Yuma Sun

Free event to ‘Celebrate the Child’

Fair on April 20 will also warn of abuse dangers

- BY JAMES GILBERT @YSJAMESGIL­BERT James Gilbert can be reached at jgilbert@yumasun.com or 5396854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGil­bert or on Twitter @YSJamesGil­bert.

The Healing Journey, along with co-sponsors Crossroads Mission and the Cocopah Tribe, will host their fifth annual child abuse prevention awareness fair later this month, which is aimed at being both entertaini­ng and educationa­l.

Slated to take place on April 20 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Sanguinett­i Park, 701 W. 22nd St., the Celebrate the Child fair is free and open to the public. Face painting as well as hot dogs, snow cones and popcorn will be available at the event.

Estrella Fitch, CEO and founder of The Healing Journey in Yuma, said agencies that work directly with children will be at the event giving out informatio­n about the services they provide for abused children.

“The goal is to let the community know what resources are available for them and their children. But it is also intended to be fun,” Fitch said. “Children have the right to live a life without violence, so we want to bring the community together to fight against child abuse.”

She continued by saying that you can’t do that without knowing what the signs are and what services are available in the community.

During the fair, children can also take a tour of an ambulance and city fire truck. There will also be a lot of fun activities, such as a variety of crafts, games, kiddie prints — in which children can get their fingers printed for an identifica­tion — and some cosplay. Raffles and free giveaways will also be held.

“It is geared for the children and for parents, guardians or foster parents,” Fitch added. “For two hours we want children to be able to be children and to have a great time.”

There is a somber side to the event as well, one that illustrate­s the devastatin­g effects of child abuse, with memorials in the form of luminaries, each telling a story of a child who has passed away.

When Fitch started the healing Journey she had a vision in mind, and that was to help survivors of various forms abuse — including psychologi­cal, emotional, physical and sexual — through peer-support groups.

Now, eleven years later, she is able to help a lot more people, announcing that she has recently joined Cenpatico Integrated Care as a specialty provider, with certified therapists and trained staff.

“We are now a licensed behavioral health provider, Fitch said. “We now can offer more service to wrap around what we have already been providing.”

As such, Fitch said Healing Journey can now provide behavioral health services to families and individual­s who have experience­d some type of abuse and have trauma related symptoms.

“A lot of the cases we have here, the child abuse was hidden,” Fitch said. “When we first receive a case we don’t know all the dynamics. We often don’t find out about the abuse until we start the intake process.”

Clinical Director Sarah Chavez said when a child experience­s trauma there is a change in their behavior and the way they view the world and events that take place in their lives. Basically their sense of safety and security has been compromise­d.

“A child may no longer trust adults, a teenager may no longer respond to authority or discipline, a person may learn to be guarded in order to keep themselves safe,” Chavez said. “They also may develop certain behaviors as coping mechanisms.”

If a child does not feel safe and secure, its difficult to move past the trauma, which Chavez said is what makes the Celebrate the Child event so important, because it helps to reshape their view of the world.

She explained that trauma is complex, and there is no perfect way to treat it. However, if you can make a child, teenager or adult establish a sense of security within themselves, they will then be able relearn and reshape their perspectiv­e of their world and of others.

“That is when healing can begin,” Chavez said. “They can begin to feel in control again.”

According to The Healing Journey’s website, one in every six boys will be molested before the age of 18 and one in every four girls will be molested before the age of 18.

The Healing Journey is located at 2197 S. 4th Ave. Suite 202 and can be reached at (928) 920-6220. More informatio­n about the organizati­on is also available on its website, www.thehealing­journeyyum­a.org.

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