What do you think of when you hear the word “Restorative”? Maybe you think of restoring a piece of old furniture or making something new and better than before. Now what if we adopted that concept of making something restored and apply it to our community at large? The Oxford County Wellness Collaborative has been doing this in our county community by offering Restorative Community Trainings. In these trainings participants practice the skills needed to hold respectful and meaningful conversations that build connections. They are taught to be more inclusive, welcoming and understanding, to acknowledge the gifts that all community members hold, and to be understanding of the challenges that may cause someone to feel isolated and disconnected within their community. Isolation and disconnection are common in rural areas like Oxford County, and can pose a real threat to health and wellbeing. Not feeling valued is also a very real issue. In 2017, The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey reported that only 59.7% of Oxford County middle school students felt they mattered to their community. There is a very real need to make the time to connect with one another.
The Oxford County Wellness Collaborative has been fortunate to team up with the Alan Day Community Garden in Norway to provide a Restorative Community Trainings at the garden. These trainings are open to everyone, and hosting them at the garden also allows the garden’s Youth Leadership Program (YLP) members to attend. The YLP teaches local students about gardening, food systems, leadership skills, and helps them to deepen their connection to their community. July 27 marked the third year in a row that the training was offered at the garden and included a group of YLP members. The Restorative Community Training builds onto the YLP curriculum as a way of improving confidence and leadership skills to have a successful and active role in community improvement. You can learn more about the YLP by visting www.alandaycommunitygarden.org/youth-leadership-program
As we move forward throughout the year, the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative encourages you to think about the ways you could incorporate acts of positive connection with someone. If you are interested in attending a Restorative Community Training or offering one to your group, please call or email Emily Knapp at 739-6222 or Emily@healthyoxfordhills.org. The Wellness Collaborative believes that training more people to host respectful, connecting conversations is another step further in restoring our communities. To learn more about the Wellness Collaborative, please visit www.ocwcmaine.org.