Beauty for Ashes: A Story of Healing in the Northwest Region
It was 2013 in Noorvik and tears streamed down her face. Feeling alone and facing countless struggles, she thought long and hard about what she could do next, that’s when her phone rang. “It was my longtime friend, calling to see how I was. She listened to my story, and gently encouraged me to attend a Beauty for Ashes training,” recalls Elsie Sampson. This call began Elsie’s life-changing journey of healing that continues to ripple through her, her family, and the people around her.
Southcentral Foundation’s Family Wellness Warriors Initiative has been breaking the silence of abuse since 1999. Through statewide education and trainings, FWWI strives to end domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and child neglect in the state of Alaska in this generation. FWWI has opened the door for thousands to stand up for their families and join the warrior’s fight to end the cycles of abuse and generational harm. FWWI works to accomplish this through the power of sharing story, connecting dots between our early childhood experience and current harm, and teaching new skills to build healthy relationships and new beginnings.
Today, FWWI is in it’s first year of working with Maniilaq Association and the Northwest region to bring the implementation model for Alaska Native areas. This community-based approach is founded on the belief that Alaska Native and American Indian cultures create strength within communities while building on the traditions within the area. Through village visits, awareness workshops, and learning circles, people in the region are learning about the movement to end cycles of abuse, and the movement is generating momentum.
Corina Kramer of Kotzebue stepped into her first BFA training full of curiosity after she heard about FWWI’s presence in the region. “The elements of spirituality and the simplicity of coming back to our Creator
was transformational for me,” she shared. “I feel that BFA has allowed me to be more transparent, and through it, I am able to speak truth and life to others.” Corina believes she also gathered an understanding of her own childhood story and embraced that power, giving voice back to the little girl she once was.
When Corina returned home, she placed a photo of her husband Lance as a small boy on their kitchen fridge, in the hopes that “one of these days, he will find this little boy again.” In October, Lance attended BFA along with 25 others from his region. He shared that the training allowed him to notice his own protective walls and patterns of behavior, and motivated him to seek healthy change, “I’ve never felt this close to God before — the training helped me see who I was originally created to be. Now I know why she put that picture of me on the fridge; I found myself. I finally found that little boy.”
Elsie Sampson believes that BFA changed the way she enters relationships and has allowed her to connect with, and inspire healing for others. She tells a story of a grandmother in the community who had concerns of a grandchild struggling with thoughts of suicide. Elsie listened to the grandmother’s frustration and fears and supported her in ways that were safe and supportive. To Elsie, this demonstrates how healing can come from each other, and how individuals can be a part of the solution in ending generational harm. “I am living proof of a person who is healing,” says Elsie. “Beauty for Ashes encourages our people to believe that they can be a part of the healing. We can step up and be that extension of love to other people who are hurting. We’ve received healing, and now we want to share it and that’s the beauty.”