Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Time in the Youth Team – by Cole Smith

The 2012/13 R+R Youth Team

The 2012/13 R+R Youth Team

I feel that the SWOVA youth team has impacted my life in such a dramatic way that it would be an injustice to fail to recognize it.

As a graduating member of the Respectful Relationships Youth Team, I can say with confidence that the future is in good hands. Working with such phenomenal individuals has been tremendously influential, and at times inspired awe. I came into the program as a newcomer to the school, and a newcomer to the province of British Columbia; immediately I was welcomed in with warm, open arms. I had come to the program full of a fear of the unknown – meeting new people was hard for me, and it didn’t help that everyone at the school was a complete stranger. But within a few weeks, I found that I was opening up to this incredible group in ways that I had never before done with even my closest friends in my home town.

My time in the Youth Team has been extremely influential in shaping the young man I am today. Without taking the first step through the doors, and sitting down in the circle amongst my peers, I’m unsure if I would have followed the same path which I’ve taken today. I owe so much to this program and its members, and I will be forever in their debt. In February, I attended the Loran Scholarship National Interviews, a journey that was made possible by my experiences in the youth team. I have no doubt in my mind that my future will continue to be influenced by my experiences in the youth team.

The topics taught in the R+R program are extremely pertinent and important to today’s youth. As I head off to University, I know I will strive to learn more about human rights, equality, and peace, and will share these values with everyone in my life, regardless of where life takes me.

I hope the youth team continues to inspire young men and women as it has for me.

In peace,
Cole Smith – R+R Youth Team Member

Incredible Youth Led Conversations About the Violence Behind Amanda Todd’s Death – By Blake Peters, Cole Smith and Kevin Vowles

Whether violence happens in our community, our province, or in another part of the world it affects us.    Sometimes it is particularly difficult for young men to acknowledge violence; to recognize that there is a very real and serious problem. Recently though, male students at Gulf Island Secondary School (GISS) did just that.  At a Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA) Youth Team meeting, the week after the tragic death of Amanda Todd, the 15 year-old Port Coquitlam girl, who took her own life on October 10, 2012, male students reflected on the violence.

SWOVA’s Youth Team comprised of both young men and women, meets weekly throughout the school year, where youth become more self-aware, develop leadership skills and awareness of social justice.  Through this work, the youth team members go to the middle school on Salt Spring Island, to facilitate SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program (R+R) for Grade 7 and 8 students.  Their facilitation skills while conversing with younger students about racism, sexism, and homophobia are incredible.

At the Youth Team meeting shortly after Amanda’s death, young men and women talked about many things.  What stood out most for many was the desensitization and exploitation that can be part of the virtual internet world.  Young men acknowledged that Amanda Todd experienced exploitation, harassment, blackmail, and stalking – all of which comprise misogynistic violence – from a man who has not been caught yet.  All of this resulted in anxiety, social isolation, exclusion, and eventually life ending hopelessness.  What is indicative of the Amanda Todd case is that we live in a world where gender based violence is alive, well, and indeed thriving, although often unacknowledged.

Anti-bullying week occurred November 12-17 with the theme of “stand-up” to bullying!  Teachers here on Salt Spring Island such as Heidi Serra at Fulford Elementary School are working with students to be better friends.  For every negative bullying action a person can take; for every act of violence, there is an inverse and opposite positive action people can take.  We must, as Heidi Serra does, create a culture of peace and love in our schools.  We must, as Ghandhi once said, start with the children.  There are many things that can be learned from the Amanda Todd case.  Clearly though, stronger, better, and more widespread social and emotional learning is needed for children starting in Kindergarten.  This will build self-awareness, resilience, confidence and self-esteem in our youth.

Blake Peters is a grade nine student at GISS and one of many outstanding members of the youth team.  Struck by the tragedy of Amanda Todd’s death, he notes that we should all be part of ensuring that youth do not experience violence:

“As a part of the Salt Spring youth team I feel that Amanda Todd’s story is tragic and I feel deeply for the family and friends of hers. Things need to change to support kids, male and female; not just on Salt Spring but everywhere! For me this youth team has done just that. It supports everyone in it. If more places had groups like this I believe it could prevent the violence Amanda Todd experienced. Violence shouldn’t continue to happen and we can make a change if we want to! This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened and won’t be the last, but we can help prevent it.”

As a man engaged in the struggle to end all violence in the world, particularly that against women, it is a great honour to sit in circle with young men who are not only self-aware of the steps they need to take to create peace within themselves, but also the world.

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Written by: Blake Peters, Cole Smith and Kevin Vowles

Young Women’s Leadership Program Starting in the Southern Gulf Islands – By Andria Scanlan


Despite advances over the years, girls in Canada face pressures today, both new and old, that limit their potential.  The barriers that young women face translate into startling gender disparities.

– Men outnumber women 4 to 1 among Canada’s elected representatives

– Only 4% of CEOs in Canada’s top 500 companies are women.

– 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women.

SWOVA has created an exciting new project, funded by Status of Women Canada, that will help girls and young women build leadership capacity.  The leadership program will bring together a group of young women who share a desire to make a difference in their world and want to act individually and with others to bring about positive change.  We will help those girls build on the skills they already possess as well as develop new ones and harness the power of young women and girls.


Facilitator Andria Scanlan will assist the group to conduct a local needs assessment identifying specific barriers that stand in the way of reaching young women’s full potential.  A line-up of experts and speakers will assist the group to examine concepts and skill areas.  Topics will include; social activism, feminism, self awareness, gender inequities, leadership styles, and partnership building.

Not surprisingly, examples from around the world and North America show us that when girls receive the support they need, an incredible ripple effect is created.  They grow up courageous, they improve their own socio-economic situation and that of their communities.  They help build a stronger economy, environment and society for all.

This youth led program will run through Fall 2014 and is aiming to recruit young women from the Southern Gulf Islands to be on the advisory committee. If you are interested in participating in the project, are between 15 – 24, grew up mostly in the gulf islands and have 6 to 8 hours per month to dedicate, please contact Andria: or phone 250 537-1336








International Women’s Week – Smoothies for SWOVA

March 3rd to March 9th is International Women’s Week. Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day. Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women.


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Rawsome Living Foods Cafe and Juice Bar is recognizing the important work of violence prevention by donating $1.00 from every smoothie sold this week to SWOVA – Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse for the remarkable work they do to prevent violence and abuse by educating youth about how to have respectful and healthy relationships and fostering youth leadership.


Violence is not just a women’s issue: we ALL have key roles to play in making our country safe for everyone. We ALL have a role to play to keep our island of Salt Spring safe for women, children and men.


So come to Rawsome Living Foods Cafe and Juice Bar this week and have a smoothie and we’ll give  $1/smoothie to SWOVA.


Remember, Smoothie Tuesdays – our smoothies are ONLY $6.75.