where you take stuff in your life, ‘the yuck,’ and you put it in the wall and you leave it with the wall,” said Lacombe, adding that there will be dissolvable paper by the wall, so people can write things going on in their lives, fold it up and slip it into the cracks of the wall.
Stepping Stones is also planning to build a smokehouse near the garden in August.
Part of the project is the recognition and honouring of the territory that we are in, Wet’suwet’en territory, said Lacombe, adding that having their land taken away historically is part of the trauma for many of the indigenous people living with or at risk of mental illness or addictions.
First Nations dancers from Burns Lake performed in Houston last Friday, dancing to the drums and singing of six hereditary chiefs from the Bulkley Valley area.
Lacombe says that, come September the project will move what they’ve learned out of the garden and into other places in the community.
They will hold workshops throughout the year in different parks and areas of town, and they will make stepping stones to mark places of inclusion.
“Where ever people feel really included in this community… that place will get a mark of inclusion [a stepping stone],” said Lacombe.
Inspired by an awareness of the intersection of different services, Lacombe says Stepping Stones recognizes that things like trauma, health care and learning cannot be separated.
The project hopes to touch people in all areas of wellness – emotional, physical and spiritual, said Lacombe.
“It’s a wholistic approach.”