As a contractor for SWOVA, I have very specific tasks laid out that involve project coordination. As the project coordinator for the Respectful Relationships (R+R) program, the Pass It On Program, and for the Online R+R Facilitator’s Training, I need to ensure all the logistics are attended to so the facilitators and mentor supervisor and training moderator can do their jobs as fluidly as possible. Also I establish and maintain positive partnerships with our school district and other community networks, all in an effort to ensure a professional service delivery model.
In truth, the logistics are such a miniscule part of the overall picture. The key ingredients are the passion, and skills, and commitment of those who deliver the programs and invest time with youth on a weekly basis. Therein lies the magic. The circles of safety and trust that are established, where youth often explore controversial topics, share their insecurities and beliefs, and question the norms of society in compassionate and passionate ways. Reciprocally, I am a vicarious recipient in my community of this heartfelt work. I have the pleasure of living on an island with youth who approach and respond to me with respect. I never fear a ‘crowd’ of youth, as I have in the city. I feel my space is respected and my opinions are considered and consequently, I am keenly interested in the perspectives of the youth in my community. By listening and learning from the youth in my community, I have a clearer understanding of their needs thus resulting in a respect for their space and allowing opportunities for expression.
When Pass It On had an evening of celebration at their Sparkfest event, I was struck by the demographics in the room. The performers were female youth in their teens and along the age continuum to women in their 50s. There was an honouring of what each generation had to pass on to the other. There was a collective spirit of mentorship in the room.
It was a magnificent evening. It definitely heightened awareness around Pass It On and other programming provided through SWOVA, the amazing women in our community, and the whole notion of mentorship and what it means to each one of us personally and professionally.
Lynda Laushway, the executive director of SWOVA, has always been very clear that these kinds of events aren’t fundraisers. They are an opportunity to build community awareness. I have no doubt that the community will begin to see SWOVA in an increasingly positive light – as an organization that offers hope and possibility to young women and men.
Chris Gay – Pass It On Coordinator
The Pass It On female teen mentorship program has now completed its second year. This year there were 16 mentors and 16 buddies. The mentors met weekly with their mentor supervisor, Kate Maurice, for support and guidance. In addition, they met monthly as a group with their buddies, engaged in group activities like yoga and team games. The mentors were also offered opportunities to meet with women in the community who shared their talents and journeys as professional women. The final component involved the mentors meeting one on one with their buddies over a 7-month timeframe often to go swimming, to a movie, to go for coffee or informally ‘hang out’ at each other’s homes.
SWOVA always invests in an evaluation component of their programs. The mentors and buddies completed pre and post surveys outlining their expectations and resulting successes and challenges while participating in Pass It On. In addition, the evaluator gathers informal responses regarding the teens’ personal self-concept and social relationships prior to being involved in the program and after forming a more intimate connection with an older female teen.
Pass It On would not be the successful program it is without the willingness of young mentors to reach out to younger buddies and forge connections that are not necessarily common across the age span. We applaud their courage, their passion, and their compassion as they reach out to others. And a huge thanks to all the buddies who take a risk to share so honestly and welcome the support of these older female teens. What follows are quotes from both the buddies and mentors.
“I will be more confident around older teens next year.”
What’s the best part about having a mentor?
- “Getting to know someone who is older than you so you have someone to look up to.”
- “I got to have an older sister figure.”
- “Having someone older to talk to about things.”
- “It made me feel that high school wasn’t so big.”
“It’s empowering to feel needed.”
- Getting together
- Dealing with parents
- How to keep your buddy interested
What’s the best part about having a buddy?
- “Making a really close connection, which you normally wouldn’t make.”
- “I felt like the whole group mentored each other.”
- “Listening is a huge part and people feel more comfortable, and sharing from your personal experiences.”
- “Having your buddy feel comfortable enough to come to talk to you about personal things.”
- “Becoming a tight group (with the other mentors and Kate our mentor supervisor).”
- “It was a very honest group and I felt open and secure.”
- “Getting to know and trust people that I wasn’t closer with.”
- “Guest speakers.”
- “Kate was so open to new ideas and she seemed to know a lot so she could give us lots of advice.”
Chris Gay – Pass It On Coordinator
Kate Maurice, the Mentor Supervisor for the Pass It On female teen mentorship program, held us intimately and passionately in a circle of gratitude during an evening of entertainment on Sunday April 29th at the Harbour House Hotel. The event was a fundraiser for the Pass It On program as well as SWOVA and it sparked a love fest of appreciation for the female mentors in our lives. Sparkfest was created by Kate as a way to celebrate the women in our community and to honour their talents by showcasing a variety of artistic contributions women make on a daily basis on Salt Spring Island.
Sparkfest was an amazingly brilliant success! All of those who attended – THANK YOU! All of those who performed – THANK YOU! All of you who sponsored – THANK YOU! All of you who organized and planned – THANK YOU!
First and foremost HUGE bouquets of love and hugs to Kate Maurice and James Cowan for all their organizing and planning and of course to all the mentors of Pass It On and friends who chipped in and helped out at a moments notice.
The official sponsors made this event possible and they are Harbour House Hotel, People Powered Productions, Living Water Media, Barnyard Grafix, and SWOVA – we are eternally grateful for your support. In addition, all the businesses that donated to the silent auction – THANK YOU!
And finally overwhelming thanks and appreciation to the many Salt Spring Island female artists that simply blew us away – Billie Woods, Naomi Jason, Phoenix Lazare, Ahava Shira, Barbara Slater, Tara, and international recording artists from Vancouver, Hey Ocean!
To quote the prophetic words of Tara, it was a night of “openness, courage, focus, and gratitude.” Simply put, it was a night to remember. We can hardly wait until next year.
By Chris Gay – Pass It On Coordinator