Note: If you pay an annual fee to belong to the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada Association, click this button to login.
Note: If you are not a member of the NHPCA but have created an account on this website, click this button to login.
What started as a general feeling of ill-ease over the power of the fire, really hit home for us at the NHPC office when we learned that at least one of our members in Slave Lake, Alberta, lost her home and practice to the wildfire.
Consoling her over the phone wasn't enough, and there was consensus around the office that we needed to do something to help. But what?
We put our heads together in the office and decided that the best thing for the fire evacuees would be the healing bodywork our members could offer them. Offering some healing touch was the least we could do.
We sent out an email to every NHPC member in Alberta, on Wednesday, May 18th, urging them to meet us in Athabasca on Monday, May 23rd, toting their massage tables and healing hands.
Even though NHPC members consistently amaze us with their sense of camaraderie and community, and Slave Lake is close to home for many, we had no idea what kind of response we would get. Holding true to the beautiful NHPC spirit, members responded to us swiftly, moved by the opportunity to help in such a unique way.
We were blown away by the generosity of our membership base, these kindred spirits who were willing to give us their time and energy for the greater good of those devastated by the powerful forces of nature.
The Athabasca Native Friendship Center, which had generously donated their space to us for the day, was a charming log cabin in the centre of town. We chose Victoria Day, a holiday Monday, for our event, and normally the Native Friendship Center would have been closed. But the curator told us that he was so moved by our offer that he also volunteered his time to come open the Center for us for as long as we wanted to stay.
The depth of human generosity can be truly amazing, and it was wonderful to watch how the Alberta community was able to come together and give everything they could during such a tragedy. NHPC members were there—waiting with open arms for anyone who needed relief.
Many of the evacuees we treated told us that they had never had a massage before, but after some encouragement they were able to fully relax on our tables. Every single one of these people new to massage had an amazing experience and told us that they were going to have to start getting massages all the time.
We came across mothers who would come to us with their families, but wouldn’t want to have a massage themselves. Perhaps in the face of such tragedy in their families, they felt like they needed to be the ones to stay strong. We would explain the importance of taking time for yourself, of self-healing and rejuvenation, and often they would succumb to us. These women would leave us with an air of radiance, an aura even stronger than before.
We had the pleasure of treating a six year old boy to a Body Talk treatment. We were unsure of how he would react to the treatment, but he walked out of the room, eyes beaming, and exclaimed to his grandparents that it “was really cool!” Maybe we have planted a seed there, opening his eyes to natural health therapies. One can hope.
A woman and her husband came to see us, toting their cooing baby, maybe a year old. The husband was worried that their baby would cry if he left him alone, but we put the baby down right beside the massage table his father was on and after a few minutes both baby and father fell asleep, almost in sync. We let them sleep there, far beyond their treatment time had finished, unable to imagine the amount of stress and tension they must be feeling, living in limbo here in Athabasca.
We also treated a young woman who looked about six or seven months pregnant. She was elated that day though, because she had been given a wool blanket to help keep her warm while she slept in her tent. The weather had dropped to below freezing overnight many times over the past week, and we were beside ourselves with compassion for this poor woman. Trying to imagine that the gift of an old wool blanket would be such a fantastic luxury broke our hearts.
We were surprised to find that most of the evacuees who came to see us were in pleasant moods. More than anything, they seemed happy to see us and grateful for the service we were offering.
We did of course encounter heart-wrenching stories from many of them. Most of them had lost all of their belongings, their homes, everything, in the fire. Some seemed to be in a state of shock, some seemed to have already passed into acceptance of their fate. But no matter what kind of mood they were in when they came to us, they all left feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated than when they came.
As we packed up for the day, we all felt a real sense of accomplishment. We had helped heal the Slave Lake community, one treatment at a time. We had helped de-stress a community suffering from anxiety, and hopefully had opened many of their eyes to the benefits of regular natural health practices in their lives.
Perhaps we inspired some to continue on their path of self-healing and self-rejuvenation. I certainly hope that many of them will be able to receive treatments wherever they make permanent residence. Since our trip, I've heard of other practitioners organizing similar volunteer trips, so maybe my dream will become a reality.
—Jasmine Bischoff, NHPC Marketing Communications Coordinator