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Resilience & The Rise of Community Leadership

I woke up just a few minutes ago, lurked over to the kitchen to greet the day with my usual blend of yerba mate, nettles, oatraw, raspberry leaf & rose petals.

I then checked my email and received a flurry of freak-out emails from some of the global health foundations and nonprofits that I follow, alarming their audience to the devasting shortage of funds that are threatening crucial HIV prevention & treatment programs, tuberculosis programs & the like.

I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but it’s happening everywhere. The economic calamity of the last 3 years has shaken social and health services to their core. In my community, so many more people are houseless, without medical care or any kind of safety net.

How we determine who should take care of who depends on how you define your people or your tribe. Who is our group? With whom do we share our identity? Think about it.

This issue of group identity has a cultural basis also. If we’re a part of a community that has a community identity, that’s likely to influence our notion of the groups that we’re a part of. So I think this issue of who should care for who is determined by where you are, and the nature of relationships there.

All that said, the social safety net that has been holding up many folks isn’t resilient. They aren’t able to withstand current economic trends. So, the responsibility (and burden) goes back to the community. But communities, by and large, have relinquished their leadership over the last century to state and federal leadership. But that tide is changing, and we community practitioners & advocates are at the forefront of it.

The Makah community, a tribal reservation on the Northwest peninsula of Washington state, is reclaiming their health services. In 2006, they took back control of health services from Indian Health Services, the federal bureaucracy that’s decimated Indian health. They’ve since instated a Makah Wellness Clinic, an integrative clinic that is specific for the Makah people and community. They’re identifying what health means for them, and are connecting community organizations to make these health services accessible to their people. I got to visit and meet with their team earlier this week and was greatly inspired by their dedication, persistent and heart. They’re going to do great things, those folks.

And we at the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic are identifying unmet needs in our community and answering them with no-questions-asked free consultation, herbal medicines and education. We teach at immigrant advocacy organizations, prisons, farms and schools. There are so many examples of rural and community clinic work, where practitioners are being responsible for the health of their place. Rosalee de la Foret has just launched her clinic in the Methow Valley. Kiva Rose practices in her village in Reserve, NM. Charles ‘Doc’ Garcia practices street herbalism in Richmond, CA. 7Song works at the Ithaca Free Clinic in Ithaca, NY. There are many more examples of this powerful work, and I’d like to know about it. Drop me a line, as I’d like to write something up on what’s happening, so if people want to get involved and help out they know where to find you.

It’s time for communities to become more resilient, to care and nurture the health of their people. For this, we need leaders and advocates for strong, resilient connection with people & habitat. With the fall of the national social safety net, our people now look to us for support.

It’s the age of the Rise of Community Leadership, and you’re at the forefront.

So what are you going to do?

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