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When you catch a cold, you know exactly what to do: you take some fever reducing medicine, drink plenty of water, and rest. When you’re feeling down, however, things get tricky. It can be tough to talk about and, in many cases, there is a stigma associated with any mental and/or emotional illness.
That’s why the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center was established by the Fresno Center for New Americans: to give people in the community a place to go for healing.
Activities Focus on Mind, Body and Spirit
The Holistic and Education Wellness Center facilitates a myriad of physical, cultural, and social activities intended to help people from all backgrounds feel comfortable and feel better.
“Primarily, what we do is empower individuals and families just to live a well-balanced life in mind, body, and spirit,” says Devoya Mayo, one of five cultural brokers at the center.
Each broker works with a specific population within the community, informing them about what they can do to feel better. Mayo reaches out primarily to African American communities. There are also brokers for the Sikh, Latino, Hmong, and Khmer communities. In addition to providing education to these different communities, the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center hosts a number of activities, from dance classes that instruct people on how to perform a variety of cultural dances to gardening. These activities are intended to aid in wellness of the mind, body, and soul.
“We host activities that support mobility because we know when we’re active, we feel better,” Mayo says. “We also have things that support mindfulness, healthy eating, and creativity, because all of those different components help. For instance, we’ve done the research and find that gardening helps with your cognitive skills and that the vitamin D from being outside also helps you feel better. We know with our healing crafts that the comradery of being with others also helps. It shows folks that they are enough and that the things they already know can help them.”
The center’s current schedule of free activities includes Zumba, sewing, yoga, jewelry making, taekwondo, healthy cooking 101, sabay sabay dance, Khmer healing dance, and gardening. All of the complimentary services provided by the center are funded through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). Last month, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors allocated funds to the center for three more years, meaning the center is no longer a pilot program as it was during its first five years.
While the center serves as a safe place where people from all over the Fresno area can go to participate in healing activities, it is also a space where Mayo says people should feel free to be themselves and discuss whatever may be troubling them. While the activities are popular, there are a handful of groups that simply meet to have meaningful conversations. One group, she says, recently felt they needed more, so a certified volunteer therapist was brought in to dig deeper with the group. Though the center is not certified itself to provide therapy or additional care for those with diagnosed mental conditions, it does help those in need by connecting them with resources.
“We do try to take these things as seriously as possible and help facilitate that transition because I haven’t met anyone so far that, if I gave them the information, I would be comfortable that they really did go. So making it available here so there is still that comfort and maybe those sessions can help them then go elsewhere,” Mayo says.
Currently, the center is putting together a directory of herbalists, doctors, and religious leaders equipped to help individuals who desire therapy the center can’t provide.
“It’s not complete,” Mayo says. “So far, we have 20 local people that have been vetted. There is an application process and they need to be fingerprinted and the full nine so we feel comfortable saying, ‘Here is a little brochure of the folks in the community that offer even more complimentary healing tools’.”
For many participating in the center’s activities, the main thing, Mayo says, is knowing that they are not alone.
“Oftentimes in traditional Western spaces you don’t know that there are other people going through the exact same thing as you and that it is okay to find help, so we find that these group activities do spark other things. I know some churches that offer these types of activities, but outside of that I’m hard pressed to think of any organization where you are going to be in that space where you can say ‘I suffer from anxiety, what are some things I might be able to do to curb that?’ But this space lends itself to that entirely.”
Mayo says having a place to go like the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center can make all the difference in peoples’ lives, and she would like to see more facilities like it in Fresno and beyond.
“The innovative approach, especially in a place like Fresno where we don’t have a lot of facilities anyway, is nice,” she says. “It’s nice to be at the front of the gate because I think it’s going to get deeper. We really don’t embrace these sorts of opportunities enough and I really hope we are the catalyst for this change. I think it would be exciting if we had more [wellness centers] all over.”
All who are interested are welcome to attend activities at the center. The main office is located at 4879 E. Kings Canyon Road in Fresno. Satellite offices are located at 108 N. Poplar Ave. in Fresno and 580 Tulare Street in Parlier. All sites are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a schedule of activities or other information, contact the center at (559) 255-8395 or follow them on Facebook.