Healing blossoms at Garden of Roses-Camp for Girls

June 11, 2019

The Garden of Roses-Camp for Girls offers a healing space through traditional values for Alaska Native girls ages 8 to 17 who are survivors of sexual abuse. Over three days in August, camp attendees participated in healing circles and connected with their Alaska Native culture through safe, positive activities.

The Garden of Roses-Camp for Girls is sponsored by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative.

This year’s camp is scheduled for August 2-4 in Fairbanks, Alaska and travel scholarships are available, The application deadline is June 14.

Roxanne Frank, Prevention Manager at Tanana Chiefs Conference, said that connecting through culture can help survivors of abuse heal because it helps give them identity. The camp is a positive place because girls participating can share their feelings.

“They know they are not alone and the sexual abuse was not their fault,” added Elsie Boudreau, President of Arctic Winds Healing Winds. “Healing is possible.”

The camp sets out to create a safe place for girls who have suffered abuse. Girls are paired with an advocate, also known as a “big buddy.” Advocates are trained and have extensive experience serving Alaska Native children, adults, families and communities in the field of trauma, sexual assault and child protection.

“I liked how all big buddies were always making us feel very special and letting us know it wasn’t our fault,” a camper responded during a post-camp evaluation. “We are perfectly perfect just the way we are.”

Advocates create a comfortable environment right from the start.

“The introduction is to show that they all – advocates and girls – have things in common, even though they have never met. The healing circles are led by Boudreau and she introduces herself in her Yupi’k name. When girls who have Native names are able to introduce themselves, they really light up,” said Debbie Demientieff, ANTHC Special Projects Coordinator.

Traditional Doctor Rita Blumenstein, ANTHC Cultural Ways of Knowing Program Manager, named the Garden of Roses-Camp for Girls. Blumenstein is an advocate and sees the girls as beautiful flowers, who will open up and bloom as they experience healing. The camp helps plant the seeds of the healing process.

Last summer was the fifth time the camp was held. The camp’s activities encourage positive self-imagery and promote finding inner strength. Healing circles are designed to provide safety, support and encouragement.

It’s not a therapeutic camp in the sense of western medicine – there is no one-on-one counseling. The camp offers support, understanding and a platform for healing to begin.

“Advocates bring healing hearts with them; a passion to want to help the girls” said Demientieff. “Girls can see and feel their passion, and this helps lead a change.”

The camp is not just for survivors of abuse. Guardians also attend the camp but partake in their own sessions. As a parent or guardian of a survivor of abuse, there is healing and understanding that needs to occur.

Frank said she hopes guardians will leave the camp “knowing they have a history and are able to understand about the importance of feeling, expression and share their stories.”

Most importantly, the camp offers a space where no one – girls or their guardians – will feel bad about sharing their experiences.

“What happened to me is not my fault and I am a strong, pretty young lady,” one camper said in a camp evaluation. Another stated: “I learned a lot recently but what stood out to me the most was that it is okay to feel what you want (or have) to feel.”

For more information about the Garden of Roses-Camp for Girls, please contact Debbie Demientieff at dmdemientieff@anthc.org or (907) 729-3795.

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