The Usalama [Safer] Family Program is an initiative initially funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Usalama, which is Swahili for safer focuses on the premises of building and restoring families impacted by the pandemic, intimate partner violence, internet exploitation, family conflict, abuse, trauma, and intergenerational experiences.
Thriving to reinforce safe and healthy relationships.
The Usalama program responded to the concerns presented in our organization such as, pandemic-related pressures and inequities, health inequities, family instability, and anti-Black racism.
The Usalama program provided family outreach services, such as psychotherapy, informal solution-focused counselling, and case management services. The program offered a healthy relationships program, weekly webinars and workshops.
The program was staffed by Family Outreach Workers, group facilitators, guest speakers and supervisors, and interns who provided services to over 100 women, girls, and families throughout the program. The program will continue to seek funding to achieve its goals, and address the needs for support, services, and programs.
Program Principles and Philosophy
Women and girls experience gender-based violence and inequities within their homes, communities, and region. COVID-19 has heightened concerns of intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and unsafe conditions for women. Black, Indigenous, and people of color are at greater risk due to racism, inequity, gender inequality, and lack of culturally safe resources. The program focuses on the following principles:
Our desired outcomes: healthier relationships, families engaged in healing, heightened self-awareness and empowerment, better mental health and wellness, and stronger family systems. We seek to: dismantle anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression, heightened education on creating healthier and safer families.
47 counselling clients engaged.
90 family outreach clients.
60-80 workshop attendees.
4 supervisors supporting the team.
15 interns and staff team members.
25 support group attendees.
Healthy Relationships Series
The Healthy Relationship Series brought an informative, supportive, and diverse virtual and in-person platform. The Series was developed by Nicole Perryman, CEO and the staff team. The series addressed issues such as self-awareness, self-compassion, intimate partner relationships, unhealthy relationships, intergenerational trauma, unhealthy and unhealthy relationships, communication, boundaries, and family conflict,
Healthy Relationships is a multi-series group workshop made for individuals that want to learn how to foster healthier, more fulfilling relationships with others. The Healthy Relationship series is founded in an anti-Black racism approach that steers away from white supremacist ideologies. Each week of the workshop focuses on a unique topic that relates back to the goal of strengthening interpersonal relationships.
Navigating Intimacy within Relationships
In this workshop, Navigating Intimacy Within Relationships, we defined and discussed what intimacy is and its various types. Intimacy is about discovering our innermost selves and sharing it with others. We explored the connection between intimacy and self-love, as well how to cultivate it in relationships through seven core elements of intimacy. Although commonly associated, intimacy is not just physical. Intimacy is also important in building a strong foundation for all kinds of relationships. We furthered the conversation as we reflected on why intimacy is important and common difficulties we can encounter when trying to create and maintain it. Although our past does not define our future, we are a product of our past. Our attachment styles, past experiences and trauma inform how we receive, express and communicate love and connection. This session contributes to our individual journey of introspection in uncovering how we can foster and evolve intimacy within relationships. After participating in this workshop, our hope is that participants would feel more comfortable with expressing intimacy and learn to build strong relationships with not only other people but themselves. True intimacy starts from within!
Building Healthier Boundaries in Relationships
In this workshop, the goal was for participants to look within and learn how they can form healthier relationships with those around them by asserting healthy boundaries. To begin, boundaries were defined for the participants; as well as contrasting healthy vs unhealthy ways of asserting said boundaries. Effective communication was also stressed in this session, because when we are not properly understood, this can lead to conflict. Assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive communication styles were presented and defined for the participants to get a better understanding. These communication styles are important to understand when it comes to effective communication and avoiding people pleasing and other disorganized behaviours including conflict. When boundaries cannot be properly set or if they are overlooked, this can cause conflict and it was important to talk about this during this workshop. Different types of conflicts were listed and explained, with their related resolutions. After this session, our hope for the participants was that they would better understand why having clear boundaries would benefit not only them but the people with whom they interact.
Exploring Relationship Patterns in Families
During this session, we brought it back to basics of where we first learned to form relationships – our families. A video was played, normalizing the idea that family is a unique concept and no one version of family should be seen as the norm. This session, featured a lot of interaction from the participants as they shared personal experiences they’ve had with their own families. This fostered a strong sense of connection in the group that helped more people to share and open up with the group. In keeping true to our value of keeping an anti-Black racism approach, the topic of systemic racism and how that affects the family system was also brought up. It is no surprise that systemic racism plays a role on family systems, especially when it comes to: education, finances, health outcomes and criminal justice to name a few. The idea that systemic racism has a trickle-down effect on: intuitional, interpersonal and internalized factors was explored in this session and left for the group to discuss. Similarly, the idea of assimilation and acculturation were discussed to further show how Black family ideals can differ in a Westernized society. Topics of individualism and collectivism were discussed as well, further showing how family dynamics are different across cultures. This session left participants with many comments on the relatability, family has played a significant role in how they shape their relationships.
Stress and Relationships: Exploring the Impact the Pandemic has had on Relationships
This session focused on how the pandemic and COVID-19 has shaped not only us but our relationships and how we connect with those around us. Relating back to the week prior, the pandemic has truly changed our familial relationships. Participants shared how they had to become teachers for their children, while navigating working from home and missing their social life outside of the house. On the other hand, there were also discussions about how the pandemic has affected Black and other people of colour disproportionately. A quote was shared that brought up a lot of conversation in the group about this topic, “racism, not race, is a risk factor of dying of COVID-19.” With many Black and people of colour being in service-based careers, they were some of the most affected groups during the pandemic. Be that they had higher rates of COVID-19 infection or that their careers had to be completely shut down or modified during the pandemic, causing financial hardships. These kinds of stressors, brought on from the pandemic affected how we work, communicate and cope with mental health concerns. This week finished off with talking about mental health since that has been on many people’s minds lately. Discussions of mental health have become more normalized and this time was taken to further push that narrative. Participants related to the fact that many of their life events had to be cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic and the effect this has had on their mental health and wellbeing.
Me, Myself and My Vibe: Re-claiming our Self-Love
The final session of this series focused on self-care, positive self-talk, and mindfulness. This was a great end to this series because it brought the conversation back on the importance of taking care of ourselves. Many clients that struggle with developing and maintaining healthy relationships, tend to also struggle with taking care of themselves and how they treat themselves. An exercise on reframing self-talk to be more positive while still observing our feelings was done to show the participants the importance of having grace with themselves. Being positive does not always mean you have to be a cheerleader for yourself, but it is to assure that the way we speak to ourself validates our feelings while still respecting our concerns. Moreover, there was a focus put on self-care on a macro level. It may be hard for some people to engage in positive self-talk or self-care because of the situations they are in. If we are in environments that do not protect our health and wellbeing it can be hard for us to put priority on those aspects ourselves. This was an eye-opening take on traditional talks on self-care and we felt that this would be important for the participants to hear. Finally, we ended off the session with information on mindfulness and a video featuring guided meditation. Participants and facilitators alike left the meeting feeling more relaxed and in tune with themselves.