Back Home


The Challenge

As generations of Aboriginal children returned from residential schools, many brought back a burden of shame and trauma from the various abuses they experienced that was to impact their family and community life for generations to come. For years, many of these people have tried to forget, and to shove their hurt feelings into the background so they could get on with everyday life. The fact is, however, that many of the difficulties our communities are experiencing today have their roots, at least partially, in the residential school experience. The legacy of residential schools, which still impacts many Aboriginal communities today, includes the following:

· Loss of language and destruction of culture

· Inter-generational sexual abuse

· Chronic addictions

· Old grudges and long-standing feuds

· Interpersonal violence

· Broken families

· Personal rage, shame and dysfunction

· Spiritual and cultural shame

The Program

        ·Mistrust of leadership and authority

· Political infighting and undermining

· Dependency thinking

· Weak or broken bonds of love, trust and caring

· Lack of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit

· The physical abuse of children and other vulnerable people

The Four Worlds Residential School Healing Program is designed to support, train and coach Aboriginal communities through the process of developing an effective program for getting to the bottom of what happened in residential schools, for healing the hurts that occurred there, and for moving on to rebuild personal, family and community life. The Residential School Healing Program consists of a series of four (4) training and coaching sessions involving community staff and community members.

Session I - Assessment

In this session, in-depth consultation occurs to uncover what has happened in the schools and afterwards, what results occurred in the lives of the people, and what processes and legal measures may be needed to support the healing and change that is required. A detailed documentation of this process is done by Four Worlds staff. Between Sessions I and II, the written findings of the assessment process would be circulated to all community members for their review and discussion. It is very important that everyone who wants input into the process has ample opportunity to contribute and to be heard. The documentation will then be edited to reflect this additional input.

Session II- Planning

In this session, selected staff and community members work with the Four Worlds team to plan sti~ategic lines of action needed to heal the community and to move on. The draft plan emerging from this session will again be distributed to community leadership and all interested community members for review, and will then edited to reflect further input.

Session III- Training and Start-up

This session involves training key staff and community members in various counseling and community development approaches directly related to the lines of action planned in Session 11. After this s~ssion, the plan should be up and running. The phase following this session will focus on getting the community fully engaged in the program.

Session IV - Special Needs Healing Workshop and Local Team Evaluation

In this session, Four Worlds coaches will work together with the community to conduct special healing workshops requiring additional support (such as sexual abuse survivors or resolving long-stinding conflicts). As well, the team will conduct a baseline evaluation of the first six months of program operation in order to determine needed changes in plans, new strategies or human resource capacity building needs.

The Four Worlds Residential School Healing Program will not require new personnel to be hired in the community, but rather will work with existing programs, staff and community volunteers. The onJy way such an approach can really work is if chief, council and senior managers all agree to make ii work because of its importance to community well-being.


Costs for the program will be negotiated on a community-by-community basis to reflect the size of the community, actual community needs and conditions, travel costs, and other specific program expenses.

The People

The Residential School Healing Program had been designed and developed by Four Worlds Intern4~ional and the Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning. Four Worlds has a long and distinguishe(i track record related to healing and community development work in Aboriginal communities. Team members have recently authored several manuals on Aboriginal community sexual abuse intervention, and we have worked closely with many Aboriginal communities for more than fifteen years on residential school related issues. Our film, "Healing the Hurts" documents some of this important work. Four Worlds is well known for its culturally-based way of working, based on principles and approaches tha~ have emerged through the guidance of wise elders and tested in hundreds of Aboriginal community s~ttings over many years.

More Information?

This program is designed for communities that are ready to take effective action to address the residential school issue. If you would like to find out more, contact:

The Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development

Tele: 403-320-7144
Fax: 403-329-8383

Back Home