Thoughts From the Women’s Retreat

Thoughts From the Women’s Retreat



Over the weekend of December 3rd 2010, YouthCO’s WISER Project held its 4th Annual Wellness Retreat for young women living with HIV and/or Hepatitis C. 10 women, including the author, were able to attend free of charge, participating in workshops that help build self-esteem and develop skills that improve overall health.


In my opinion, the ‘Wellness Retreat’ is important for a couple of reasons. The first is the simple fact that for some women, the retreat is the only chance they have to get out of the city and away from their usual routines, even if it’s only for a weekend. The retreat is a safe and comfortable environment; a place where you know you can relax and finally let your guard down. It’s a place where you get a chance to meet other young women you wouldn’t usually socialize with: to bond and start new friendships with others like you.


If I had to pick just one part of the 2011 Retreat, my favorite would be the wood carving that Willow Dunlop taught us. It was something new that hadn’t been done before on other retreats. I think it’s good to have new and different workshops available for the women to choose from, as well as the ‘tried and true’: massages, haircuts, spa nights, and hot-tubbing. Maybe in the future, there could be some kind of workshop where someone comes in to do Tarot card reading, palmistry or even astrological star chart readings; it’s a new idea that could be fun as well as insightful for those who are interested.


Even though I’ve only been on three retreats, every time I go I find that the time I spend there allows me to re-adjust myself, to re-connect with who I am and who I want to be in the future. That’s always important no matter who you are. I feel that because of my time on the retreats, my overall confidence has grown.

Over the last year, I’ve really tried to push myself to try new things that I wouldn’t usually do, and I would love to facilitate a retreat or even co-facilitate. I have a few hopes or ideas for future retreats. I’d like to see the retreat be longer, maybe for a whole week at a time.  If there were one or two HIV or Hep C positive women who always came to the retreats to co-facilitate, it could be a reason that women would come back. These co-facilitators would have met the previous retreat participants, and the women would be able to see the same relatable faces with the same issues as themselves each year. If this isn’t possible, it might be cool if one of the staff on the retreat was positive so the women could relate more and feel a closer bond.


As a final suggestion, my partner and I have had this idea about an “open forum” where women can, if they so choose, get together and talk about their HIV or Hep C status. This might include how they were infected, the struggles of having HIV or Hep C, or the way doctors and medical staff have treated them: any and all things related to their infections. There could be a question and answer period or space to simply sit and listen to other women talk. At the first retreat I went on there was something like this forum that was completely spontaneous and informal–just a few of us telling each other about ourselves and how we got to where we are, simply getting to know each other.


Honestly, I think that hearing each others’ stories, including the struggles and trials we have survived and more importantly how we have grown from them, can be very uplifting and truly inspirational.

In my opinion, the Wellness Retreat is important. It helps build a network and community amongst young women who are struggling to deal with HIV or Hep C+ lives. You would think that people who are dealing with the same afflictions would seek out peers like themselves for insight, understanding, or advice to help them cope. Unfortunately that’s not so. Sometimes I think it can be beneficial to be brought together in an environment that is completely safe. Once at the retreat, they are able to bond with others and truly be themselves, hopefully building long lasting healthy relationships.


2 Responses to “Thoughts From the Women’s Retreat”
  1. Anna Soole says:

    I love your article Briony. Some beautiful suggestions.

    Also, I would love to offer my services as a tarot reader for next year’s retreat!

  2. Willow Dunlop says:

    Briony, It was a real pleasure to share my passion for woodworking with all of you and to be welcomed into such a remarkable circle of young women.

    I agree that the Retreat is awesome and creates space for genuine growth/healing. YouthCO needs the help of our funders and donors to make the Women’s Retreat happen each year.

    Please share Briony’s article and consider making a donation or volunteering!

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