Opo Yeye, Raising the Spirit: Community and University Collaboration in Addressing Community Mental Well Being

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The Opo Yeye program is an approach to mental well being based on lessons learned from the Afro-Surinamese population in Paramaribo, Suriname. Opo Yeye is a Surinamese expression meaning “Raising the Spirit”. The basic tenets of this approach to mental well being include a multiple sense of self that is interconnected to family, community and forces seen and unseen, empowerment based on activities that elevate the self, and a keen understanding of the hebi or burdens that way a person down and interfere with personal and communal elevation. The program has been embraced and developed for practical application through community based participatory research. Four community groups in Lexington, Kentucky participate in the development and utilization of the program, namely an African American population, a refugee population, a Latino population, and participants in a teen mother program. Through establishing a “Council of Elders” in each community a sense of responsibility, ownership, and sustainability is enforced in the implementation and development of the program.


Keywords: Mental Well Being, Community, Minority Populations
Stream: Social Sustainability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Aminata Cairo

Research Associate, Department of Community and Leadership Development, University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY, USA

Dr. Aminata Cairo has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Psychology, two Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Medical Anthropology respectively, and a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology. Her main interests lie in the combined area of mind, body, and culture, and is guided by the questions “What do people need and do to maintain their sanity in an often insane world?” Her studies have taken her from hands on mental health work in American inter cities to the Afro-Surinamese population in Suriname from where her parents hail. In addition she has specialized in practicing and utilizing cultural arts, mainly dance, to address and engage communities. She is dedicated to translate her learned lessons into practical solutions for communities in need. Through her position in the Department of Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky she is able to address community well being from both a practical as well as an academic perspective.

Ref: S08P0129