Topic: Pass It On: Health and Safety for Young Women and Girls Phase II

A transformative year…from caterpillar to butterfly – a blog post by Kate Nash

Caterpillar to butterfly graphic

Photo credit: Miki Pereanu

Often the effects of a program like Pass It On are not ones you can easily quantify or even see. Yes, there are responses to surveys or the positive comments the girls shout out on the last day about missing the program or loving the time spent there. Truly, the effects of Pass It On are more cumulative, more subtle and more gradual. Even after spending a year with peers outside their usual friend group, learning to share and support one another, the girls may not necessarily see the results of their work immediately.

The experiences in Pass it On grow on the participants; the girls mature and open themselves up to others’ feelings and insecurities. They recognize the vulnerabilities that exist in each of us and as a result they develop confidence in who they are and how they can care for others.

Living in a small community means that I am often running into young women from the program around town. This means I get anecdotal progress reports. I also get to see the effects that the program has had on them over time. Sometimes it is demonstrated in the fact that a mentor still spends time with their younger buddy, years after their formal relationship in the program has passed. Other times I witness past participants at work and see some capacity of caregiving in the role they hold; often it is measured in their level of self-confidence and the care and integrity they offer those around them. When we do have a chance to chat, the girls always speak of their love of the Pass It On program and how it helped them grow as a person, gave them confidence and an acceptance of self and a feeling of belonging in our world, even in the most simple of ways.

Once in a while the stories that come back to me are more significant or the results of the program are very tangible. A few years back I had a participant in the program who had struggled with an eating disorder in her early teens, a common problem for many of the young women who come through the program. At the time she said there was no issue – it was something she had overcome. I took her at her word. Every year we have many discussions that involve body image and confidence. This person was able to tell her story in a circle of love and care. At the time I knew we were doing good work and that speaking about it was good for her but I believed that indeed, it was an issue from her past and had been put behind her.

Recently I ran into her and we sat down for tea to catch up. She told me that at the time she was in Pass It On, the eating disorder in fact had been an issue and that it was a very negative part of her life at that time. She admitted she had been in denial about it and had pushed away all her supports under the guise of being cured. Being in Pass It On was a transformative year for her. Listening to other young women share their stories about body weight and insecurities around being too heavy and too thin helped her realize she was not alone in her own issues. Helping the other members through their own difficulties helped her to see others’ needs instead of just looking at her own. The funny thing was, she said that the thing that changed her perspective the most was sharing the snacks every week at the beginning of the meetings.

Watching the other girls eat whole‐heartedly and without concern, rather with an appetite made her realize that food was just that: food. It was not something to battle with or struggle against. It was just something to eat, or not, and in the end she chose to eat.

I looked over my tea at that beautiful, vibrant, healthy young woman and thought how each of us struggle internally with that dialogue between what’s right and wrong and how all too often that negative voice – in its persistence – often comes out on top. Here was a case where that voice was put to bed. I felt so grateful that I get to facilitate a program based in simplicity: conversations in circle, mentorship through friendship and that simple acts of connecting and sharing are the impetus to extinguish those negative voices. And, that merely showing others who we are, safely exposing our vulnerabilities, we can all become more confident vibrant people.

We Reflect the Beauty of the People we Love by Kate Nash

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Winter seems to be a time of great change and learning for me. My mother passed away this year on January 1st. For anyone who has lost a parent, the mixed emotions and loss will be familiar. When a parent dies we flounder between our adult selves and the child inside and the grief plays games with both. I understood the experience would not be easy. I did not expect the challenge of supporting my children through their grief.

I have three children. Kai is ten, Kumi, my daughter is eight and Kobe is my youngest at six. My children were quite close with my mom as she lived here on salt spring as they grew. We lost my mom to cancer so the prospect of her death was one we knew, especially in the last months. My husband and I struggled with this concept and how to prepare our children for such a loss. In the end we decided as a family to shave our heads. This was an act of camaraderie with my mother and all the physical changes she was going through and for ourselves to have the physical experience of loss. Many of us hold great attachment to our hair. It defines who we are and symbolizes our character and our style. The loss of our hair to each of us in our family was unique and formative.

My daughter and I both had quite long hair. Kumi at the age of eight was becoming quite attached to her hair, she brushed it daily and was quite proud of its colour and length. To say that this experience was upsetting would be an understatement. It was jarring and heart breaking and completely shattering to her self-image. Kumi wore a toque any time she went out for 2 months after we shaved her head. She didn’t want anyone she didn’t feel completely safe with to see her without her hair. Kumi struggled with her self-confidence outside of the home before we shaved her head so this divergence from the norm broke her thin shield of self-‐confidence.

The day after we shaved our heads, to cheer her up and instill in her a sense of confidence with females, I told her I would take her to the Christmas Pass it On meeting. This meeting is filled with almost 40 young women from grade 8 ‐ 12. Kumi looks forward to attending these meeting one day with great excitement, she looks up to all these young women. I figured the opportunity to unveil our new hair do’s in front of a group of young women I knew and trusted to be sympathetic and supportive would be a good first step for Kumi. The idea of going roused her spirits, but when we were there and it was time to show what we had done, Kumi could not, would not unveil anything. As I looked around the room I understood more than ever how much hair could mean to a person and identify them. The entire room was filled with young women with hair and lots of it. How was my daughter to find confidence in the sympathetic eyes of 40 teenage girls who all reveled and identified in their hair, young women whose own confidence and femininity was defined by their hairstyles.

Letting go is a very hard thing to do. Patience, for me is even harder. I wanted so bad to give Kumi the confidence she’d lost. Better yet I wanted to give her more confidence, something from inside herself that had nothing to do with her hair or her look. We can give our children many things but this is not one of them. When my mother passed away, it was another blow to Kumi. Despite the sacrifice of our hair, Nana had still died. How do you explain to an eight year old that sacrifice does not always reap reward, but often just pairs up with the loss, compounding the grief.

Our bodies are amazing ecosystems that regulate and moderate what we have and what we need. After my mom’s passing, our bodies were compromised by grief. My children got sick, especially Kumi and we had to spend a lot of time at home, drinking tea, reading books and sleeping. Worry and impatience toyed with my mind. What had I done to my daughter? When would she get better? When would she realize that her hair had nothing to do with who she was? We can hold a person and feed a person and love a person but we cannot take away ones grief.

Last week when I went to pick my kids up from school and parked on the road I had a clear view of the schoolyard. Looking in I saw Kumi run down a path to the other side of the yard. She was smiling and she had no hat on, no hood. I watched as she caught up to friends laughing and talking. I began to cry. Kumi had found herself again all on her own. Sometimes all it takes is time. We all must find our own way back to ourselves.

Kumi, at the age of eight has realized that she is everything she knows herself to be no matter how she looks. Without her locks she is still loved and liked and fun and free and she knows this now intrinsically. How many of us know or trust that even without our hair or body shape or make up we would still be deemed beautiful? How much do we truly believe the saying “it’s who we are inside that truly matters”? A young woman in Pass it On last week was mentioning that she took the mirror out of her room and that since doing so her confidence has gone up. Instead of being disappointed by what she sees she trusts her inner eye to tell her how she feels and she lets the people around her be her mirror. We reflect the beauty of the people we love and emulate the love they have for us. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I cannot bring back my mother. Nor can I make my hair grow faster. But I can have the patience to see the process through. I can trust those I love to see me as I am.

 

Kate Nash – Pass It On Facilitator

SparkFest – Sparkling Inspiration

Noel, Kai, and Andrea @ Sparkfest 2015

Noel, Kai, and Andrea @ Sparkfest 2015

Sparkfest is the annual SWOVA fundraiser that the youth from Pass It On organize. This year on April 30, they really outdid themselves: Music by Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean, Tara Maclean & Suzanne Little, spoken word from Morgan Klassen, and the GISS imrov team. Not only did the Pass It On youth organise the show and silent auction, but some also shared wonderful music and stories with us. The room was packed with all ages and the atmosphere was sparkling.

The event raised $3,000 which will go directly towards running the Pass In On program next year.

Thanks to all the generous silent auction donors and to those who bought the wonderful items. Thanks to all the wonderful performers. Thanks to the fabulous team at the Harbour House. Thanks to our Pass It On funders this year: BC Gaming and Island Savings.

And a huge thanks to Kate Nash and the wonderful girls from Pass It On who organized and put on a fabulous, fun evening for all of us to enjoy!

Suzzane Little and Tara MacLean at Sparkfest 2015

Suzzane Little and Tara MacLean at Sparkfest 2015

GISS Improv Team at Sparkfest 2015

GISS Improv Team at Sparkfest 2015

SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Nurture Commitment – By Kate Nash

Pass It On members with Coordinator/Facilitator Kate Nash

Pass It On members with Coordinator/Facilitator Kate Nash

As the last months of Pass it On pass by, I am confronted with the word commitment. We all practice commitment in our lives, more often unconsciously.  We are the most committed to our lovers, children, friends and habits, following through in our support without thought or question.

Pass it on is a program that relies on commitment. Enthusiastic and optimistic young woman join the program in September, committing themselves to weekly meetings and phone calls with younger buddies. Overly confident, they make bold promises and form expectations of their commitment and engagement. We all do it. When something excites us we promise commitment, in whatever form. The actuality of that commitment over the test of time can often break us. Are we taught in life how to follow through?

What keeps us committed? Love, engagement, necessity, devotion, ego? In these bustling days of high expectations, we often over-commit ourselves, but under-commit ourselves in all the little ways. As an overly empathetic person, I often find myself seeing all the gaps and roles I should fill and neglecting the most necessary commitments like quiet days with my family working on projects solely for us. By April, young women in Pass it On who had made big expectations of commitment in the beginning are often left floundering, overly committed and on the brink of graduation or summer, creating new expectations, and new commitment.

Do we breed this in our society? Do we support and nurture commitment? What significance does commitment hold? Does it nurture us? I am beginning to believe that one’s commitment to another makes or breaks them. I believe that when we demonstrate commitment to one another and follow through with it, we excel. When we speak with someone and commit to the conversation, with eye contact and our full attention, a trust is developed. When we trust, we relax, we open up, we show more, feel more and give more back. I am beginning to believe that we need to make more small simple commitments to one another so that we can begin to discern more clearly the larger, broader commitments we can truly make and truly fulfill. When we commit ourselves to a conversation, a moment, an action, we are giving genuine support. When we are genuinely supported we begin to grow and thrive.

Every year I see the mentor buddy relationships develop healthier, happier and more confident young women. Imagine a world where young women and men experienced regular dedicated commitment to the moments of their lives. Not just from family, but from friends, teachers and community members. I challenge you to be more committed to the moment – to those you are sharing it with and to yourself. If you are moved, show your support. A supportive community is committed to our advancement, and advance is what we do every day.

If feel so inspired, please join us in Pass it On this Thursday evening at Sparkfest. Come and celebrate a small group of young women all practicing the art of commitment and support. A program making small steps in confidence and character building for young women here on Salt Spring.

By Kate Nash, Mentor Supervisor & Pass It On Coordinator

 

 

Sparkfest

A benifit for SWOVA’s Pass It On program

Thursday April 30th
Harbour House Hotel, Orchard Room
7:30 doors, 8:00pm start.
$20 advance tickets at Salt Spring Books $25 at the door

Presenting:
Ashleigh Ball (from Hey Ocean and voice artist for My Little Ponies and Care Bears)
Tara Maclean
Suzanne Little
Morgan Klassen (spoken word)
GISS ladies only improv

and much more

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SWOVAEmpowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Be Inspired! Sparkle at Sparkfest

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Good News! Sparkfest is weeks away, and we are all getting very excited for our 5th annual Pass It On benefit.

Sparkfest will be held on April 30th at the Harbour House Hotel.

 

 

 

This year’s generous performers are Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean; the Brony documentary; Tara Maclean;  Suzanne Little; spoken word from Morgan Klassen;  improv from the ladies only GISS imrov team; and Pass It On youth participants will share their stories and talents. To top it all off we will have our amazingly stacked silent auction. Every penny goes towards running the Pass It On program.  Pass It On is one of several programs for youth operated by SWOVA.  Please come out to support this intimate and amazing night.

 Thursday, April 30th 7:30pm

Harbour House Hotel, Orchard Room

Doors open at 7:30, show starts at 8:00.

Tickets are $20 in advance at the SWOVA office, 344 Lower Ganges Rd, SSI Mon – Weds 9-5 (250-537-1336) and Salt Spring Books, 104 McPhillips Ave,
or $25 at the door

 

Previous artists who have performed at Sparkfest:-

2013-05-09 Kinnie Starr

 

 

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The End Before the Beginning – by Kate Maurice

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Pass It On meeting

As Pass It On draws to a close for another year, I find myself in that same parallel of emotions I feel every year at this time. I am sad to part ways with the young women I’ve spent the past year with. Although we live in a small town and see each other often here and there, the connection we’ve built over the past year will shift as our time together will be one in passing instead of the intimacy of your Pass It On circles. And I also feel some relief. One less pressure, one less commitment and more room to spend with my family and animals, friends and garden.

But between this sadness and relief is always the worry of next year. The unknown of the non-profit and funding. Will there be enough funding to carry our little program one more year? It reminds me of my childhood when every June my father (an elementary teacher at the time) would be laid off. The concern and displacement he felt – regardless of his efforts as a teacher – to have to wait and see if he would be hired again. Pass it On rests every year in that purgatory. Despite my best efforts and the keen interest and success of the young women in my group, the program`s fate rests on a dime, and who will give it.

If Pass it On does not get the funding it needs to run again next year, I would be okay. I would miss it deeply but the program is a small one that carries a large impact. And that is what worries me about lack of funding, if the program were not to run. The loss of a program that nourishes and strengthens so many young women. Young women I see changed in the course of a year. In their confidence and compassion. If Pass It On does not run, who or what will fill the gap and who can judge how great the loss?

Pass It On directly influences approximately 30 grade 8 to grade 12 girls. Plus 20-30 more grade 8 girls through workshops facilitated by Pass It On. But how many are affected and changed by those 50 odd young women? Imagine what they create and enhance with their own enhancements. We effect each other greatly with our moods and responses. I hope the young women of Salt Spring continue to have the opportunity to be a part of Pass It On. To mentor, to grow, to share. I know it is not uncommon for amazing programs to lose funding and melt away leaving room for gaps and new things to fill those holes. But I also know when you tend a plant it grows strong, as opposed to replanting and neglecting over and over. Maybe as a community and a society we will continue to give and support small but incredibly important programs like Pass It On so we can mature in many positive ways as a People.

Kate Maurice – Coordinator Pass It On Program

 

Do donate to the Pass It On program or to SWOVA so we can continue our work with youth, please visit our website: www.swova.org

 

 

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“Less Guilt, More Joy!” – Valdi – By Kate Maurice

 

Pass It On Meeting

Pass It On Meeting

Working as a mentor supervisor I enjoy a position with the unique perspective of 28 young women ranging in age from 13-18 years old. I see many sides of these young women as we grow to know each other. Where often their insecurity is what drives their character, soon, with time and trust their true selves shine through. Putting words to their insecurities in a safe environment with belief and support for their emerging selves. Needless to say I care deeply about fostering true and positive growth into self and often find myself searching for the qualities which encourage confidence and those which take it away. The last two weekends were an amazingly clear example of the conflicting messages from our society and the hypocrisy in which our young women live.

I was empowered, engaged, and impressed by the women in my community at the celebrations for International Women’s Day that SWOVA and IWAV organized that took place on March 7th and 8th. A fundraiser for Pass it On, Sparkfest showcased amazing female talent and began the weekend events, followed by inspiring changemaker workshops held during the following day, concluding with an award dinner for community-nominated female changemakers from the Southern Gulf Islands. So many people came to support and celebrate women and their achievements. The young women who participated were engaged and positive. Emulating confidence and hope, surrounded by role models of achievement, insight, openness and the diverse reality of what it is to be a woman.

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Spark Fest 2014

On this positive note I went to visit my sister in Vancouver. It was lovely to be with her and reconnect. Unfortunately or interestingly, I ended up watching some television with her which is incredibly uncommon in my life on Salt Spring. Although I have watched a lot of T.V. in my past (I last regularly watched 10 odd years ago) I was unprepared for the bombardment of commercials. They ran after only 5-7 minutes of programming and contained at least 60% of ads for hair and make up, 15% for cleaning products, 20% food ads and 5% random sales. The hair, makeup and cleaning ads all contained women. The hair and makeup were a barrage of pulsing images of women’s manicured and enhanced eyes, lips, skin, slight frames and glossy hair. The cleaning ads were of thin attractive “moms” who were stressed about dirt and satiated with sparkles. When I commented, my sister said she didn’t pay any attention to the ads. I agreed that logically and literally she probably knew they were nonsense and ignored them. I wonder though, how completely can we ignore something we are staring right at? How critical can our minds be of what we are subconsciously absorbing? Are we better off when we are young and impressionable? Or are we better at discerning as adults? Do we ever lose our impressionability? And does time wear down our judgments or strengthen them?

I believe humans are easily influenced, especially as teens. We learn from our families and peers and from those things we see and do the most. We are creatures of habit easily falling into patterns or judgments based on what we see and experience. It can be incredibly hard to go against what we are told we are and how we should look and act. Television is only one piece of the social media that all of us are up against. The Internet, billboards, radio, music and movies all actively promote these stereotypes of women young and old. How do we protect one another from these obsessive and constant messages we are all absorbing about how we should look and feel. How do the effects of a weekend with approximately 200 hundred people combat hour by hour pulses of messages that none of us are enough and none of us are the norm?

By Kate Maurice, Coordinator of SWOVA’s Pass It On program

 

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Weekend of Entertainment, Workshops, Recognition and Celebration

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014

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For over one hundred years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been a day of celebration and recognition to mark exceptional achievements of women and to build on inequities still to be addressed.  This year SWOVA, IWAV, Victim Services – with the generous support of the Harbour House Hotel – have teamed up to present a weekend of exciting events for all members of our community in honour of the exceptional contributions women make to life in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Weekend activities kick off Friday evening with the annual Sparkfest Evening of Entertainment.  Saturday will include a full day of Inspiring and Energizing Workshops and skill training sessions.  Saturday evening will culminate with a fabulous dinner and recognition ceremony hosted by Elizabeth May.

Members of the public have nominated over twenty women from the Southern Gulf Islands for their ‘change making’ contributions to our communities.  We will honour these women’s achievements from all aspects of community life including; environmental, political, social, science, the arts, education and economic.  Elizabeth May will present awards for these “Community Change Makers” at “An Evening of Celebration & Inspiration” at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm on 8th March.

Friday 7th March, 7:30pm –   SparkFest   ($20 or $25 at the door)
Saturday 8th March, 9am -5pm  –  Workshops  ($10 for the whole day, $5 for youth)
Saturday 8th March, 5:00 pm –  Social & Cash Bar
6:30 pm    –    Dinner    ($35 or $250 for a table of 8, youth, $30.00)

Tickets are available from:  SWOVA, 344 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island. BC, V8K 2V3

For more information please contact SWOVA    e-mail: info@swova.org   Phone: 250-537-1336

 

All events will take place at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm,

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121 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island,
who have made the event possible through their generosity.

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A truly inspiring evening – by Megan Manning

Kinnie Starr gets the crowd moving at Sparkfest 2013

Kinnie Starr gets the crowd moving at Sparkfest 2013

 

A clear vision, a number of passionate and engaged youth, inspiring performers, and many generous community donations, make up the Sparkfest recipe for success.

The vision comes from Kate Maurice – Mentor/Supervisor of SWOVA’s Pass It On program – and from amazing organizer, James Cowan.  The passionate and engaged youth are the participants in SWOVA’s Pass It On program.  The inspiration flows through the incredible performers.

The other ingredient in the Sparkfest recipe which made it such a success this year was the audience!  Over 100 members of our wonderful community came out to show support for youth on Salt Spring Island.

On the bill for this year’s event were music from Kinnie Starr, T.Nile, and Julia Beattie, dance from Naomi Jason & Advanced Dancers, poetry from Cat Paquette, and yoga from Shannon Cowan. The performers honoured the mentors in their lives and shared stories about their journeys.

Sparkfest raised funds which will make a big difference to youth in the Pass It On program. This year, 15 young women from the high school mentored 15 grade 8 girls, helping them to make the transition to high school.  The concept of Pass it On is to pass on wisdom, information, inspiration, understanding, and support from adults to young women, and young women to girls, thus strengthening our community ties and connecting youth – who often feel isolated from their community.  Sparkfest was a perfect example of passing on creativity, inspiration and generosity of spirit.

The list of people to thank is long and we value the incredible support from our community.  Businesses gave prizes for the silent auction, Harbour House donated the Orchard room and accommodation for off island performers, Rawsome Living Foods fed them while they were here, and all the performers donated their time and creativity. In addition, to all the businesses and parents who donated time goods, services and support – a huge THANK YOU!

In gratitude…

 

SWOVA

 

Julia Beattie at Sparkfest 2013

Julia Beattie at Sparkfest 2013

T. Nile at Sparkfest 2013

T. Nile at Sparkfest 2013

Kinnie Starr at Sparkfest 2013
Kinnie Starr at Sparkfest 2013

 

Intentional Mentoring – by Kate Maurice

Kate Maurice with a Pass It On Mentor at a mentor training meeting
Kate Maurice with a Pass It On Mentor at a
mentor training meeting

 

In my life, the mentor’s I’ve had have always been people I’ve recognized after the fact. I think it’s rarer when we find ourselves in intentional mentoring.  In either direction – to have the confidence to believe you could be a mentor to someone or conversely the realization of the need for a mentor in your life.

The teen years are a great example of this.  Most teens could use a mentor but are not always aware they need any answers or support. Often when I’m interviewing the young women to be in the Pass It On program and I ask them if they have ever had a mentor, most immediately say no. Then after I describe the qualities of character of a mentor they remember one, if not more mentors from their life. How often are we affected, inspired, ‘mentored’ in our life?  How often do we give credit to those who have led/affected our choices?

In November, the older girls – the mentors (grade 10-12) – chose their buddies (grade 8 girls) that they will mentor for the duration of the program (end of April). What an interesting experience to watch the young women pick the younger girls they are going to intentionally mentor for the next 5 months.  How do you decide who needs you and your insight the most? How do we know who most needs our help? These young women took the plunge with confidence – teenage hood is good for that. They believe in the wisdom they have gained in their short 15-17 years. And I know from experience that the experience of the next 5 months will mentor the mentors.  There is always so much to learn, so much wisdom to gain.

Something to think on – who are your mentors? Let’s take the time to acknowledge the mentors in our life and thank them for leading us thus far.

Kate Maurice – Mentor/Supervisor, Pass It On program