Empowering the Latinx community through cultural and ancestral healing
By: Aileen Balahadia, N2N Program Consultant and Elaine Chu, Senior Philanthropic Advisor
Xochitl Garcia knows firsthand the impact that stress and illness have on health and wellbeing, especially for members of her Latinx community. Years ago, Xochitl, whose name comes from the Aztec word for “flower,” found herself searching for practices that combined her cultural and Indigenous history with the more traditional care she was receiving. She began researching and learning about holistic tools such as reiki, sweat lodges, and ancestral ceremonies such as singing circles (Canto y Palabra) and herbalism. Her newfound knowledge and mental health counseling background helped her build Casa Surya Healings so these practices could be uplifted and shared broadly.
Casa Surya Healings was recently named a Neighbor 2 Neighbor (N2N) Spring awardee, meaning the organization will now offer more regular healing practices, compensate teachers for their time and expand their reach beyond South King County. It is also notable that this N2N grant is the first ever received by the nonprofit after years of investing their own resources and sweat equity into the work. Out of her home near White Center/Burien almost five years later since she started, Garcia continues teaching and practicing cultural healing work and continues to be amazed at the community’s resilience.
“Especially during COVID, but being Latinx immigrants, low income and mostly women, I see that people want to be connected. They want to feel better. They want to connect on a deeper level,” said Garcia. Casa Surya Healing’s mission is exactly that—to provide holistic tools for individual and collective self-realization of the Latinx community. Garcia said, “We don’t charge people for what we do. Many in our community don’t have access to health care.” So, Casa Surya Healings fills an important health and cultural gap.
They also strongly believe the connection to their Indigenous roots, to the land, and to Mother Earth are critical for those living so far away from their cultural home. Garcia added, “For the community we serve, this is a way for them to gain healing skills from professionals from their home countries. More than the healing, it provides individuals with connection to their roots through remembering our grandmothers and grandfathers curing us with herbs and teas. This gives people a sense of belonging, connection to their land, and sometimes an opportunity to learn a living.”
During the site visit with Garcia, Patrice Thomas, a N2N Community Advocate shared, “Not only does this group really understand their community and ways to build health and resilience through Indigenous practice; their approach motivated me to think about what I need to feel whole and connected to my own community.”
A member of Casa Surya Healings said she felt as if she went from being what she described as an “illegal alien” to believing she is the answer to her ancestor’s prayers after participating in the program—a poignant, powerful reflection that is indicative of the kind of impact this group has in the community. For more information on Casa Surya Healings, you can email them at [email protected].
The full list of N2N Spring 2021 grants is below:
- African Young Dreamers Empowerment Program Intl (AYDEPI)*: To support African immigrant “Community Health Peers” who will mentor Kent area justice system involving youth in preventing violence, supporting mental health, and a youth-driven social media campaign.
- BUILD (Brothers United in Leadership Development): To support civic engagement and leadership through BUILD 206 Media and the production of high-quality Black led video/audio podcasts in partnership with community members from South Seattle.
- Casa Surya Healings**: To support Latino community in White Center and South King County to improve holistic healing, connect to Indigenous culture and practice, and build a stronger more resilient community.
- East African Senior Meal Program (Food Equity): To support East African seniors at Rainier Beach Urban Farm with regular physical and social activities, food access and access to safe outdoor spaces in order to foster deeper engagement and understanding around equity and the environment.
- Helping Link: To support the Vietnamese American organization strengthen community accountability through focused board of directors training, recruitment/outreach, especially from the Vietnamese community, and retention.
- International Capoeira Angola Foundation* (Food Equity): To support the Union Cultural Center’s Illuminate series that connects African and BIPOC communities through food traditions and wisdom, music and movement to promote healing and resistance through culture.
- Multi Communities*: To support a Black led awareness-building empowerment campaign to reduce barriers for South Seattle Black girls and women in disclosing harm and seeking support to end gender-based violence.
- Organización Centro-Americana (Food Equity): To unite, educate and heal local Central American communities and youth through art, music and cooking workshops designed by/for the community.
*First time grantee of N2N
**Also, the first grant ever received by the organization
For more information about Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), please contact Program Consultant Aileen Balahadia at 206-250-4299 or via email.