Mei Selvage, Mindfulness Coach, North County African American Women's Association
Founded in 1995, North County African American Women’s Association (NCAAWA) has created numerous programs to empower people-of-color, especially girls and women in North County, San Diego. To support the well-being of its mentees and members, Mei Selvage and Janetha Bailey-Long designed a trauma-informed mindfulness program in 2019 because people-of-color often experience traumas in personal and societal settings. Popular breathing and silent meditation practices, if not done properly, can create stress responses and feelings of isolation. Given that the majority of NCAAWA are African American girls and women, we focus more on trauma-friendly techniques such as qigong, walking meditation, forest bathing, self-massage, and journaling, in addition to guided meditation and habit formation.
In 2019, we delivered three on-site workshops to several dozen NCAAWA members and mentees at King Middle School and Jefferson Middle School, in Oceanside. Both the members and mentees responded with enthusiasm. One student used it to calm her exam anxiety. Another student even shared the mindfulness training with her parents when her family experienced challenges.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, NCAAWA realized the urgency of providing coping and wellness tools during a difficult time. We customized and delivered a virtual workshop to NCAAWA members in January 2021. Over thirty members attended the workshop.
The participants shared positive feedback, such as:
“I feel like I have been for a great walk. So refreshed,” said one participant.
Another participant offered, “I feel so relaxed and good. I am going to work it into my schedule.”
Virtual workshops were also delivered to NCAAWA’s Becoming a Global Citizen (a middle school girl mentoring program) and Global Ambassador programs (a high school girl mentoring program).
Thanks to the virtual format, over thirty mentees from various middle and high schools in North County and their mentors were able to benefit from the workshops. Mindfulness techniques, ranging from three to fifteen minutes, were taught during nine Global Ambassador mentoring modules. The intent was to help mentees form a self-care habit and discover specific techniques suitable for themselves. The mindfulness education was also closely linked to two of the modules focused on resilience and self-care.
Participants reported immediate benefits such as stress reduction, improved self-regulation, increased resilience, and better focus. Mentees continue practicing their favorite mindfulness techniques on their own. Mentors are also consciously using mindfulness tools with their mentors.
Key success factors for the NCAAWA mindfulness program include: