Face-to-face community engagement is the bread and butter of Alive & Thrive Wyandotte County’s efforts to build a safe, healthy, and resilient community.
But early last year, the pandemic forced the Wyandot BHN program to find a different way to engage—and at a critical time. In January 2020, Alive & Thrive had trained 14 facilitators who were ready to take their message about the impact trauma has on community health to neighborhood organizations, churches, small nonprofits, and others. The coronavirus not only interfered with those plans, but it immediately sowed a trauma of its own kind in Wyandotte County: By April, hundreds had been infected and more than 50 had died.
Alive & Thrive recognized the need to address this trauma, so it suspended efforts to get its newly trained facilitators into the community and instead focused on holding regular community conversations on Zoom to help address immediate needs that were arising from the pandemic.
But the focus of these community conversations soon shifted. In May and June, with the protests over George Floyd’s murder spreading across the country and in Wyandotte County, Alive & Thrive used its newly created forum to hold a series of Community Engagement Workshops. Experts on policy, advocacy, government operations, and other topics were invited to spark conversations about what Alive & Thrive’s role could be in the wake of the protests.
“We put our emphasis on what we could do once the marching stopped,” Director Chandra Green said. “We already knew that decades of systemic racism in our justice systems had sown deep trauma in our Black communities. We wanted to ask our partners and community members: What do you think we can do about this?”
The answer came after several meetings: Draw upon the Alive & Thrive network to promote trauma-informed policies in Wyandotte County. After creating a strategic plan to get this work done, Alive & Thrive will soon begin recruiting members for a Policy Task Force that will guide the program’s policy work.
“So many policies affect the health and well-being of our community. What we will aim to do is encourage policymakers and advocates to see these policies through the lens of trauma. We want them to ask: How does a particular policy promote health and resilience, or prevent trauma?”
“I’m really excited to begin tackling this work in 2021,” Green said. “So many policies affect the health and well-being of our community. What we will aim to do is encourage policymakers and advocates to see these policies through the lens of trauma. We want them to ask: How does a particular policy promote health and resilience, or prevent trauma?”
In addition to this work, Alive & Thrive also continued to grow its operations. Among other things:
- Complete Asset Mapping of Wyandotte County resources (which will soon be available online)
- Build a robust communications infrastructure, including a new website and Facebook page.
- Complete strategic planning sessions with its Steering Committee
- Hire a VISTA member to assist with operations
- Train four more facilitators to lead community discussions on trauma and resilience
“Hopefully, by the end of 2021, we will be able to bring our work back into the churches, neighborhood organizations, and community centers around Wyandotte County,” Green said. “After all, an important part of building resilience is creating healthy relationships with one another. But until that time comes, we will continue to push for a more resilient Wyandotte County online.”
Alive & Thrive Wyandotte County is administered by Wyandot BHN and funded through the generous support of Wyandotte Health Foundation.