Monthly Archives: October 2012

More Funding for the R+R Program

Press Release – 31 October 2012

We are delighted to hear that the Respectful Relationships Program (R+R) has two more funders. Coast Capital Saving’s generous grant of $10,000 and Mid-Island Coop’s grant of $1,000 will go towards delivering the R+R workshops to approximately 500 students in our schools in School District #64.  It is through the support of businesses, foundations and our local community that we are able to teach students about respect and safety in relationships.

Without your support, we would not have been able to keep the R+R program going for the last 13 years.  We and the students appreciate all our supporters.  Violence prevention is key to making a more peaceful world and with your support you are actively participating in creating a non-violent community.

An R+R student summed it up:

“I personally think that respecting others is the most important skill in every kind of circumstance.  When people are respecting one another, conflicts will gradually decrease, as long as people are willing to listen and accept other’s opinions.”

 

Every year we receive feedback from youth in the R+R program who say it has changed their lives.  When grade 10 students were asked what they would apply based on what they learned in the R+R program they shared the following comments:

“Being able to reflect on difficult situations with myself and others.”

“I’ll have a lot more empathy and be able to deal with negative emotions in a healthier way.”

“I’ll think about other people’s feelings and be careful about what I say.”

 

The students in the R+R Youth Team learn to support their peers and co-facilitate workshops for younger students.  They take on leadership roles by modeling respect, assertiveness and awareness around issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia.  By participating in the Youth Team, they gain skills which they will use in their life and work.

As one youth team member put it:

“This work experience undoubtedly has a strong impact on developing my personal thinking towards different situations in school and outside school, building cooperative skills when participating on a team, building self-esteem and capability to speak in public.”

 

You are supporting a more peaceful culture – A big thank you to Coast Capital Savings and Mid-Island Co-op!

For more information about the R+R program, go to the Respectful Relationships page

Respecting Ourselves, Each Other and the Earth – by Christina Antonick

On the way to the high school this morning, I hear the line “the deep intelligence of the Earth” and decide to weave it into our morning check in with our Grade 9 students. Check ins are skill-building opportunities in reflective listening, empathy and assertive communication. Each youth is given the floor to share how they are feeling (we encourage them to move beyond socially acceptable “good” or “fine”) and answer a question that Kevin or I bring into the session. So my question is this… “One way I am taking care of the deep intelligence of the Earth is…”

It’s a deep, provocative, and confusing question. There isn’t one answer. These are the questions I enjoy putting forward into our R+R circles. I let youth know that being confused or not knowing answers is something they should not be ashamed of.  Just last week, I listened to a CBC radio documentary on the neurological importance of the “unknown”.

And on point, the question evokes further questions, confusion and debate. My kind of morning! I love my work.  Arriving into the possibility of circle each day and getting present.  The world needs more circles and definitely ones with lots of Grade 9’s.

Youth debate the term “deep intelligence of the Earth” and discuss tree, plant and animal intelligence. We weave in environmental concerns and one youth offers that he is taking care by making music.  Some youth ask what this has to do with them and refuse to see the connection between the Earth and us as humans.  I wonder if we asked the same question to youth in Asia, Africa, South America or in indigenous communities if the response would be any different. Other questions including, “ Is getting lost in life valuable sometimes?” and “Do we always need to have a plan?” emerge.

Grade 9, Monday morning.  Thoughtful, curious and wise voices show up in the circle. There are moments of quiet (we are working on explaining to youth why slowing down and embracing quiet are huge relationship skills!) and group wonder.

This R+R circle is one way we are taking care of the deep intelligence of the Earth.

 

Christina Antonick – Adult facilitator, Respectful Relationships Program (R+R)

Systemic Violence and the Death of Amanda Todd – by Lynda Laushway

The recent tragic suicide of Amanda Todd is front-page news in Canada. Cyber-bullying and other forms of bullying are the topic of many conversations. What seems to be missing from the conversations is the desire to look at the systemic violence, attitudes and behaviour that underlie all forms of bullying.

 Fazeela Jiwa, writer and former BC high school teacher writes: “Why isn’t anyone talking about the sexism and misogyny involved in Amanda Todd’s life and death? ‘Bullying’ is important, yes, but it is a vague term that glosses over the structural reasons for why it happens, like race/gender/class/ability (and I would add homophobia). If we don’t start talking about the specifics of power structures in high schools, every ‘bullying’ campaign will be a waste of time… Bullying is not childish; not a thing that happens solely to teenagers; those same learned behaviours are the ones that circulate in the workplace, in clubs, on the street, and any other adult-inhabited place.”

 According to Jarrah Hodge, who writes and educates on gender representations in media, politics and pop-culture: “There was no discussion of the pressure girls like Amanda experience to measure their worth through their sexual desirability. From her story it sounds like this man had the hallmarks of a predator—he tried to use her photos to blackmail her and yet she’s the one who got blamed. This comes from the idea that it’s up to girls and women to protect their purity at the same time as all their role models in the media say that you need to ‘get a man’ to be a complete person, that you need to be sexually attractive to be liked, appreciated, and valued. She said the guy she showed off to was telling her how beautiful she was. Given our culture that can be really tempting for a girl.”

The question is- do we want to tackle the real problems of systemic violence in our society that manifest in behaviour such as bullying and harassment? Do we want to look at the messages in our culture that create enormous pressures and isolation for girls like Amanda, or do we want to simplify the issue and say we need to crack down on bullies?  I think that the answer is we need both.  Bullies need to know that their behaviour will not be tolerated and we also need to change school culture so that systemic violence cannot find a breeding ground where dozens of youth join in and become the harassers.

Blogger Krissy Darch says: “This man’s intention, when he threatened Todd with exposure of the coercive images, was to make Todd feel like a whore. The weapon that this man was able to rely on was the judgment of our society. Under our unequal social and economic conditions, the stakes are higher when a woman falls out of favour with her community. For a girl or woman, falling out of favour with her community can mean a sentence to a nightmarish cycle of distress.”

With education for our youth about systemic violence and the consequences, and what social justice means, we can change school cultures and find a way to support our youth rather than marginalize and isolate them. That would be real social change and a positive outcome from the tragic death of Amanda Todd.

 

Lynda Laushway –  Executive Director of SWOVA

I can’t sit around the fire anymore… By Kevin Vowles

So I’ve been struggling.  I’ve participated in a surf culture for the last 4 years that has dominated my social life.  All of my ‘close friends’ in BC are kitesurfers.  Most of them I would classify as good people – friendly, outgoing, and easy to be around.  It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life to be part of a culture that is so unique and vibrant.  We kite in incredible places, nestled in nature, doing saunas, laughing and playing.  It’s fun.

My struggle is that I find all of the conversation centres around kitesurfing and the equipment associated with the sport.  While the conversation is interesting and relevant, I find myself stagnating and wanting something more. I know it is because of the amazing learning I have done through my job as a facilitator with SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program. I find that a lot of the interactions focus on competition (who has the best move) and who has travelled where to kitesurf and what these experiences have been like.  Trouble is I need more.  I need more from my social interactions than just surface interactions, centering around kitesurfing.  What I believe many men and women are most longing for is connection — a departure from competition.

Last weekend I went to my favourite spot to kite, and bumped into one of my favourite kitesurfing friends.  He and I usually hang out (often just the two of us) and the conversations with us seem to steer into some different and highly interesting areas, though frequently they come back to kitesurfing — which is ok.  He is one of the few people I can spend an extensive amount of time with and feel as though I am connecting on a deep and meaningful level.  At the campfire that night was another fellow who has been known to say some hugely sexist things.  Now I’ve been coming to a place where I can openly admit that I’m uncomfortable with sexism, find it offensive and call someone out for their behavior.  But as I pulled up a chair that night to the campfire, and settled into the conversation about kiteboarding I realized that I just couldn’t pull off sitting around all night listening to the same old, same old.  I knew in that moment more than any other that I yearn for something more, and I’m not getting it.  Luckily I hadn’t spoken to anyone there about whether or not I was staying overnight or not, and so I decided that I would leave, excused myself and drove home.  I tried to process it on the drive that night, but didn’t have much luck, and as per usual find that now that I am putting it into writing, I understand the situation with a new lens.

Often I find that the sexist behavior I’ve seen in the surf culture is brought out by consumption of alcohol, which I haven’t consumed in four years now.  I will admit that it does make me somewhat uncomfortable to be in situations where there is a lot of alcohol being consumed, and this did slightly factor into my decision to leave, but it wasn’t all there was to my decision.  I knew though that the sexist behavior would likely rear its’ head that night, and although I’m ready to confront it, I realized what pushed me away that night to drive the logging roads in the dark to make the last ferry back home to the island.

I want to surround myself with people who nourish my soul in a peaceful way, and I’m not sure that there is always going to be room for that within my current social circles.  Kitesurfing nourishes my soul and of course I want the social aspect that comes with the soul journey that kitesurfing has been for me. I want my friends to still be my friends and I’m sure that on some level they will be, but I also know I feel a sadness because I’m moving on from them being the center of my social life, to growing into a member of the Salt Spring Island community, where I know instinctively that I will find more of what I need.  As with any departure from the familiar, or more specifically loss, there is a discomfort, and sadness which ensues.  It is a loss, but there is also something gained, and that is me surrounding myself with people who I know will inspire me to grow into the man I’m becoming.  There’s always an upside of a shift in a different direction.

To read more about kitesurfing: www.kevinvowles.wordpress.com