Guam News - Community Events
Belonging, Mastery, Interdependence and Generosity are the four values nurtured in Native American culture that allowed and guided all GONA training participants to discover, own and explore their personal roles and responsibilities in substance abuse, violence, bullying and suicide prevention work that is necessary in our island community.
In GONA, the participants learned that community healing – recognizing what we have lost yet discovering our strengths as individuals and as a community to cope and survive – is an important process. The foundation of GONA acknowledges that everyone is of value in the community healing process; everyone has a purpose; everyone is part of Guam’s healing.
[L-R: Attendees of the Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) training representing Guam Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Just Say No dance crew, Dept. of Behavioral Health at Republic of Marshall Islands, Sanctuary, Inc., Christian Life Center, Southern Christian Academy, Guam Community College, and Dept. of Youth Affairs, with Senators Dennis Rodriguez, Chris Duenas and Tony Ada, visiting trainers from Native Aspiration, Josephine Keefe and Barbara Aragon, and local trainer, Gayle Osborn. The GONA training was held at the Hyatt Regency Guam on September 10 – 12, 2012, as part of the local activities in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.]
“I wish GONA happened years ago so we’d have the opportunity to meet you all,” said DMHSA Prevention and Training branch supervisor Barbara S.N. Benavente as she addressed the group of participants in its closing ceremony. “(Nonetheless), my heart is happy because (what we’ve learned here) speaks to where (our branch) feels prevention and early intervention must be built upon.” The Prevention and Training branch is currently in a one-year Strategic Prevention Enhancement planning grant awarded by SAMHSA, which provides resources needed for the development of Guam’s enhanced 5-Year Comprehensive Strategic Plan for PEACE (Prevention Education And Community Empowerment) targeting the issues of alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
In one of the training activities, all attendees participated in an open discussion, providing their learning and recommendation on how Guam can, as one community, enhance the prevention efforts on our island. Recommendations include involving persons in recovery, peer specialists, sports leagues, the faith-based community, mobilizing civic groups, and encouraging cultural rituals and traditions to be reflected in Guam’s five-year plan.
[In photo: Select participants continued to a two-day training for facilitators to continue a local implementation of GONA among Guam’s community. Attendees were (1st row, L-R) James Ursua, Barbara Aragon (T), Josephine Keefe (T), Gayle Osborn (T), Barbara Benavente, Matthew Toves, (2nd row, L-R) Paul Alee, Alson Kelen, Andresina McManus, Barbara Mafnas, Michelle Sasamoto, OJ Taitano, Sara Dimla, (3rd row, L-R) Helene Paulino, Peter Cruz, Frank Bersamin, and (not in picture) Rebecca Respicio. (*T=Trainer)]
Visiting GONA facilitator Barbara Aragon emphasized that “prevention is about working with (your) people … right here, right now.” 24-year old Agat resident Matthew Toves shares, “We cannot hit a homerun unless we (take a) swing. This means taking unconventional, healthy risks to reach our grassroots people and getting them involved.” Niesina Hermal, senior dancer/choreographer of Just Say No drance crew also added, “We are thankful that we were included (to represent the Chuukese community) in this training. (People think it is hard to reach our people, but) all we need is a welcoming hand.” Toves and Hermal were among the twenty-seven participants of the GONA training, representing Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Just Say No dance crew, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Behavioral Health Department, Sanctuary, Inc., Christian Life Center, Southern Christian Academy, Guam Community College, and Dept. of Youth Affairs. Thirteen of these participants completed the two-day training of trainers, with a goal of continuing a local and culturally relevant GONA to reach other groups on Guam.
For more information and updates regarding GONA, contact the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Prevention and Training Branch at 477-9079 ~ 83, visit www.peaceguam.org, or like FOL on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FocusonLifeGuam.
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