Topic: Respectful Relationships (R+R) Program

Respectful Relationships Re-design!

We are delighted to share news of recent funding from #SaltSpringIslandFoundation in the amount of $26,250!  Funds will be used to update and re-redesign the award-winning #RespectfulRelationshipsProgram which has served more than 10,000 youth across the Southern Gulf Islands over 17 years. The Program teaches youth to choose nonviolent behaviors; foster safe, stable, nurturing relationships between young people and caring adults in their community; develop and implement school-wide activities and policies to foster social connectedness and a positive social environment; and change societal norms about the acceptability of violence and willingness to intervene.  Our deep gratitude to SSI Foundation for their support of this vital community program!

Each year SSI Foundation measures community needs to identify areas requiring attention. Read this year’s helpful and informative report here:


Grant cheque presentation photo

Respectful Relationships National Grantee Meeting in Calgary by Christina Antonick



“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.”
– Sonia Gandhi-

In early October, I was blessed to travel to Calgary for a national meeting of Canadian Women’s Foundation’s 17 Teen Healthy Relationships Grantees – of which our Respectful Relationships is one. CWF are working to stop violence, end poverty, and empower girls in every province and territory in Canada. For 15 years they have been investing in teen healthy relationship programs; the last five of which have been multi-year investments. These grants focus on school-based healthy relationship programs and were developed as a key strategy to prevent violence against women and girls.

During our two days together, I had the great pleasure of meeting over 30 educators, activists and community mobilizers from across the country. From my hometown province, Nova Scotia’s Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE) with programs in Indian Brook and Membertou First Nations, in Montreal, Building Healthy Relationships at Bureau de la Communauté Haïtienne de Montreal, TAG-V: Teens Against Gender Violence Abrigo Centre doing amazing work with youth in Toronto. Newcomer Youth & Healthy Relationships a co-ed, school-based healthy relationships program targeted to newcomer refugee youth (aged 12-17). These are only a few of the many national programs that are offering exceptional youth violence prevention programs and our 2 days together left me full of inspiration, hope and pride! I am also really grateful that SWOVA’s Respectful Relationship’s Program joins together with communities across Canada to create a network of national education models aimed at eliminating violence and fostering health, safety and well being for youth.

by Christina Antonick, R+R Facilitator


Photo: Megan Manning


SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships are Inclusive for All – by Sharyn Carroll

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 8.56.17 AMThe question is – how do we talk about the prevalence of violence against women in our communities without blaming and shaming the boys and young men in the room?

Just the other day I was approached by a member of our community who felt strongly that boys are being blamed for the violence that exists in this world in the R+R workshops.  I was concerned that this was a total misconception of what actually goes on in our workshops and that it was not based on reality.

Before I began working with SWOVA I worked as a substitute EA in both the middle and high school, which gave me a unique opportunity to sit in on circles with SWOVA staff, faculty and students.  What I experienced was a radical movement of inclusion for everyone.

In the mainstream we view violence prevention as a predominately female issue. The danger in this rhetoric is that is divides the problem into an “us vs them” model where blame lands on both sides.  In reality violence prevention is a human issue that needs both men and women to address if we are going to build a new paradigm.

What I see during the SWOVA sessions now as a facilitator are young women and men having the hard conversations.  We have the hard conversations about bullying, homophobia, racism, gender identification, sexism and violence.   At times these conversations can be uncomfortable as we come face to face with our own biases, but I see the youth from all identities taking the plunge and diving in.  I see difficult questions being raised as we learn to listen to one another.

Yes, we look at perpetrators of violence, the role the media plays, and how we contribute to continuing this imbalance but also what we can do to change it.  Part of this dialogue requires looking at the statistics around violence to gain a better understanding of what is going on in communities across this county, for with knowledge comes power. Boys and men face a great deal of pressure in this world that has far reaching impacts in their lives and the lives of everyone they choose to be in relationship with.  I see the young men stepping up and gathering a personal toolkit to help them navigate their way though.

Emma Watson’s (of Harry Potter fame) recent speech to the UN summed it up best when she described the role she sees for men in violence prevention. “Men (should) take up this mantle so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”

Sharyn Carroll, R+R Facilitator




SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

An Ode to Women – by Kevin Vowles




It has been a year indeed.  My God, as I look back on it I wonder how I have managed to keep my head above water.  I’ve gone through some big losses personally in relationships, and life changing family dynamics.  It has been a life-changing year already!!!  I have never felt feelings as deeply or as truly as I have this year.

Part of the reason for this is because of my work with SWOVA.  My work has changed me as a man and a human being.  I want to express feeling gratitude.  I have felt profound grief, sorrow, anguish, loss, hope, care, love, happiness, confusion, peace and turmoil in ways I never have.  As surely as relationships shift, so too do the emotions, and being able to cry in such freedom from self-judgement and shame has been liberating.

I kindly thank-you…all of the women on Salt Spring Island who have made this work possible, and acknowledge how this has shifted for me.  My spirit feels lighter and my soul free.

Expressing my truths is one of my biggest challenges that I face as a man.  This is my truth though.

Like many men, I’ve sought to assert my manhood by taking unnecessary and stupid risks.  When I was younger I drank too much, drove too fast, and considered myself invincible when it came to venturing out onto cold and unforgiving waters.  While in Africa I took to becoming a trained snake catcher, even handling venomous snakes.  Before coming to Salt Spring Island I took up chainsawing with no experience, as well as climbing ladders because I felt as a man I should be able to.

Because of my work with SWOVA I have been able to examine my participation in systems of hyper-masculinity which take the lives of many men globally, and could have taken mine.  I continue to push boundaries in life as we all should, but now more safely than I have in the past.  I am grateful to still be here, and grateful to be released from having to prove myself because I am a man.  I owe the women of this island for this profound and liberating realization, which up until moving here three years ago was completely foreign to me.

If ever something should happen to me I want you to know that I appreciate your humanity in a truly whole sense.  I see you in all your greatness and love, and courage, and recognize the deep and profound impact you have had on young men and women here.

If ever something should happen to me, please let people know that I was doing what I was meant to do in life, fully happy and whole as a person, and loved everyone with as much heart as I had.  Please tell people I felt with my whole heart, with complete vulnerability, free from shame and embarrassment.  I have felt my humanity and it feels great.  I have felt complete acceptance even amongst my own shortcomings, failings and stupid decisions.  I have felt belonging.

To say that I have learned a lot would be a drastic understatement.  Three years of R+R under my belt with Christina, Lynda, Megan, Juli and all of the wonderful staff in School District 64 has been the most profoundly life changing experience for me.  It is something I could never have ever anticipated having in my life.  I am a profoundly lucky man, and am indeed so grateful for the work that SWOVA has done in this area.  My words cannot express the feelings I have in my body; of being emotionally, intellectually and actually physically open to the effects of this work.  I feel light, free, whole and lucky.  I am lucky and the world is lucky.  This community is profoundly lucky.

I so enjoy the work, and love taking it to a whole other level with youth in as many ways as is possible.  I hang on every word, and although I will admit I am sometimes triggered by conversations, and drift to things in my life, I am present in a way that I have never been before.

I also appreciate you all seeing me.  I know you do.  Thank-you.  I hope to live up to all of the things that you want for me.

My intention as we move forward is to move slowly, deliberately, with care, openness, hopefulness, gratitude, empathy, respect and warmth.  I feel gratitude to be able to state this intention and will attempt to practice it daily.  I would never have been able to state this intention without the hard work of women here, who have made my path as a real man possible.  I wrote this with International Women’s Day in mind- March 8th. On this most important of days, the day we celebrate life givers; women, I sincerely thank-you all.

 by Kevin Vowles, R+R Facilitator




 SWOVA Empowering Youth For a Better Tomorrow