Category Archives: Articles

An Article on Terry Garchinski, Written by the Faculty of Social Work, U of C

Personal experience spurs alumnus on to No Ordinary Journey

In late March of this year, Terry Garchinski (MSW’14) was part of a team that went to Vietnam to support children with cerebral palsy (CP) and their families. The team was organized through the No Ordinary Journey Foundation and led by Terry’s friend Laverne Bissky of Calgary. Her daughter Kasenya has CP.

Learn more about their experiences and work in this short documentary done by a Vietnamese television station. Terry appears at about 14:30. Terry also did a short Q&A with us in between training sessions he was conducting for Inuit counsellors in Clyde River, Nunavut. (The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

FSW: What made you decide to participate in the educational mission? 

TG:  Laverne Bissky and I have been friends since we were students at the University of Saskatchewan in the early 80s. She knew that for a period of time I had worked as a personal aide for a university student in computer science and who also had cerebral palsy. Laverne also knew that I had incurred a brain injury at the age of five. So with personal and professional experience with CP, she asked me to sit on the No Ordinary Journey board of directors. I agreed because I had benefited by working in an orphanage and teaching English as a second language in Peru. I wanted to support such an international learning opportunity for other young people with CP as they advocate for those with CP and their families in countries that didn’t have as well developed social structures as Canada does. Vietnam was the first country that we chose to focus on.

When we were assembling a team of professionals to support the work, Laverne thought that a social worker would be beneficial on the team to help articulate and mitigate the negative social impacts of false judgments and discrimination towards those with CP and their families. She also believed that a social worker could support a process to encourage parent empowerment and networking. I agreed and was pleased to volunteer.

FSW: What is the most meaningful memory or experience from the trip?

TG: Vietnam is such a beautiful, diverse country. It provided so many memorable experiences, but the most meaningful experiences came when we were invited into the family homes. Regardless of wealth, occupation, language spoken or nationality, we were all equals as parents who wanted the best for our children. In one home we visited, the poverty was extreme: straw hut, dirt floors, minimal furniture but the home was full of love. In fact, an older sister chose to quit school after grade six in order to care for her younger brother who had CP. What a sacrifice! That is the kind of person that I look up to. While we visited, they offered us coconut water still in the shell cut from a tree in their field. It is hard to imagine a better tasting drink at any five-star restaurant anywhere in the world!

FSW: Why did you choose social work as a profession?

TG: I chose to be a clinical social worker because I am a good listener and enjoy listening to people’s stories. I used to get kicked out of libraries because people would come to talk to me. I have brain that works strategically to problem solve. I like to play chess and other games. I am a big picture guy who has an aptitude to take in a lot of details and create a simple, understandable picture. I am very curious about human nature and delight in our differences. I believe life is purposeful and meaningful. I believe that reality exists on many levels and contains many parts, including a spiritual part that connects all things to a loving Creator. Social work helps me to frame and manage such diversity in a way that psychology or the medical model alone doesn’t. Social work helps me to understand my life and its challenges and then to support others to understand their lives and gifts.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, Terry!

Women’s Hunt and Heal Workshop


Spontaneous Tissue Format. Woman Reading.Terry Garchinski
Spontaneous Tissue Format. Woman Reading.Terry Garchinski

On Wednesday, 26 October 2011, during the Women’s Hunt and Heal Workshop in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut (Sponsored by the Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre) an amazing thing happened.  While one of the participants, Annie Agligoetok, was sharing her story about residential school childhood trauma, she pulled a Kleenex out of the box to wipe her tears.  The next Kleenex that emerged from the box formed a shape of a woman reading a book.  See photos. The workshop facilitator (Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc. noticed the image and pointed it out to the rest of the group who saw it as a positive sign of spiritual support for the work they were doing.

Annie said that her Uncle Sam and Aunt Lena Kipak from Kugluktuk who were like her parents, died seven years ago this month.  Annie believes that the woman in the Kleenex box was a sign of their continued love and support for her and her healing journey.

Terry took these photos to share with the group members so they could remember their good work and the positive support.




High School Students of Angik School, Paulatuk, NWT

Facilitated by:  Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc.

© 28 January 2010 Terry (the bag man) Garchinski


At times, it is difficult to understand why there is such hurtful behavior in our family or in our community.  At times, it is confusing to understand other people’s behavior or our own.  “Why did she hurt me?  Why did I hurt the people I love?  Why did I hurt myself?”  Underneath these hurtful behaviors, underneath these questions and underneath this confusion is often trauma. 

Imagine a circle of people looking towards the centre at something that is covered up with a blanket.    That something is “trauma.”  How can we talk about it and describe it so it is no longer hidden; so it is revealed; so it is no longer a secret or “covered up”; so it is no longer a mystery but is exposed and understood?

What is trauma?

Trauma experiences are those incidents that “break us down” and “upset our balance.”   Often they are sudden or unexpected; life threatening or life destroying.   They are the events that may scar our bodies but definitely scar our hearts, minds and spirits.   They are hurtful, painful and devastating.  They are personal:  they can overwhelm and attack who we are as persons.  They cross over our external and internal boundaries which protect us and help us to feel safe in this world.  Such incidents include sexual abuse, witnessing a completed suicide, being in a war, living with violent alcoholic parents or a violent partner, leaving parents at the age of five to go to a distant community to attend a residential school which is taught in another language and another cultural context, being submerged after breaking through the ice, having our children being abducted or murdered, being tortured, being involved in an snowmobile accident where somebody dies or is seriously hurt, or being neglected or abandoned as a child (believing “my parents did not want or love me.”)  

Most people in Haiti have been traumatized by the recent earth quakes and the aftermath.   With thousands of friends and family members dying in a matter of minutes and then more dying in the days that followed.  People felt trapped, helpless and hopeless.  Many of the children who survived the natural disaster became homeless orphans who had little food or clean water.  Afterwards, it became a struggle and a fight each day to survive.  A huge international relief effort has responded to the personal and national crisis.

How might a traumatic experience affect us?

Trauma hurts deeply.  It can have long term negative consequences if we don’t deal with it in a healthy manner.  Our greatest power lies in how we choose to respond to the trauma.  Our greatest power lies in choosing to help ourselves to minimize the negative consequences.  In fact, we have the power to transform a painful traumatic experience and use it as a catalyst to live our life more fully and deeply with awareness, confidence, purpose, meaning, compassion and love.  A positive response begins with choosing to heal ourselves.    A positive response is to choose to “put ourselves back together.”  

Our human needs, beliefs and/or innate reactions can influence how we choose to respond when confronted with overwhelming traumatic events.  These influencing factors may include the following:

  1. To feel safe and to protect and defend ourselves from the experience of the traumatic event and our painful internal reactions, we may consciously or unconsciously block off the traumatic event using short term defence mechanisms.
  2. Because it is so difficult to feel powerless and helpless in the face of the traumatic event, we may try to have some sense of “power and control” over the event by believing it was our fault, even when we had no responsibility for the occurrence of the incident.  But, if we believe it was our fault that the trauma occurred, we might carry someone else’s shame, guilt or responsibility.  We might judge and punish ourselves.  Children are vulnerable to fall into this pattern of responding especially when their parents were responsible for causing the trauma.  It is easier for a child to believe “I’m a bad boy” than to accept that “dad loves alcohol more than he loves me.” 
  3. In general, human beings tend to “seek pleasure and avoid pain” and to take the path of “least resistance.”  This is especially true in the face of overwhelming traumatic events.  But the “short term pleasure” and the “short term path of least resistance” may set one up for long term pain and blocks.
  4. When threatened, humans and animals tend to “fight, freeze or flee.”

These human needs, beliefs and/or innate reactions may conflict with each other and with longer term healing strategies.  As a result, our emotions, thoughts, beliefs and behaviors may be erratic, conflicted, confusing and/or illogical.  We may feel like we are “going in circles” or “going crazy.”  The traumatic event and our reactions to it may feel like we are in “our own world of pain and suffering” which no one else experiences or can understand.   We may sense that there is something in us that makes us do “bad, wrong or stupid stuff.”  What follows are some frequent reactions or short term defence mechanisms that we may experience following a traumatic event:

We might push down the pain; push down our feelings, thoughts and memories about the traumatic event.  Initially, we may go into shock.  Later, we may deny it, bury it, not talk about it, “tune out” or keep it a “secret” even from ourselves.  If we continue to react this way over time, the trauma may “ruin our lives without us knowing why.”

  1. We may try to distract ourselves, forget, and avoid our pain by giving our power away to addictions and turn to alcohol, drugs, work, sex, the internet, food, gambling or any other substance, behavior or belief that alters our mood. 
  2. By boxing the pain in and holding it in our bodies we may grow physically bigger and bigger.  Without “letting go” of the pain, we may become obese.  Or, we may “use up so much energy” trying to keep the pain buried and hidden that our bodies can’t maintain a healthy, balanced weight. We may be underweight and look “anorexic.”  
  3. We may try to forget but our bodies remember.  We may “forget” the event by pushing it out of our consciousness.  We may forget our entire childhood.  We may forget to grieve.  We may forget that we are able to choose to help ourselves first and that nobody can fix us but ourselves because we are our own healers.  We may forget to do every day things like to buy groceries or wash our bodies.  We may forget our children and their needs.  We may forget to “ask for help” so we are supported to take responsibility for “healing ourselves.”
  4. Constantly working to keep the pain and reactions “out-of-mind” and “out-of-heart”, we might “tire ourselves out,” feel exhausted, defeated, and depressed.
  5. We might have confused or distorted thinking with rationalizations, projections, stereotyping, psychotic episodes or exhibit poor reality testing.  Over time our sense of mental or emotional balance could be so compromised that mental or emotional illness develops.
  6. We may feel “stressed out” even in our daily living and we may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
  7. We might feel angry all the time at the whole world.  We may focus our anger at all authority figures or people or institutions that exercise some authority or power in our lives. We might feel stereotypical anger at “the cops,” at “all men”, at “guns or knives”, at “white people”, at “the school and the teachers”, at “the Catholic Church”, at the “smell of alcohol on someone’s breath.” Our anger maybe constantly trying to invite us to look at the “trauma triggers,” so we can heal from the trauma.
  8. We might disconnect with self, others, creation, or the Creator.  We might set up internal or external walls to block off parts of ourselves from ourselves or block off the outside world from ourselves.   We might stop communicating with others and live as if we are alone on a deserted island.  We might “push people away” and stay in our houses, hide behind closed doors, isolate ourselves and not visit elders for tea or go out to community events.  We may feel alone and lonely all the time, “as if I don’t belong here,” “as if we are different than everyone else,” “as if the whole world has turned its back on us.”
  9. We might shut down our feelings and thoughts.  We may become depressed.  We may lose hope, meaning and purpose in life.  We might stop practicing our own spirituality:  stop praying, stop believing in a higher power, stop going to church, or stop going on the land.  We might stop doing activities that we used to love to do:  playing sports, dancing, sewing or hanging out with friends.   
  10. We might shut down sexually and have no sex drive or desire.  We may believe sex to be “bad” or “dirty” and anyone who enjoys it or desires it to be a “slut, whore or player.”  Or, we might act out promiscuously and have indiscriminate sex with multiple partners and expose ourselves to the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, uncommitted or superficial relationships or have sex with people we don’t know or love in “one night stands.”  Or, we might distort our sexual desire and direct it toward infants, children, animals, objects, pornography, close relatives, or the same sex.  Or, we might find pleasure in expressing our sexual feelings in angry, disrespectful, controlling or abusive ways.  We might sexually abuse others.
  11. We may turn off our physical sense preceptors and be like a person who suffers from leprosy.  We might feel no sensation of pain, of freezing, of burning, of pleasure, of pinching, of squeezing or of being hit.  We may see our bodies being hurt or pleasured but have no tactile sensation of it. We may feel “numb.”
  12. We may leave our bodies and have “out-of-body” experiences.  We might have the experience of watching our body “from the wall” or “from a distance” as it endures the trauma “as if” it were another person’s body.
  13. The fear and terror of death may continue long after the immediate threat has passed.  Like a rabbit or a deer, we might always be on guard — anxious, hyper-vigilant.  Thinking, believing, ready to run, as if something terrible is about to occur.  Living “as if” a tornado is about to touch down even though it is a clear day or, “as if” a gun is pointed and is about to go off even though there are no guns around, or, “as if” something horrific and wicked is about to happen even though every physical indicator is about safety, quiet, peace and serenity.  We might worry and expect the worst at any moment.  We might be unable to find peace within and find it difficult to relax, enjoy the present moment or go to sleep.
  14. We may feel captive, powerless, and helpless “as if” we are in jail, “as if I am not the boss of my own life.”  The feeling may be so strong that we can only relax and feel congruent with ourselves when we are actually “locked up” in jail, or in a relationship with a controlling, dominating person, or when we are acting out a full blown addiction and say, “See!  I am not responsible.  It is not in my control!”
  15. We might stop growing and act immaturely “as if” we are still children or adolescents.
  16. We might allow our guilt to hold us back and not to grow and succeed to our full potential because we weren’t hurt as bad as our friends or family; we were spared the trauma;  they may have “protected us” so we don’t want to be “disloyal” and move away or better our situation in life.  We feel guilty that we are powerless to help them if they don’t choose to heal but we can choose to “be there with them” and not heal or grow ourselves.
  17. We may focus on the needs and pain of others so we can avoid our own needs and pain.  We may focus on the “splinter in our neighbour’s eye” to avoid “the log in our own eye.”  We may create conflicts with others; gossip about others; blame, shame, fault, guilt, judge, punish or finger point at others. 
  18. We might lie to ourselves and to others and not show our true self.
  19. We may act co-dependently so we feel needed and get our own needs met indirectly through other people.   We may make a career out of avoiding our own pain and become “professional helpers” and work as support workers, counsellors, social workers, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, ministers, politicians or mothers.
  20. We might repeat the traumatic incident over and over again in our heads, hearts or actions to have some sense of control over it, to figure it out, or to try to “rewrite” the incident so it has a different outcome or so we play a “different” role in the incident (ie:  So, we are the perpetrator, rather than the victim or the witness).  
  21. We might turn the mental, emotional or spiritual pain on ourselves and make it physically tangible through self harm by cutting, burning, or scratching ourselves; by tattooing or piercing ourselves or by engaging in high risk behavior.   We might become depressed.  We might choose to kill the pain inside but end up killing ourselves by suicide.
  22. We may refuse to take responsibility for our behaviors and healing by “putting our pain on others” by faulting, blaming, shaming, punishing, finger pointing, controlling and judging them.  We might do this especially to those closest to us, such as our spouses, parents, children and friends.
  23. We may believe ourselves to be unworthy of the goodness of life.  We may sabotage anything that brings us joy, satisfaction or fulfillment.  We may avoid healthy, stable relationships.  We may start coming late or missing days of school or work.   We may resent our children for being playful, curious and rambunctious.  We may feel unlovable.  We may struggle to love ourselves, love others or accept the love of others.
  24. We might make ourselves invisible by hiding, being inconspicuous so no one notices us, observing but not talking, not sharing our self, our ideas or gifts with others, not letting “our light shine” by showing our beauty to the world, not being the “centre of attention,”  working “in the background” or  “being shy.”
  25. We might be disorganized with our external world reflecting what is happening within.  We might have a messy desk, house or bedroom.  Stuffing things in the closet or the basement.  Not sorting out or managing our finances.  Not combing our hair, brushing our teeth, or washing our clothes or bodies.  Missing appointments because we forget.  Missing opportunities because we “couldn’t get our stuff together” to apply, to ask for help, to wake up, to make a decision or to make a telephone call.
  26. Even though we may have not experienced the trauma directly, if we are constantly exposed to the people who experienced the trauma, we may start to take on some of the above mentioned responses “as if the trauma was ours to carry.”  We might start carrying it for other people:  for our parents, for our spouses, for our friends or for our clients.  This is called, “vicarious traumatisation.”

We may experience many of these reactions, protective responses or “short term” defence mechanisms or we may experience just one or two.   As human beings who experienced trauma, we can expect to experience some of them for a few hours, days or weeks after the traumatic event.    The problem comes when these responses continue past their usefulness.  When this happens, these protective responses are no longer helpful and can cause us more problems and more pain.  If we don’t respond to the trauma in a healthy way, we may be negatively impacted by the trauma and our negative reactions to the trauma for many years!  We may even pass our pain on to our children and grandchildren.  Like a sore that continues to become inflamed and infected, the trauma may become a regular “fixture” in our lives.  No one can “remodel” our homes or “clean house” except ourselves.  If we want our lives to change, we have to choose to heal ourselves.

How do we heal ourselves from trauma?

To be healthy and balanced, we need to replace these reactions, protective responses and short term defence mechanisms with longer term healing and growth strategies.  Although we may or might experience different negative impacts of trauma, we can choose to deal with the trauma in a way that invites healing, balance, freedom and growth.

In order to heal from trauma, we need to acknowledge that the trauma has occurred and it has impacted us.  In order to define and assess what has happened and how it has impacted us we need to describe the trauma and our reactions to it including our sense perceptions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs and reactions.  Formal processes of doing this are called “Walking the Medicine Wheel” or “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.”  These formal processes open a pathway for our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits so we can release the pain when we are able and choose it.  As human beings, we innately know our own healing process or journey.

The healing process is unique, personal and specific for each person because we are unique people involved in unique, personal and specific relationships.  The timing, order and choices for healing are also unique.  Even though our healing journey as human beings is relatively the same, our individual steps on that journey are our own and can be very different and the opposite of others.  Just because something has worked especially well for one person’s healing does not mean that it will work as well or at all for another.  We each are responsible for our own healing.  We each are responsible to determine and for choosing what will move us forward in our healing journey and to act on it.

  1. We can choose to raise the trauma up:  “reveal it,” “expose it and myself,” “confess it,” so we know what we are dealing with.  “See it for what it is.”  “Put it on the table to examine it.”  Remember, name, and talk about the trauma and its impact on us.  We can choose to “break the silence,” “no longer hold the secret,” decide “enough is enough” by speaking our truth.  We can externalize the pain by honestly telling our story of the trauma and of our life by saying, “this is what happened to me…”  We can get the inside stuff out and not hold it in any longer.  We can use our own words and share it with another human being or we can write it out.  We can declare it publicly in a workshop or at an AA meeting, in court or at a Truth and Reconciliation inquiry. We can take it to a “Higher Power” through prayer.
  2. We can choose to connect with ourselves, others and creation.  We can discover what is important to us by looking inward in self reflection, breath work, or meditation and by relating to others and the world around us.  We can focus on ourselves and explore our interests, passions and priorities.  We can express ourselves creatively by sewing, carving, art work, tool making, or music.  We can share our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with ourselves and with others.
  3. We can choose to go back on the land, renew our relationship with the Creator we know.  We can pray in our own way. 
  4. We can choose to be courageous and take responsibility of our own healing.  Not taking responsibility for what is not ours.   We can take responsibility for our own healing first and then reach out to support and invite healing in others. 
  5. We can choose to take ownership and responsibility for the hurt we caused others by apologizing.  We can choose to let go of the responsibility for the hurt that others caused us by forgiving.  
  6. We can clarify and let go of unnecessary baggage by distinguishing between the person and the event, behavior and responses.
  7. We can focus our anger concretely, specifically and appropriately.
  8. We can set, maintain and respect our boundaries and respect the boundaries of others:  taking care of our own stuff and letting go and inviting others to take care of theirs.
  9. We can know and believe that “we can do it” and that “we are able and capable.”  The truth is that we are the only ones able and capable of healing ourselves.  We don’t have to do it alone and we can be open to the help and support of others but we are the ones ultimately responsible for our own healing.   We are the ones that have to choose it for ourselves.
  10. We can acknowledge our own mortality:  “I am going to die.”  This is true for every living thing, including our parents, our children, our friends, everyone we hold dear and ourselves.  By acknowledging this truth, we can free ourselves to focus on life and how we choose to live our lives the best we can each day from now until the hour of our death.  It may not be in our power to live for a thousand years but it is in our power how we choose to live today.  It is in our power how we choose to live at this moment.
  11. We can choose freedom and peace.  We can make decisions that free us from the burden and restrictions of unhealthy beliefs, patterns or institutions.  We can choose to be ourselves and not put on masks or play a role that covers up who we truly are.  We can choose to feel and act freely in expressing ourselves, our feelings, thoughts, beliefs and actions.  We can choose to be sexually expressive.  We can choose to be spiritually expressive.  We can choose to laugh, to be happy, and to be at peace with ourselves.
  12. We can choose to let go of the burden of the traumatic incident by externalizing it.  We can choose not to carry the intrusive or disturbing thoughts or negative reoccurring emotions.  We can expose the source of our pain.  We can open up to other ways of thinking, feeling, believing and acting.  We can seek help and support through counselling, traditional wisdom, medicines, ceremonies, family members and support groups.
  13. After assessing the impact of the trauma in our lives, we can brainstorm the possible responses that will make a positive difference in our lives and in our healing.  Then we can make a plan and map out what has been helpful in the past and what we think will be most helpful now.  We can act on the responses that we believe will have the best outcome.    After we take action we can evaluate to see if it was helpful.  We can ask ourselves, what has changed?  If it is the outcome we want we can keep doing it.  If it doesn’t work, then we can make another choice and do it differently.
  14. We can allow our beauty to be seen.  We can show ourselves and let our light shine.  We can take care of our bodies, clothing and homes.  We can eat well and balanced:  avoiding too much sugar, fats and salts.  We can eat local and fresh foods and minimize amount of processed foods we put into our bodies.  We can maintain a healthy, regular exercise and sleep schedule.  Beauty equals balance.
  15. We can welcome emotional discomfort, physical pain and mental uncertainty as triggers or messengers that we have more work to do to address the trauma.  Our heart, mind, body and spirit are on our side and they are continuously directing us to seek balance, be aware and to act for our highest good.
  16. We can grieve the loss of our sense of safety, trust, confidence and belonging.  We can grieve the loss of innocence, integrity, and wholeness.  We can grieve the loss of family members, body parts, abilities or virginity.  We can grieve the loss of culture, language, youth, traditional knowledge or self identity.
  17. We can seek refuge from our trauma within a sacred space:  a church, a meditation, a support group or on the land.

Why do we talk about these difficult things?

We talk about these difficult things so we know we are not alone.  We talk in order to free ourselves and others from the trauma and its negative impacts.  We expose and reveal these things to develop the tools to effectively deal with trauma.  We talk so we are more aware and more able to act to prevent traumatic events from occurring again.  We talk so we break the cycle of traumatisation and re-traumatisation.  By doing our work, we stop “passing it on to others.”  This work helps to protect us.  This work helps to deal with the negative impacts, the pain and hurt as rapidly as possible.  This work helps us to accept those things that we cannot change.  Hopefully, this work helps us to regain our power and makes a positive difference for the rest of our lives.  Hopefully, this work helps us to be balanced, whole, happy and well.  Hopefully, this work helps to have confidence, love and hope!   The choice is left up to each one of us!  Life Works!




I Believe

I Believe




Terry Garchinski of Life Works has been asked to present at the National Indigenous Sexual Abuse Conference in Edmonton, February 21-24, 2005.  The name of Terry’s presentation is called, I Believe.

This presentation is about creative ways to walk the healing path.  It is based on a little book, I Believe which is “…a compassionate story about a raindrop’s life, losses and loves.”  News North, Yellowknife, NT.

I Believe is a parable about human life. It helps people of all ages find a way to acknowledge and accept life’s hurt and pain, in order to heal and live a truer life without carrying so much baggage.

The author and presenter, Terry Garchinski, offers Healing from Loss and Grief Workshops. In this presentation, Terry presents some of the creative strategies from these workshops that have invited many people to heal from hurt and pain of abuse and loss. The workshops and this presentation are based on the belief that each of us already know everything we need to know to heal. What this presentation and the healing strategies will do is invite knowledge to awaken in each of us with ease and gentleness, so that we can action it in good ways. In doing so, we become in control of our own healing, in our way, in our own time. We are our own healing expert. Healing does not have to hurt! Healing is about completing the circle, coming to a place of balance and wholeness.

I Believe can be purchased at:


The CASW National Social Work Week Distinguished Service Award is given yearly by the CASW on the occasion of the National Social Work Week, to an individual or group of individuals selected from their membership by each CASW member organization. Some provinces choose to submit nominations less frequently. The criteria for nominations is established by the provincial/territorial organizations.

The recipients of the National Social Work Week Distinguished Service Awards for 2005 are:

Alberta – ACSW Area Coordinators

Saskatchewan – Tracey Muggli

Manitoba – Margaret Tobin

Ontario – Drummond White

New Brunswick – Claude Savoie

Nova Scotia – Joan Gilroy

Newfoundland and Labrador – Jocelyn Greene

Northern Canada – Terry Garchinski


By Terry Garchinski

In 1989, Terry Garchinski was living on the streets of New York. Now, in 2005, he has won a distinguished service award, offered by the Association of Social Workers in Northern Canada, which recognizes his holistic approach to therapy.

He said the award means a lot to him, but the honour is not his alone. “In some way, this really recognizes all my colleagues,” said Garchinski.

Garchinski grew up in Naicam, Saskatchewan. He spent two years, from 1988-1990, choosing to be homeless in cities around Canada and United States, before hitch-hiking home to Naicam, and beginning the Social Work Program at the University of Regina.

He came to Yellowknife in 1993/94 to finish his practicum with the university, by working as a general therapist. Since then, he has been all over the NWT working with the Dene, Metis and Inuit people.

News/North NWT, Monday, May 30, 2005


On-the-land Training Camp, Clyde River, NU

On-the-land Training Camp, Clyde River, NU

A Clyde River-based course attracted people from around North Baffin to its counselling program, including one young man.

Saila Qayaq, 25, was the lone male, of a class of almost 20 people in Our Life’s Journey, an ambitious two-year alcohol and drug counsellor training program.  Qayaq first got interested in the field when a friend approached him for help.

“Men tend to think that if they take these workshops they’ll become vulnerable. In fact, they would just become a stronger person,” he said.

The course content was continually adapted under the guidance and direction of the local elders’ committee.

The second phase of the course was in February and the final two phases were held on the land in the spring and summer.

Nunatsiaq News,Iqaluit, NU



One part of the Men's Fish, Hunt and Heal Workshop, Cambridge Bay, NU

One part of the Men's Fish, Hunt and Heal Workshop, Cambridge Bay, NU

NEWS: Nunavut November 06, 2010 – 6:23 am

“It was easy to look at caribou hunting as a metaphor for healing.”


Nunavut healing you can taste— that’s how participants in a men’s healing program offered by Cambridge Bay’s wellness centre might describe their recent two-week workshop.

During the men’s “Fish, Hunt and Heal” workshop, which wrapped up Nov. 5, a group of men spent four days of each week participating in healing circles and doing various therapeutic exercises.

Then, on the fifth day, they headed out on the land to hunt and fish.

During their healing circles, the men talked about a variety of topics such as trauma, being responsible for one’s choices, exploring ways of showing one’s love to family and friends, appropriate use of power, incarceration, money management, addictions, loss, healthy emotional expression, abuse, violence and father and son relationships.

At the end of the first week, the men spent the day on the land hunting caribou.

That’s when 16-year-old Ambrose Hikoalok shot his first caribou with his father Martin Anablak and his uncle Darcy Kanayok at his side.

Anablak then directed his son on how to skin and butcher the animal.

Hikoalok’s parents separated when he was two years old and he did not spend as much time with his father as he would have liked.

“It was good to be in a healing workshop with my dad,” he said.

At the end of the second week, the men planned a day of jigging for char, but Hikoalok was able to shoot his first musk ox as well as do a little ice fishing.

Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc., who led the workshop, says “healing workshops have to be a fit for the participants” and with “this group of men, it was easy to look at caribou hunting as a metaphor for healing.”

“The men were very comfortable on the land and have many skills that they can apply to their healing journeys. As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a caribou! Healing is the same. Each person has his own way and by sharing what we know with each other, we all benefit from the collective experience. “

A follow up to the workshop has already been scheduled for later this month when the men will spend an evening making sausage out of their caribou and muskox meat and talking about how the workshop changed their lives.

“The real value is when the men can consistently apply what they talked about in the workshop and use it in their daily lives,” Garchinski said.


Terry with Sr. Loretta at Hogar Belen Orphanage, in April 2009

Terry with Sr. Loretta at Hogar Belen Orphanage, in April 2009

Published: Friday, July 31, 1987, 12:43 pm |   Author: By Terry Garchinski

Living in Peru, in the city of Moquegua, is a most remarkable woman.  Although her name is Sister Loretta Bonokoski, her 57 children call her “Ya Ya.”

St. Loretta was born June 15th, 1931, on a farm near Torquay, Saskatchewan, to immigrant parents of German descent.  She was the twelfth of fifteen brothers and sisters.  As a child, she would tell her mother that she was either going to be a cowgirl or a nun.  On August 8th, 1948, at the age of 18, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.  As a religious in Canada, she taught in elementary schools, cooked in convent boarding houses, and cared for the ill and elderly nuns.  An excellent background for the mission that lay before her.

In 1968, she was selected to serve as a missionary in Peru.  She started her work organizing catechetic’s in the Moquegua Parish.  However, the scope of her missionary work expanded one evening when the parish priest, Fr. Francis Fahlman, a Canadian Franciscan Friar originally from Saskatchewan and herself, saw a little 9-year-old girl huddled up alone on a corner of the plaza.  It was ten o’clock on a cold night and the little girl didn’t have a jacket or anything to keep herself warm.  She wouldn’t talk, only look up with her dirty scaly face and smile.  She was brought to Sr. Loretta’s house, given something hot to eat and drink, then put to sleep.  This little girl, Rosa Flores, was the first of many children to come to “Hogar Belen” (Bethlehem Home), which is the official name of St. Loretta’s home.  Rosa is now 23 years old and is studying to be a nurse in Arequipa.

Since that time, Sr. Loretta’s home has grown substantially and has become a large family setting for people with “special needs.”  To really appreciate Sr. Loretta and her home, one should live with her – at least for a day.

Today is an ordinary school day in Sr. Loretta’s home.  Before the sixth hour, Sr. Loretta has walked through the three cramped bedrooms, has turned on the lights and has awakened her children.  Miraculously, without major hassles, the 57 children take turns using either the one full or the two half bathrooms.

Walking quietly but quickly to the kitchen – which also serves as the dining room – Sr. Loretta moves about her chores with the experience of a thousand mornings.  By 6:01 a.m., the water is boiling on the propane stove, the two washing machines are cleaning the baby diapers – every day is wash day; and breakfast is being prepared.  Today’s menu is toast and corn meal.

Justo, at the age of 13 was left to fend for himself being affected by a cancerous type of illness causing lumps to form on the lymph nodes.  After two years of abandonment and of beating the odds, he faced still another problem – alcoholism.  He asked the local parish priest for help.  It has been nine years of deceiving death and beating the odds.  Justo, though himself not well, studied nursing and is one of the Sister’s trusted helpers – always there when a hand is needed.

At 6:40 a.m., some of the smallest people in the house, Emanual, Richard, Erik and Marco, find themselves being fed.  The oldest of four, Emanual is soon to celebrate his first birthday.

After everybody else has been served, Sr. Loretta herself breaks for breakfast with Teodora Estella, an 85-year-old woman who used to be a dancer, and Justo.

At this point the house is quite: the primary school children have left for their morning classes; most of the older ones go to school in the afternoon or evening.  Sr. Loretta sends Fernando to check on Mario, one of the many children who doesn’t live in the house but who regularly eats at Hogar Belen.  He hasn’t been coming lately.   She herself checks on a crying baby.

At 8:00 a.m., all those in the house gather for family prayer.  After prayers, the breakfast dishes are gathered and washed.  The third load of clothes are put into the washing machine.

The morning passes but not without a visit from a retired school teacher who has dropped in to play with the young tots and who regularly gives gifts of clothing, furniture, and money.  Also visiting is an impoverished mother who asks if her two boys may eat with the Hogar Belen family.  They are welcomed.

The house itself is old and is made of mud bricks.  Many of the walls are falling down piece by piece. St. Loretta worries every time there is tremor.  She worries even more about the big black bug called the “chirmacha,” which thrives in walls like Hogar Belen’s.  At night, the bug painlessly draws blood from its sleeping victims’ inner organs.  Fortunately, none of the children seem to have been bitten by a diseased bug yet.

Sr. Loretta dreams of living in a new Hogar Belen, where there wouldn’t be a rat problem, water shortages, falling walls, poor plumbing, a space problem or “chirmachas.”  But dreams are for leisure time.  Right now dinner must be prepared.  At 1:00 p.m., dinner is served to the little children and to the elderly – many of whom don’t live in Hogar Belen but come to eat there.  Then diner is served to everybody else.  Sr. Loretta serves herself last as is her custom.

During the meal Sr. Loretta talks about her kids.  She points to Juanito and explains that when he came to her home it took quite some patience and love to break him of his street taught habits.  She concludes with a smile and a nod of approval, “look at him now such a nice boy!”

She also talks of Claudio and Rodrigo, two young men from her home who are in the United States receiving medical attention.  She hopes and prays for the best and speaks highly of Stephanie Williams, a lay missionary from the United States who made the medical and other arrangements that made their trip and treatment possible.

By the middle of the afternoon, while the students of the house are doing their homework, another visitor calls.  This time it’s the manager of a local trucking company  He wants to know more about the home and how his company and family can help.  Sr. Loretta answers his questions, shows him around the house and introduces him to some of the family members.  He is impressed.

Five o’clock finds Dr. Loretta patching up a youngster’s cut knee.  Just before six, she leaves to attend Mass.  Returning at 7:00, se serves potato salad, cheese, Chinese rice and sliced fresh tomatoes.  No dessert this meal.

The early evening is spent cleaning the supper dishes, watching TV and talking together.  Fr. Francis has come on his nightly visit.

In a very real way, Sr. Loretta is the mother of the Hogar Belen children, and Fr. Francis is their father.  They have made time to help the children; they have made time to be with the children; they have made a family home where there is hope for the future.  An accomplishment.

In the later part of the eleventh hour, Sr. Loretta does the things everybody else overlooked: she puts the juice into the fridge, finds the proper place for a dirty pair of socks which had been abandoned on the floor, and shuts off the lights.  Then she, like the rest of her family before her, crawls off to sleep and awaits another ordinary day.


The following article is about Edward Ruben, the oldest resident in Paulatuk, NT. The interview took place on 18 December 2009. Edward and his wife Mabel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 9 May 2009. This article was written by Terry Garchinski. Terry is a freelance writer who also works for Life Works Counselling and Training Services Inc. facilitating workshops throughout the NWT, Nunavut, Yukon and southern Canada.

Edward Ruben was born at Atkinson Point on May 1st 1917. Now at 92, he is the oldest resident in Paulatuk, NWT. In typical good humour, Edward says with a chuckle, “I was pretty young at the time, so I don’t remember if I was born in a tent or in a building.” Edward does remember seeing a lot of tents when he was three years old. They were a few hundred yards from where his family’s tent stood. He remembers saying to his mother, “I’m going visiting.” And away he went. Edward remembers looking in the first tent and seeing everyone sleeping. Then he went to the second tent and they were all sleeping too. At the third tent, an old woman invited him in and asked him to get her some water. “I took her a cup of water and she gave thanks to me. From there I walked slowly home, thinking. I asked my mother, ‘How come people are sleeping so late?’ And she told me that they had the flu.” Edward says, “When you are 2½ or 3 years old, you have a mind of your own. When you see something you start to recognize what you see. You are part of the world and you are making sense of it.”

“As a young man, I did everything for my parents. I felt part of the family and I contributed in ways that I could. I listened to my parents and to the old people. I hauled ice for drinking water, I cut wood and I fed the sled dogs. If I didn’t we were thirsty and cold. I was glad to have what I had. “Now, there are so many things done by machine. There is a water truck; there is a fuel truck; there are snowmobiles. The youngsters are bored. They have nothing to do. They sometimes go in the wrong direction.”

Edward believes that it is important for youngsters to have the opportunity to take responsibility and contribute to the well being of their families and community. If they don’t, they may not feel like they belong or have a purpose in life or be thankful for what they have. This can lead to many problems.

Edward is the father of 15 children. Five with his first wife, who died when she was delivering her fifth child and 10 with his wife Mabel with whom he celebrated 50 years together on the 9th of May of 2009. As a father, Edward says, “Don’t make kids scared. Talk to them softly. Even a dog that is whipped does not know what to do. When you scold them, they don’t know what direction to take. Tell them softly, help them to understand. Train them but not out of fear. Kids are not animals. Make sure they understand. Talk to them with good words and kindness.”

One problem that many people have is being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Edward says, “I don’t talk to people when they are drunk. I let it go. When they sober up, then I talk to them and put it on the line and I listen to people when they are talking.” “I did not go to residential school so I don’t have anything to say about that. I did not go to residential school because mom said that I shouldn’t and I listened to my mother. I learned to speak English on my own without going to school. If you lose your own language, you lose your power. I am happy I still got my own language. I am happy I still got a lot of power. I really respect the people in the Eastern Arctic. Even the young people still use their own language.” When things change so much it is like being caught in a storm. “You can’t stand up on your own. You need something to hang on to. The wind is a strong teacher. It makes sure you have everything. I remember being caught in a storm so strong that I couldn’t even make a snow shelter. I just had to hang on to the sled. That was hard. I’m not saying I am a good man or a good hunter. I am just as bad as the others. I had to try my best. “Each of us has to know how to take alcohol. Nobody will tell you what to do. Inuit, White, Indian, we all got a mind. We just have to go in the right direction to go ahead. To go in the right direction we have to pay attention and be aware of the signs. A family and a community need to work together as one. They need to put their good minds together and not ever think that you are better than somebody. I myself listen to old people. I know that alcohol will not lead you in a good direction. Alcohol, drugs and smoking makes us scatter in many directions. My grandfathers would say, “Grandson, it does not matter what you do or who you are, don’t think you are better than others.” “I always try my best to take the right direction.”