Caring About Thriving

We repost here our piece that was published in the Convergence Journal*, Vol.7, February, 2017.

Pushed by a society that is always running, too often we are trying to be everywhere at once and to maintain high standards of productivity while working towards social change. Another protest, an extra meeting, and why not a conference at lunchtime before facilitating a workshop?! We fight for social justice… until we break down. And even then, we feel guilty for not doing, and being, “enough”.

Rarely do we take the time to question our limits and the emotional involvement intrinsic to activist work. We tend to overextend ourselves without caring for one another. How many people around us have burnt out, are depressed or completely overwhelmed by our struggles and family life?

In addition to internalized capitalist notions of productivity, a groups’ internal dynamics have an immense impact on our collective well-being and in turn on the political work we do. The absence of accountability, lack of accessibility, dominant personalities, internal power relations, hidden hierarchies, lack of possibilities to bring up conflicts and other problematic practices damage not only individuals but also our collectives.

Some of the ways to address these challenges is to integrate care in our organizing and in doing so build collective capacity around emotional labour. Active listening, support work, mediation, defusing tensions, acting as confidants, protecting privacy and confidentiality, welcoming and creating spaces for newcomers, caring about people’s comfort, and much more, are all integral to the long term sustainability of and building solidarity within our groups, collectives, organizations and political struggles. However, this work is consistently seen as secondary and apolitical, and therefore not valorized.

We need to open up spaces for discussion and to think about collective care within our communities if we aspire to cease the reproduction of systemic oppressions and violences that we oppose. Acquiring tools for and actively engaging with ideas about collective well-being and (self)care are powerful ways to create thriving communities. We need to put as much emphasis on “how” we organize as we do on « why » and « what » we do.

* * *
If you and.or your groups, collectives, organizations or political project want to reflect on these ideas, here are some questions that could make for a great starting point. You might want to warm up some water, gather around the teapot, get cozy and open up your hearts.

The Pressure to be Productive:

– Do we leave meetings with the same amount (or even more!) energy than when we arrived?
– Do we debrief past actions, conferences, protests, etc. before starting new projects?
– Are we organizing within realistic deadlines?
– In the context of organizing, do we think it’s selfish to take care of ourselves?
– Do we have too many meetings?
– What kind of relationships do we have with the people with whom we organize?

Accessibility & Welcoming Spaces:

– Why have some people stopped attending meetings or organizing with us?
– Is there food served during the meetings, conferences and events?
– What accommodation do we offer to families and young children?
– Who can physically access the spaces where meetings and events are held?
– What languages do we use (spoken, non-verbal, sign, jargons etc.)? Are they accessible to everyone?
– Who do we naturally welcome into our group? Who do we leave out?
– Is our group welcoming of everyone regardless of any privileges?
– How can we really welcome a diversity of people to our groups regardless of race, gender or activist credentials?
– Do we have rules or policies that deter new people’s integration?

Working / Caring Practices:

– How can we make space to talk about how we feel?
– What elements can make us feel empowered to speak up against an injustice within the group?
– What are transformative spaces? How can we create them?
– How can we work to avoid recreating the oppression that we fight?
– What are the decision making processes of the group and how can we really respect them?
– Are our organizing structures conducive to those who are marginalised systemically? Are we alienating them?
– Can those directly affected take space and leadership in our groups in meaningful ways?
– Who feels comfortable to take up space?
– Who is usually doing care work in the group? Is division of labour gender-/race-based?
– How can we get past the phenomena of senior or charismatic personalities dominating discussions and leading collective direction?
– Do we recognise that too much/concentration of responsibility leads to too much power and control? How can we avoid this?

Accountability:

– How do we react when there’s a disagreement or conflict?
– How do we deal with frustrations in the group?
– How can we open up spaces for addressing hidden hierarchies within the group?
– How can we hold each-other accountable?
– When organizing in urgency, do we stop being accountable to one another and to the affected community(ies)?
– How can we work towards having effective conflict resolution practices?

Sustainable / Thriving communities:

– Do we try to understand members’ irritability and exhaustion in relation to the way we organize?
– Is there space for members to share the struggles they are facing in their personal lives?
– How can we share responsibilities so that when people leave, contacts, expertise and relationships don’t leave with them?
– How can we work actively to not let the founders / seniors / charismatic personas be the sole persons to hold on to key responsibilities?
– How can we avoid situations where one or a few people get overburdened by taking on a lot of the tasks?
– How can we strive, as a collective, to reduce stress associated with organizing?

These questions, raised formally or informally, may only scratch the surface but most importantly, they can spark an exchange and can lead to group reflections on how to integrate care in our organizing. It is by opening up discussions on sensitive topics such as accountability and pressure to be productive that we can sow the seeds of more profound change around collective care and well-being. They open up spaces where we can speak of the discomforts or frustrations which are necessary for the transformation of internal dynamics. Such exchanges can pave way for more open communications where conflict and other issues are discussed openly, ultimately resulting in nourishing communities. Fighting for social justice does not have to equate to a burn out or an eventual total dissociation from organizing; let’s create spaces where we can heal & thrive.

* * *
Politics & Care is a space to weave links between collective well-being, care and politics. All that with a little bit of magic! We are a collective of artists-community organizers dedicated to integrate care in our politics. We hold collective discussions and facilitate workshops for collectives, community organisations and more.
You can write to us at politics.and.therapy.are.one [at] gmail [dot] com, find more info about us on https://politicsandcare.wordpress.com or contact us on Facebook.

Written by Rushdia Mehreen and Pascale Brunet, with thanks to Koby Rogers Hall, Anne Goldenberg and Gwendolyn Muir for their contribution.

*Originally published in Convergence Journal, A journal of undergraduate and community research.
Reposted with permission.

This year’s Convergence features pieces grounded in struggles for self-determination in Palestine, for prison abolition, and against police violence and anti-black racism. This edition also interrogates what sustains our movements: how do we care for one another, what power relations exist within organizing, who carries out the emotional labour in our spaces and how is this labour rendered invisible? In addition, it examines how music, art, and poetry fuel our organizing and create cultures of resistance. This year also marks the first edition of the Radical Research mixtape, which brings together audio interviews, music, sound art, spoken word, and poetry highlighting various forms of grassroots knowledge.

Safer Spaces

Before we start our discussions and workshops, we create a Safer Space to make the space accessible to everyone in various ways – this includes creating a space where we can indulge in emotionally-charged conversations.

In order to create such a space, we lay down a set of basic guidelines for the group that can increase our levels of self-awareness as well as comfort and ease with the people with whom we are sharing intimate thoughts and issues, and sometimes matters in which we strongly believe.

In our discussions, while the facilitators bring forth some basic elements of safer space practices (which are fosters by the participants), the space is open for participants to contribute additional practices that would make the space safer for them to be able to share delicate and emotionally charged matters.

The term safer is used to denote that one cannot guarantee an absolute safe space. So the comparative term suggests that a space can become more safe if we collectively try to adhere to these (and other) guidelines. The facilitator’s role includes reminding people of these guidelines, but more importantly, it is a collective responsibility to maintain a space safer.

Below is an attempt to put together some main elements that constitute safer space practices. Please note that it’s a work in progress – so not an exhaustive list, and thanks for your comments and suggestions.
***

Respect: Respect for people for who they are and where they are at. A simple reminder that in all cases, first and foremost, respect for self and others is basic and paramount in a discussion. Respect people’s beliefs, opinions, viewpoints and experiences. We all took different roads to get here.
Respect people’s identity, background, names and pronouns; that is, do not assume anyone’s gender identity. Also respect people’s economic status.
We commit not to reproduce systemic oppressions, such as racism (in all its forms, including horizontal racism), sexism, patriarchy, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and so on.

No judgement: Diverse groups have lots to offer, and that includes different opinions. When group members share their likes and dislikes, respect their personal opinions and preferences.

(Active) Listening: Try to hear out people and understand their perspective rather than being defensive and protecting dominant narratives.

Recognize your privilege and positionality: Be aware of your prejudices and privileges. If you’re coming from a privileged background (socio-economic, cultural, immigration status and so on), recognize your position and how it may affect your way of thinking and being.

Confidentiality: People share things that are personal and delicate, so it’s important to commit to maintain that confidentiality. Consider everything that’s said as private, unless specified otherwise. What’s said in the room remains in the room is a good adage to remember. If you would like to share someone’s story or comment, please ask them first. Exercise discretion outside of the space.

Careful & attentive space: As we share, we commit to be careful about each other, and don’t say harmful/hurtful things. Be careful of how others are feeling.

One mic, one voice: Only one person speaks at a time.

Be self-aware – Take space, make space/step up, step back: Be aware of how much space you are taking/how much you are speaking. If you feel you are speaking a lot, you should step back and let others take that space; if someone hasn’t taken that space/haven’t expressed much, they could consider stepping up to contribute.

No obligation to speak or share Silence is OK too! (This, in particular, goes with the above point).

Use “I” statements: Everyone should speak from his/her/hir own experiences, and avoid « we » statements, either for people present in the discussion group, or for folks who are not among us at the moment. In short, don’t speak for others.

Don’t assume people’s intentions: If you have questions, clarify. Simply don’t assume.

Criticize Ideas, not People: Don’t make things personal. Also make sure you recognize your positionality even as you criticize the ideas. This guideline creates a space where people feel comfortable contributing without feeling like they themselves will be attacked for their views.

Avoid making generalizations: Don’t make blanket statements about any groups of people. (In addition to members of a particular community, this also includes political parties, religious groups, socioeconomic classes, age ranges, etc.) If you’re not sure that something you want to say is factually correct, phrase it as a question.

No assumptions: People should not assume other people’s experiences or anything else.

Intention vs. Impact: Good intentions are not enough. We all need to be responsible for our own speech and actions. Be aware that our actions have an effect on others despite good intentions. The impact of what’s said/done could be very much different or starkly opposite to that of the intentions. It is important to understand and listen to folks impacted and change behaviour. Apologize as needed.

Contradicting ideas are ok: The aim is to create a space where contradicting ideas can co-exist, without feeling challenged.

Commit to de-escalating together: A safer space is not a policing space. If issues do arise, we commit to resolve it together, maybe sometimes, we may want settle on ‘agree to disagree.’

Accountable space: Hand in hand with above, if we are accountable to our speech and actions, and cognizant of our power, privilege and positionality, we can make this an open and welcoming space.

Correct gently, but do correct:
If participants say something that is incorrect or offensive, politely call them on that. Letting comments slip by only makes the space less safe and increases the difficulty of building a trusting environment.

Lean into discomfort: Meetings and topics can sometimes be challenging. Be willing to experience some discomfort in discussions, particularly if you’re coming from a privileged position, and learn from it as a team!

Also, please feel free to do what you need to be comfortable – stretch, go drink water, draw, doodle, etc.

Adapted from:
glsen.org Guidelines for Respectful Discussion
Bluestockings Bookstore, NYC: Safer Space Policy

Other resources:
Berkeley Student Cooperative: Safe Spaces
Womenwin: Creating Safe Spaces

 

Politisation du « care » : vers un bien-être collectif

 

new_hampshire_colors
par blueprint depuis wikipedia

Captivé.e.s par notre volonté de lutter pour la justice sociale, on passe beaucoup de temps à mobiliser, à organiser des actions, des rencontres, des ateliers, des conférences, à aller manifester, etc. Malheureusement on ne prend pas assez de temps pour créer des espaces où l’on peut s’accueillir les un.e.s et les autres et réfléchir sur *comment* on organise et mène nos luttes : comment peut-on militer durablement sans se pousser vers l’épuisement, le burn-out, le découragement et l’isolement; comment peut-on renforcer nos intelligences communicationnelle et émotionnelle pour mieux gérer les inévitables difficultés et conflits dans nos collectifs ?; comment prendre le temps pour parler de nos émotions et besoins et mettre en lumière l’importance et l’aspect politique (et notamment genré) du travail affectif.

En plus des notions capitalistes intériorisées de productivité et des dynamiques internes des groupes, le manque d’espace, de temps et d’outils pour prendre soin de nous, ont un impact immense sur notre bien-être collectif et à leur tour, cela se répercute à long terme sur le travail politique que nous faisons.

Cet atelier vous invite à créer un espace d’échanges et de réflexion dans lequel nous tenterons de faire de la place au « care », de mettre du bien-être collectif dans nos vies en se donnant des pistes d’action pour se responsabiliser, personnellement et collectivement pour s’assurer du bien-être de chacun.e.

Camp de formation féministe de l’ASSÉ
21 octobre 2016, CÉGEP de Saint-Jérôme
Animé par Rushdia Mehreen et Anne Goldenberg, membres de Politics & Care.

Collective well-being in activism

Politics & Care will be facilitating a discussion on collective care and well-being in activism on Sunday 21st August, 2pm to 4pm. maxresdefault

This discussion is part of the third annual convergence of TransHackFeminist that is taking place from 18th to 22nd August 2016 at Studio XX, 4001 rue Berri.

We look forward to opening a safer space, which will then facilitate a discussion on how we can integrate care in our organizing and be accountable to each other so that we avoid dynamics that are damaging to individuals in the group as well the collective. It will be a space to reflect upon practices that can promote well-being of the collective as we fight various oppressions and injustices.

We need to open up spaces for discussion and to think about collective care within our communities if we aspire to cease the reproduction of systemic oppressions and violences that we oppose. Acquiring tools for and actively engaging with ideas about collective well-being and (self)care are powerful ways to create thriving communities. We need to put as much emphasis on “how” we organize as we do on « why » and « what » we do.

Politics & Care au Hoodstock 2016

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Politics & Care was invited to Hoodstock this year to open up the Wellness Space/Committee.

Hoodstock – Sommet Noir s’est tenu le samedi 13 août 2016 au parc Henri-Bourassa, à Montréal-Nord.

« Le Sommet Noir est la 3e édition de Hoodstock, un événement visant à mobiliser les forces des communautés culturelles avec des ateliers, des spectacles et des moments d’échange par, avec et pour les membres des communautés noires et racisées. Hoodstock se déroulera à Montréal-Nord, constitué d’une population de plus de 60% de citoyen-ne-s issu-e-s des communautés racisées. »

Du communiqué de presse du sommet noir:

« La lutte contre le racisme systémique au Québec continue

Le premier Hoodstock s’est tenu en 2009 afin de dénoncer le racisme systémique et la brutalité policière vécue au quotidien par les citoyen-ne-s de ce quartier. Un an plus tôt, une bavure policière avait fait mis fin aux jours de Fredy Villanueva, un jeune homme non-armé abattu par la police suite à une intervention motivée par une partie de dés. En 2016, Bony Jean-Pierre, un homme Noir non-armé, a connu le même sort que Villanueva suite à une intervention policière qui a toute les apparences d’une nouvelle bavure. »

Pour plus de détails, consulter http://www.hoodstock.ca/

Discussion circle on collective care and well-being

This month for our monthly gathering we invite you to our
Workshop at the 3rd Annual Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! Action Camp
Saturday, June 4th at Anishnabe territory, North of Ottawa

RRR2016-BilingualPoster-1

Pushed by the fast-paced society, too often we’re trying to be as efficient as possible while working towards social change. Another protest, an extra meeting and, why not one more conference at lunch time. We fight for social justice… until we break down.

Unfortunately we don’t always take enough time to create welcoming organizing spaces for ourselves and for others, to reflect on how we organize and lead our struggles, and how we can do so without pushing ourselves and each other towards burn-outs, to talk about our emotions, our feelings and our needs, and to highlight the importance and the political aspects of emotional work. Too often, we do not take the time to question our limits and the emotional involvement that is intrinsic to activist work. We tend to stretch ourselves thin and to not take time to care for one another.

Emotional labour (active listening, acting as confidants, confidentiality, support work, mediation, defusing tensions, worrying about people being comfortable in new spaces) is almost invariably seen as being within the realm of “emotions” and arbitrarily disconnected from the political, *and therefore erased from our work*. However, it is integral to sustainable collective action and movements that cease to reproduce systemic oppressions and violence that structure our lives.

This workshop will be a space to reflect on collective well-being, emotional labour and self-care, to share stories, ideas and practices to create accountable and sustainable communities. It will be a moment to think about our needs surrounding these issues, and to take charge of the strategies that are already in place or could be implemented regarding collective well-being and self-care.

Acquiring tools and actively engaging with ideas about self-care and collective well-being are powerful ways to contribute to creating social justice.

♥ & rage
Politics & Care
Facilitated by Anne Goldenberg and Rushdia Mehreen

tree.jpg

 

Justice sociale & dissociation

Prochaine Rencontre :: Monthly Gathering // WORKSHOP
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(english below)

Bonjour vous,

Ce mois-ci on vous propose un atelier sur les troubles dissociatifs et la justice sociale
Tous les détails ci-dessous

Rendez-vous mardi prochain, le 3 mai à 17h00
Au Centre de lutte contre l’oppression des Genres (1500 de Maisonneuve Ouest, suite 404)

Le nombre de places est limité : merci de nous contacter si vous voulez y assister (envoyez-nous un courriel!)

Vous êtes invité à arriver à 17h00, des collations seront servies.
Venez pour réchauffer l’espace; prenez un moment pour transitionner entre votre journée et l’atelier qui commencera officiellement à 17h30.

L’information sur l’accessibilité de l’espace est disponible en anglais ici : http://genderadvocacy.org/accessibility/
Si vous avez besoin de traduction; contactez-nous.

D’ailleurs, sachez que l’atelier se déroulera en anglais et que la traduction chuchotée vers le français sera offert sur place.

Merci de nous contacter 24 heures à l’avance si vous avez besoin d’un service de halte-garderie. Des billets d’autobus et des collations seront offert.

TW: Trauma, SSPTC, trouble dissociatifs, et justice sociale
———————————————————–

Sortir du grenier: trouble dissociatifs et justice sociale

À quoi ressemblerait le monde si nous étions tousse capable de vivre pleinement nos vies avec l’entièreté de notre être?

Un des effets possible des oppressions systémique et des violences structurelles est la fragmentation interne et de nous plonger dans un état dissociatif.

Pour certains d’entre nous, cette fragmentation peut devenir la principale façon dont nos idées et notre esprit s’organisent. De par sa nature, cette fragmentation des diverses parties de notre être, peut rendre très difficile le fait de voir et comprendre globalement l’expérience dissociative. .

Une manière de comprendre et de guérir ces expériences est d’utiliser le langage de la ‘dissociation’ et des ‘troubles dissociatifs.’ En prenant à la fois une perspective spirituelle et biopsychosociale, cet atelier offre des outils de base pour comprendre ce que sont les troubles dissociatifs et pour renforcer la capacité de nos communautés de supporter et de déstigmatiser les personnes vivant des expériences dissociatives.

Cet atelier offre une série d’outils pour créer une communauté aimée et aimante.

Cet atelier n’a pas la prétention d’expliquer l’entièreté des enjeux de la dissociation. Il s’agira plutôt d’un moment pour partager un fil de connaissance pour parler des ‘expériences dissociatives’, ce qui peut être compris de plusieurs manières. Les participant.e.s sont encouragé.e.s à utiliser ce modèle et ces outils en parallèle avec d’autres modèles et modes de pensées qui leur sont utile.

Les sujets qui seront couverts comprennent:

– Forces et limites du modèle biomédical / biopsychosocial
– Fondations: santé mentale radicale et anti-oppression
– Qu’est-ce qu’une dissociation ordinaire ?
– Qu’est-ce qu’un trouble dissociatif ?
– Qu’est-ce qu’un trouble dissociatif n’est pas ?
– Symptômes, causes, et comment ç’est vécu
– Les effets de la stigmatisation: ce que l’on ne sait pas et qui peut nous faire du mal
– Dons / comment est-ce que la dissociation peut-être un don?
– Choses à faire et ne pas faire pour aider quelqu’un.e avec un trouble dissociatif

– Discussions et échanges
– Sortir du bac à sable: où est-ce que ces connaissances pourraient être partager?, Quels autres modèles et modes de connaissances pourraient y apporter plus de richesses ? Qu’est-ce qui manque ?

– Selon les désirs et la direction du groupe, nous pourrons faire quelques jeux de rôles ou développer d’autres modèles de connaissance à ajouter à l’atelier

Cet atelier est tout nouveau et encore en mode exploratoire. Vous allez aider à le construire et à donner forme à des ateliers futurs. L’atelier a été donné une fois à Vancouver (par invitation seulement). La version de Montréal sera la deuxième session et la première à être ouverte au public. Elle sera suivie par un atelier à Toronto et un autre à l’Allied Media Conference de Détroit.

Chaque version de l’atelier mène à des adaptations et de nouvelles connaissances venant des participant.e.s. L’atelier ne vise pas à être totalisant puisque ces apprentissages sont basés sur l’expérience de plusieurs personnes qui utilisent ces outils et partagent leur sagesse et expériences pour l’apprentissage de futur.e.s participant.e.s

Documents qui seront distribués en anglais :

1 – Liste de symptômes
2 – Que faire pour aider

Cet atelier est conçu comme une ressource par les pairs et vise d’abord à augmenter la connaissance de la communauté sur le sujet ; il ne vise pas à être une forme de thérapie. Conséquemment, on demande aux participant.e.s de planifier les supports dont illes pourraient avoir besoin pour assister et participer d’une façon sûre et saine.

on à hâte de vous voir!

p.s. Merci Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze pour la traduction!

—– Now in english _______

Hello Everyone,

This month for our Monthly gathering we invite you to a workshop on Dissociation and Social Justice.
all the details are bellow

Rendez-vous next Tuesday, May 3rd at 5:00 PM
At the Center for gender Advocacy (1500 de Maisonneuve West, suite 404)

Space is limited : Please register in advance (send us an email!)

You are invited to arrive at 5:00 pm, snacks and drinks will be served.
Come and warm up the space, transition from your day to this workshop who will officially starts at 5:30 pm

Accesibility info of the space is available here : http://genderadvocacy.org/accessibility/

Please contact us 24 hours in advance if you need Childcare.
Bus tickets & Snacks will be provided.

TW: trauma, CPTSD, dissociation

Out of the Attic: Dissociation and Social Justice

What would it look like for us all to be able to be in the world as our whole selves?

One of the possible effects of systemic oppression and structural violence is to cause fragmentation and dissociation.

For some, that fragmentation and dissociation – which is literally an internalization of oppression – can become a primary way our consciousness becomes organized. When one’s internal sense of self is fragmented and dissociated, it can be extremely difficult to think about this experience.

One way to understand and heal these experiences is through the language of ‘dissociation’ and ‘dissociative disorders.’ Moving back and forth fluidly between the spiritual and the ‘biopsychosocial’ models, this peer workshop provides some basic tools for understanding what dissociative disorders are, and strengthens community capacity to respond in a nurturing, destigmatizing way to people having dissociative experiences.

It offers one set of tools for building beloved community.

This workshop does not offer a ‘master framework,’ but is instead offering one ‘stream’ of knowledge alongside others, since what can be called ‘dissociative’ experiences can be and are understood in many different ways. participants are encouraged to use this ‘stream’ of knowledge, or this set of tools, alongside other streams of knowledge they find useful.

Topics include:
-Strengths and limits of biomedical model / biopsychosocial model
-Foundations / rad mental health and anti-oppression framework
-What is ordinary Dissociation?
-What is Dissociative Disorder?
-Symptoms, Causes, how it feels.
-Distinctions: what Dissociative Disorders are not.
-The effects of stigma: what we don’t know can hurt us.
-Gifts
-Things you can do (and not do) to support someone with a dissociative disorder.
-Time and space for questions
-Out of the Sandbox, into the ocean: where can this knowledge go, and what other streams of knowledge can join it? where would you see it being useful and what is missing?
-depending on the wishes and direction of the group, we may do a role play, or we may create other ‘streams’ of knowledge to add to the workshop knowledge base.

This workshop is new, and still in sandbox form. You will be helping build it and participating in shaping future sessions.

It has run once in Vancouver by invite only. This Montreal workshop will be the second run, and the first time it has been open to the public. The next ones are in Toronto and at the AMC in Detroit.

Each sandbox version of the workshop leads to adaptations and new knowledge coming from the participants.

It is never intended to be ‘complete’ as this learning is based in the expertise of the many different people who come to and use this tool, and share their wisdom and experiences for future workshop participants to use.

Take home handouts:
1. Symptoms and distinctions
2. How you can help

Depending on time and the wishes of the group, participants may choose to contribute their own ‘streams’ or understandings alongside the knowledge shared in the workshop. If the group chooses this, these peer-generated tools can be added to the website, the take home handouts, and role play possibilities for future participants to use.

As this is a peer resource intended to increase community knowledge, and not intended as a form of therapy, participants are asked to govern their own level of depth and to plan whatever additional support they may need in order to attend in a healthy way.

We’re looking foward to see you!