Until I read “The Deepest Well” by Dr. Nadien Burke Harris, I had never heard of Adverse Childhood Experience, toxic stress, or epigenetics. Yes, I was aware that trauma can be transferred genetically, but my knowledge stopped and ended at trauma’s impact on the body due to major world and life events. In essence, I knew of trauma’s impact of the body only in terms of contexts like slavery, 9/11, and the holocaust. I did not know that the shortening of telomeres, stunted amygdala growth, and hyperactivity of the adrenal cortex happened to seemingly “ordinary” citizens. Two years later, I am still reading about ACEs— I’m currently tackling “Childhood Disrupted” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, and working at a pioneering organization in Walla Walla in the field of ACEs.
It was fitting when, as a senior at Whitman College, I stumbled upon an opportunity to be a Community Impact Fellow at the Community Resilience Initiative (CRI). Before finding this opportunity, I was dreaming about a future where trauma-informed curricula at public high schools were the norm, and when every business across the US implemented trauma-informed practices into their daily regimens. The CRI is a nonprofit that mobilizes the community through dialogue around ACEs and toxic stress to reduce the number and impact of ACEs across the globe. Their framework is guided by the belief that resilience will buffer the impact of ACEs and can help children and adults alike overcome the effects of toxic stress.
After joining the CRI team, I was thrust into the month of October, which is one of the busiest times for the CRI. October carries with it the promise of changing leaves and opportunities for growth and change, which is why it’s the perfect time for building resilience, grounding oneself, and reconnecting with the world around us. The CRI’s major October project is “October is Resilience Month” (ORM), a month-long initiative that involves multiple projects aimed at healing practices and learning opportunities that mitigate the damage of toxic stress. This is the 8th Annual ORM Community Campaign. During ORM this year, the CRI is hosting 5 webinars, one each week of the month. The webinars cover adverse childhood experiences, adverse cultural exposures, adverse community environments, adverse circuitry expression, and adverse catastrophic events, which the CRI deems are 5 major ACE focus areas. During webinars, CRI staff explain the focus areas, address key concepts, and lead viewers in an array of activities and reflective opportunities. The goal, in a nutshell, is to give community members of all backgrounds and walks of life the most critical knowledge on ACEs so that they can build resilience and reconnect with their bodies in a meaningful way.
ORM also provides opportunities for children, families, and organizations to learn resilience-building strategies in an informal context. The October Scavenger Hunt is an opportunity for children and families to build resilience through community engagement and social connectedness. In locating a plastic Sandwich Board whose location changes on a daily basis, children are encouraged to build resilient social infrastructures in the face of COVID-19 and the isolation it brings through connecting, engaging activities. The first two individuals who find the Sandwich Board each day receive a goodie bag of resilience products that inspire play and learning.
The October Calendar Challenge is the third activity the CRI hosts in conjunction with ORM, and is an opportunity for agencies in Walla Walla to encourage self-healing, inspire compassion, and promote resilience within and between organizations. It’s also an opportunity to practice self-care and mindfulness during these difficult times.
ORM has given me the opportunity to see resilience in action, and to join in creating opportunities to expand vocabulary about negative events that affect all of us and the power of protective factors and a focus on resilience to help buffer the negative effects of risk at both the individual and community level.
Learn more about the CRI and our October events here: