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Healthy communities gatherings starting in Bethel

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  • Can we build a better, healthier future for ourselves by building stronger social connections to each other? Put another way, can “community = cure” for difficult issues impacting our health? The Oxford County Wellness Collaborative thinks so, and continues to lead work aimed at this kind of positive change for the county.

    Over the next several months the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative (OCWC) will be continuing a process of bringing together community members to deepen ties to one another and create a common vision for creating health in Oxford County. This work began in the summer of 2014 and will lead to a county-wide gathering on March 19 to identify one or two priority issues bearing on health in Oxford County.

    This process is based on envisioning the possibilities for a vibrant healthy county and building connections between people that will allow our community to work together effectively to make Oxford County a better place. The OCWC is gathering people together at “Healthy Community Gatherings” (HCGs), to share thoughts, ideas and passion surrounding the belief that as a community, we can take charge of creating a healthy life for all. As participants are empowered, support for this positive change increases, which in turn builds the foundation for true community action with greater impact on the challenges we tackle.

    The Gatherings actively work to incorporate the “voice” of everyone, even those who feel their voice cannot be heard, due to the barriers of poverty, status, etc. This work is based on the belief that there is leadership and value in each member of our community, and a commitment to find a way to tap into that potential.

    A six-week series of Healthy Community Gatherings will be starting in both Bethel and Fryeburg on March 7. The weekly gatherings will take place in Bethel at the Crescent Park Elementary School from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and in Fryeburg at the Fryeburg New Church (12 Oxford Street) from 1 to 2:30 p.m. (with a free lunch from 12:30 to 1) These events are open to all and the Wellness Collaborative welcomes you to attend.

    If you are interested in participating in either of these offerings or organizing another in your area, call Brendan Schauffler, Network Facilitator for the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative, at 739-6222.

    Previous participants say they feel connected to each other and energized by the conversations and community building. After attending the first of several gatherings, a longtime community activist in Rumford said, “I don’t feel so alone” in regards to his dedication to making a positive difference in his community. The conversations start by focusing on the possibilities of a future that does not exist yet, where our county is flourishing in all ways that create health. This is in contrast to the typical conversations addressing what is wrong, who is to blame and who (else) should fix it. The conversations embody the “aliveness” that is created when people sit together and share their vision for a better world, find common ground and from that place determine together what steps are next. On March 19 there will be a county-wide gathering (location to be determined) to determine a focus for creating a healthier Oxford County that we can all stand behind.

    The Wellness Collaborative is currently providing “host” trainings for people who would like to facilitate gatherings around Oxford County and encourages anyone who cares about the well-being of their community to participate. This training also offers real value for anyone who wants to deepen their facilitation skills and hold conversations that foster trust, commitment, and a sense of belonging. Barbara Rajaniemi, who attended a fall 2014 training in Rumford, shared that, “After the Host training I felt empowered, I felt my voice mattered, and I found myself being more aware of others and their needs and helping others feel that their voice matters too. I use what I learned in both my personal and professional life on a daily basis.” She added that she would “encourage everyone to take advantage of this training, as I feel it would have a very positive effect on you and the way you think and feel.” Other hosts share these feelings, and have appreciated building interpersonal skills and experience with public leadership. The training is free and does not require a commitment to participate in Healthy Community Gatherings work. However, trained hosts who go on to support Healthy Community Gatherings are eligible for a stipend for their work.

    Food will be provided at the gatherings, as well as the trainings, and financial help is available to cover transportation and childcare expenses. For more information about the Healthy Community Gatherings or host trainings, call Brendan at (207) 739-6222 or e-mail brendan@healthyoxfordhills.org.

    The Oxford County Wellness Collaborative (OCWC) is a growing group of caring individuals and organizations who want to increase the health of Oxford County, making it the most desirable place to live, work, play and raise a family. The group is grounded in the belief that as individuals and organizations, we are most effective when working together towards a common goal rather than separately trying to reach the same goal.

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