Cenla India Association, in collaboration with Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN), will be celebrating the 9th Annual Holi Fest 2023 in Downtown Alexandria, on Saturday, May 20th, from 11:00am to 2:00pm. This is the only event of its kind, where colors are free, and fun is abundant for adults and children of all ages. This unforgettable experience has been an Alexandria tradition since 2012. The event grew from 50 people the first year to 500 people in 2019. Participating in Holi Fest is a fun and colorful way to be a champion in the lives of Cenla children!
The vision of CAN is to eradicate the cycle of abuse and neglect and ensure that every child has a safe and permanent home. In 1995, a group of individuals with various concerns regarding children’s issues realized the need for an organization that could serve as a spokesperson for children. To address this need, the Rapides Children’s Advocacy Center, Inc. (RCAC) was created. Through interagency collaboration, the RCAC program began interviewing child abuse victims in a home setting. This approach was an attempt to lessen the trauma associated with the investigation of child abuse incidents. RCAC also began the process of training quality community volunteers to serve as court appointed special advocates for abused children through the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. In 2010, the agency implemented the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program. The goal of this specialized therapy is to address symptoms in children that have resulted from a specific traumatic experience or experiences.
The agency has served the Central Louisiana community for over twenty-two years. As its original vision and service area has expanded, CAN has adopted a name that champions the needs of all children throughout Central Louisiana. Through a community wide collaborative effort, the Children’s Advocacy Network was established. Kendra Gauthier, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Network, says, “Child abuse continues to be a community-wide issue, requiring community-wide solutions. The Children’s Advocacy Network convenes partners such as child protection, law enforcement, and mental health professionals to address these issues, with a strong focus on advocating for child victims.”
When a child experiences abuse or witnesses a violent crime, their life changes. Often, children feel scared and confused about what happens next. Non-offending family members are wrestling with their own mix of emotions and can find it difficult to know what steps to take next. It is the goal at Children’s Advocacy Center to welcome children and their families and guide them through this trying time. The center is the region’s only not-for-profit organization that coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts, and mental health clinicians under one roof, fostering hope and healing for children and their families.
When a child enters the foster care system, they enter into a world of unknowns. Where will I live today? When will I see my parents? Who are these strangers asking questions about me and my family? Lots of things are changing in a child’s life during this time. A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a community volunteer, just like you, who is appointed by a judge to step in and be a light for a child in foster care. CASAs are appointed to a child’s case and advocate on their behalf in the court system. They are the eyes and ears of the court, and they ensure that the child does not get lost or overlooked in the child welfare system.
In addition to CAC and CASA services, the Children’s Advocacy Network offers Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Experiencing trauma can have a lasting impact on a child. Years of wrestling with shame and an inability to see a hopeful future are not aspects of a life meant for a child. Our specialized therapy is designed to work closely with children and their families to lessen the negative symptoms of trauma and give them the skills necessary to move past the trauma towards a hopeful and bright future. Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions last for 12 to 16 weeks. In that time children and their family members meet with the therapist in a child-friendly environment where they learn to process the trauma symptoms, manage distressing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and enhance safety, parenting skills, and family communication.
Children’s Advocacy Network serves over 1,000 children annually. Direct donations help strengthen the network for the children of Cenla, empowering them towards a bright and promising future. Perhaps the most fun—and definitely most colorful—way to support the mission of CAN is to participate in the Holi Fest.
Holi originated 3,000 years ago in northern India. In color, there is no rich or poor, no king or common, no black, white, or brown, we are all one. Amid the cloud of red, blue, yellow, green, and everything in between, festivalgoers are found laughing, singing, and dancing in the streets. The joyous event, which takes place in India, Nepal, and other countries around the world, traditionally marks the triumph of good over evil and is a celebration to welcome the spring. “Festival of Colors” undoubtedly lives up to its name. It is a celebration of unity, color, and love.
In Alexandria, we welcome spring with a rainbow of colors showering our downtown canvas. The festival is celebrated with much joy and vigor. Though Holi is a tradition that dates back millennia, it is one of those festivals that brings out the inner child in everyone. It is amazing to see, children, young and old, drowning themselves in a rainbow of colors of love! Playing colors with each and every one brings a feeling of spirit without any distinction of caste, creed, color, race, status, or gender. It is one occasion when sprinkling colored powder (‘gulal’) or colored water on each other breaks all barriers of discrimination so that everyone looks the same and universal family is reaffirmed, just like the gumbo that is Downtown culture.
Festival of Holi is a celebration of the Colors of Unity & Brotherhood—an opportunity to forget all differences and indulge in the equality of all beings. Each of the colors has its own meaning. Blue represents the sky and ocean and is the color of the gods. Green represents nature and the start of new beginnings. Red represents love, passion, and fertility. Yellow represents happiness, meditation, and peace. Orange evokes all the colors of the sun, and purple is the color of magic and mystery.
The day starts with a walk/jog/run, the proceeds to benefit CAN. Registration is $25.00 through Wednesday, May 10th, and $40.00 after. Your registration fee includes entry to the walk/run and a t-shirt! Holi Fest itself is free and open to public. Colors are free, so come and play! Meet up with friends for a color walk and enjoy exposure to other cultures in this amazing city of ours, all while supporting a worthwhile cause The Children’s Advocacy Network in their pursuit to eradicate child abuse.
Delicious authentic Indian cuisine plate lunches are available for pre-order for just $15.00. Not only will you be helping CAN, but you will also have lots of fun. Complete with Indian cuisine, dance, music, henna tattoo, and of course, play colors! This is a great, family-friendly event that you do not want to miss!
Register for the run/walk by clicking HERE. Call Amy Pillarisetti at (318) 792-1147 or Children’s Advocacy Network at (318) 445-5678 for more information. Or, just join in on Saturday, May 20th to play colors for free. All proceeds from this event will benefit Children’s Advocacy Network. We hope to see you downtown on May 20th, to support our CAN children, diverse community, and culture!