UBelong Participants Learn that Bullying is Never OK

What a day at UBelong!  We experienced a large group lesson from bullying expert, Katy Pearson, complete with a skit and small group breakout sessions to reinforce this important content.

Today we learned the at bullying is never okay, and that both the target and the bystander in bullying situations can do something to change things.  Practicing these things helped us understand how to respond in a bullying situation.

Mentors from the Young Adult Workshop visited each small group to share their stories.  Hearing how they felt when they were the same age as UBelong participants helped to give perspective and inspiration.

Everyone was very excited to keep working on our video, expressing ourselves in even deeper levels.  Stay tuned for the exciting reveal of this video where participants tell everyone what they ” want you to know!”

Chris Gilyard Describes her Journey – “Walking Through Ashes”

Chris Gilyard, featured speaker at today’s World Burn Congress general session, uses the words “Walking Through the Ashes” to describe her burn injury experience and her journey through years of recovery.  Thirty five years ago, burned in an auto accident at the age of 17, she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 21% of her body, with her face having some of the deepest burns.ChrisBlogpic

Chris explained that, although the physical pain and recovery in the burn center was intense, the emotional healing from her injuries was equally devastating.  She described how, upon first seeing her reflection in the mirror, she thought ” I don’t look like a girl anymore…..who is ever going to love me?”

Upon being discharged from the security of the burn center, Chris explained, she had no support groups, websites, camps, school or social reentry, or social skills training available. They simply weren’t available at that time.  She experienced the humiliation and pain of pointing, laughing, inappropriate questions, and hurtful comments.  And although her family was loving and highly supportive, they did not have the skills or resources to handle the difficulties of going out in public and responding to the reactions of others.

Chris stated, ” I felt so alone”.

Chris compared the available resources and assistance she had during her journey, and what she wouldn’t have done to have the resources that are offered by the Phoenix Society today, such as SOAR, for a peer supporter who has “been there” like she had; for social reentry skills, such as the Phoenix Society’s “Beyond Surviving:Tools for Thriving”, to help with going out in public; and for a school reentry program such as Phoenix Society’s Journey Back, to help with the challenges of returning to school.  Although she didn’t have these tools, Chris did rely upon the support of family, friends and therapy on her journey to recovery.

She described the breadth of her journey, including a pivotal point where another family member experienced a severe burn injury, and how this motivated her to pay it forward by becoming a Burn Support Representative at Regions Hospital Burn Center, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She stated she learned  “the journey is much easier to do with someone by your side.”

Today, Chris is married with 2 sons and works in private practice as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in Minnesota, offering caring and healing for those struggling with burn and other types of trauma.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors continues to be the central hub for resources for everyone affected by burn injury, offering peer support – SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery), online learning courses, online support chat services, the Journey Back resource for school reentry, and many other educational tools and resources so that burn survivors and their families can live productive and fulfilling lives.  No one has to travel the road of recovery alone.  More information is available for these resources at http://www.phoenix-society.org.

UBelong Participants Experience Expressive Art!

Peace Love Studios helped kick off UBelong programming with Expressive Art!

Our two oldest small groups got to actually travel to the Peace Love Studios to work on their masterpieces! The two younger small groups enjoyed a visit from Peace Love staff here at the Convention Center.  Everyone had a chance to “express themselves” individually and be a part of something much bigger, too – a piece of group artwork!

We’re all very excited to have started work on our own UBelong video, which is also all about expressing ourselves.  In it, everyone at UBelong has a chance to tell you what they “want you to know”.  Through this week, we’ll talk a lot about being BRAVE, and today’s video content sure started to show off how brave all these UBelong participants really are!

Parent Workshop Addresses the Needs of the Entire Family after Burn Injury

The parent workshop was held today for parents coping with burn survivorship within the family. The workshop provided information, perspectives, expert advice and open discussion for the attendees. Aimed at both parents of child/teen survivors as well as parents who are themselves burn survivors, this workshop addressed the impact that burn injury has on children, teens and family.

Parents had the opportunity to explore what their family had experienced and gained useful information and tools to manage the future.

A facilitated support group follows this session to allow for further discussion. The parent support group addresses aspects such as guilt and children’s behavior challenges. Hearing that you are not alone, connecting with each other, and learning about recovery helps parents prepare for the next stages of their family journey.

Kids in Childcare Enjoy the WBC Experience, Too!

The smallest survivors and family members got a taste of belonging and fun today, too!  Our childcare participants, ages infant through 6 years old, enjoyed getting to know new friends and supportive caregivers.  They got to explore a lot of games, active play, and more.

Our UBelong staff also brought components of therapeutic programming to the kids.  Today, childcare participants got to do a self-portrait (with help for the littlest ones), and describe how each part of themselves was useful, valuable, beautiful, and special.  This helps with healthy self-image and talking about how we are all different and the same.  As every member of the family is impacted by burn survivorship, so too, does the Phoenix Society support and meet everyone where they are at.

Lionel and Joanna Crowther: Getting Through the Fire

Severely injured while battling a house fire in February 2007 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lionel Crowther was among 4 of the 6 firefighters trapped by a flashover, that made it out of the blaze alive.

Lionel and his wife, Joanna, were the featured speakers at today’s general session.  Their discussion  “Getting Through the Fire”, revealed their personal journey as a burn-injured firefighter and spouse, and the impact on the entire family.

A firefighter with the City of Winnipeg (Canada) Fire Department, Lionel was finally able to find the support he needed upon attending the Phoenix Society’s 2009 World Burn Congress in New York City.  He notes that he was looking for another firefighter at that point to ask “What did you do?”  By connecting with others in the firefighter community through the Phoenix Society, the healing started to come together.

Lionel and Joanna explained the journey from that initial “call” that forever changed their lives, to the different healing paths they each encountered, both as individuals and as a family.   Lionel discussed what they discovered as a participant with Phoenix Society’s peer support for firefighters. He stated, “we learned that every burn survivor is an individual, and every individual has to have their own path.”

Today’s general session attendees were able to gain insight as to the challenges of a burn survivor’s recovery experience, how that path is different for their significant other, and how burn injury impacts the dynamics of the  entire family.  The audience also learned the unique perspective of healing and support for burn-injured firefighters.  Lionel has been able to bring his own unique perspective to the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, as he has been trained as a SOAR Peer Supporter for burn survivors and firefighter burn survivors.

“The Phoenix Society helped me realize I wasn’t a burn victim anymore and that I was a survivor. I became proud to be a survivor fire fighter, survivor husband, and survivor father.”

Since their recovery, Lionel, with Joanna’s support and guidance, has concentrated his studies and training on Fire Fighter Survival, in it’s many forms. He has been appointed as a Master Instructor with the International Association of Fire Fighters Fire Ground Survival Program, trainer for the Petzl EXO Escape System, and is the District Coordinator for the IAFF 13th District Burn Foundation Coordinator. Only through constant training and support, Lionel was able to return to the front line as an active firefighter.

Opening Ceremonies

Phoenix Society’s 2013 World Burn Congress has officially opened!  Opening ceremonies were conducted this morning as an official start to this international gathering of burn survivors, family members, fire service, healthcare professionals and others focused on the need of long-term recovery services.

A stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" opens the Phoenix Society's 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” opens the Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A special thanks to the Providence Fire Department, the Fire Service Color Guard led by the West Warwick Fire Department, the Rhode Island Professional Fire Fighters Pipes & Drums, and other fire service members and emergency first responders who provide their service, honor, and pride to the burn survivor community!

Welcome attendees to Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress in Providence, Rhode Island!