Topic: Youth programs

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

Respect and the Internet – by Lynda Laushway


The days when etiquette encompassed topics such as who should open a door for who and how to set a table correctly, definitely predated the internet and social media.  We live in a whole new world now where communication is instantaneous and anonymous. When we communicate we are easily disguised. Not that we didn’t have ‘poison pen letters’ and other ways to defame people back then- it just didn’t happen at the speed and intensity that the internet has provided.  It also was generally less public, without thousands of viewers around the world ready to become voyeurs into public campaigns to humiliate and degrade someone and perhaps ‘jump on board’ while allowing the instigator to escape detection- and all of it with the click of a button.

It is the Wild West in cyberspace with no rules and no etiquette to guide us. In ‘the privacy of our own home’ the world of cyberspace can be one of disguise and deceit.    Here at SWOVA we have been mulling over this issue and asking ourselves’ “What does respect look like on the internet?” Supported by the Salt Spring Island Foundation and potentially the Canadian women’s Foundation, we will be developing new curriculum that addresses respect on the internet and how to support youth to stay safe and remain respectful in their relationships through this technology.

Some of the internet etiquette and safety that we will explore is:

  • Is it okay to end a relationship by e-mail or text?
  • How does respect relate to internet pornography and how does it affect our personal relationships?
  •  How does the respect that we show each other in our day-to-day relationships translate into the online world?
  • If miscommunication is happening online, when do we decide that we need to talk in person?

Youth have an important role to play in setting the guidelines that will help us all to know how to translate respectful behaviour into cyberspace.  There are a myriad of questions that need to be asked and we are beginning this important dialogue.


by Lynda Laushway – Executive Director, SWOVA


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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.


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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 A Salt Spring Island campaign taking place with the aim to address stereotypes and silence regarding crime and victims of crime in our community.  SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project secured the funding from the Federal Ministry of Justice to run the campaign as part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week April 6-12, 2014.

We wanted to do something that would be meaningful in our community.  Our goal was to provide accessible information that would generate thought provoking discussion and awareness.  Although we enjoy a high degree of perceived safety here on SSI, crime does affect our community in profound ways. Particularly disturbing are the disproportionate number of children, youth and women who are victims of crime as a result of family violence, sexual abuse and elder abuse.  The first level of support for many victims of crime is family and friends.  We wanted to illuminate that as well as the resources that are available in our community.

The collective (SWOVA, IWAV, Connecting Generations) has put together three initiatives which will take place over the week.  Firstly, a thought provoking public media campaign aimed to generate community awareness, dialogue and education regarding victims of crime in our community.  Secondly a youth led social media campaign.  The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project have developed an online contest.  Gift Certificates valued at $50 each for local businesses including (Country Grocer, Uptown Pizza, Barb’s Buns, Treehouse and SS Roasting Company) will be awarded to those who get the most “shares” and “likes” for promoting the information/education materials we have produced.  Anyone can participate in the contest.  Check out the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project Facebook page ( for contest rules.  Thirdly, a Resource Fair will be held in the Gazebo at Centennial Park on Saturday, April 12.  Virtually all of the on island organizations that provide resources and supports to victims of crime and their families will be there.  SSGLP members will be conducting a brief needs assessment, asking islanders what is working on the island, as well as what is missing in our community.  Treats will be provided courtesy of Country Grocer!  Everyone is invited.

The Yes it Happens Here campaign is a collective effort.  Led by SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project, another great program from SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow partnered with IWAV (Island Women Against Violence) and Connecting Generations to make this all happen.  Support provided through a grant from the Department of Justice Canada.


Andria Scanlan – Coordinator, Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project



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Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project

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Weekend of Entertainment, Workshops, Recognition and Celebration

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014


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:   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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Youth Take the Lead in Needs Assessment for SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project – by Andria Scanlan, Project Coordinator

Youth Advisory Council with coordinator, Andria Scanlan

Youth Advisory Council with coordinator, Andria Scanlan

The eleven young women who make up the Youth Advisory Council for the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project (SSGLP) will be joining the ranks of off island commuters over the next few weeks.  In order to explore what their peers from Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Saturna Islands believe might be standing in the way of them fully participating in their communities and reaching their full potential.  They will be riding the daily water taxis that bring students to GISS from the Outer Islands to carry out a needs assessment with girls and young women.

Canada’s Girls Action Foundation (March 2013) recently published reports identifying plenty of excellent data showing that girls and young women living in rural communities face significant barriers compared to their urban peers and same aged male counterparts.

Participants of SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls Leadership Project (SSGLP) are between the ages of 15 – 24 years.  The team has been working towards finalizing the methodology details for the five-island needs assessment in conjunction with the Project Coordinator and UBC based research experts.  We will ask girls and young women to identify and explore issues and barriers that they experience living in our communities.  Once the issues are identified and prioritized, root causes can be identified and plans for change can begin.

Working on the needs assessment

Working on the needs assessment

The task at hand is extremely important.  SSGLP Youth Advisory Council members will survey girls and young women aged 15 – 24 years who have primarily grown up in the Southern Gulf Islands.  According to Statistics Canada  (2012) there are 615 females between the ages of 15 – 24 years living in our five island grouping, which coincides with School District # 64 (Salt Spring, Saturna, Galiano, Mayne and Pender Islands).

“We plan to survey 25 percent of the total eligible population living amongst the islands this summer which will result in a statistically powerful representation of our young female population”,  Andria Scanlan,  Project Coordinator.  Lisa Halstead, SD# 64 Superintendent and project supporter has given the go ahead for SSGL members to ride the school water taxis in order to access the Outer Islands population.

“It’s exciting to be able to connect with other youth from smaller islands.  Physically travelling to the Outer Islands is the best way to start taking change into our own hands.”  Nikky Varlis Love, Youth Advisory Council member.

Plans to collect data from the SSI population are also being finalized and will include posting SSGL members in different places throughout the community this spring and summer to collect the information.  According to Sarah Kyle, also from the Youth Advisory Council “I am looking forward to hearing what young women in our community have to say and seeing people’s reaction to the survey”.  Data Analysis will take place later this summer.  Stay tuned!

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…




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


A Great End to a Great Year – by Kevin Vowles

What a journey it has been. My first year as a facilitator with the Respectful Relationships program has come to an end. It has been an amazing experience that has dramatically re-shaped much of my own thinking. Lifelong learning is alive and well on Salt Spring that’s for sure. I remember when I started doing SWOVA’s online training at the start of the year, and I remarked to my supervisor, Chris Gay, that I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid to do the training. It was so amazing to learn so much about the community here, social justice, gender, violence, and myself.

When I first started the position, I was seeking training over and above everything else. As a teacher I felt somewhat out of my element, but was enjoying the process and wanting to do better. I came to realize that facilitation is a process that you have to learn by doing. Sure you can read articles, and go to trainings, which I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do, but really it is an intuitive process that varies so much from person to person. Most importantly, our own personal journey of self-awareness drastically moulds the journey of facilitation. To know who we truly are, where we have come from, and where we are going, informs the work we do. By being more grounded in who we are, we can better listen to others and empathize with where they are at.

I’ve experienced this, and I’ve watched the youth of Salt Spring Island experience this. I had the great honour of accompanying two R+R Youth Facilitators to Toronto to the Canadian Women’s Foundation National Skills Institute on Teen Healthy Relationship Programming.  Jade Beauvais and Josh Funfer have exemplified many of the characteristics of true leaders. They are keenly aware of social and environmental issues shaped by violence. They are very much self-aware young people who are interested in working towards a better tomorrow. And of course they have gained valuable facilitation skills as a result of much of their work in the classroom with Grade 7 and 8 students both here on Salt Spring Island and on Pender Island.

I have heard it said that a great facilitator, and or teacher learns as much if not more from students, than he or she knows. I am not remotely afraid to say that I learned far more this year from the youth on Salt Spring, than I brought with me. By sitting in circles where we listen to one another, a sincere, authentic and genuine atmosphere is consistently created. Everyone can build emotional intelligence, better communication skills and engage in building a better world. I know I did and will look forward to another year working in School District 64.

So some thanks to end the year:

  • A huge thank-you to my co-facilitator Christina Antonick for guiding me gently down the path of awareness.
  • Deep thanks to my supervisor Chris Gay for her patience and wisdom.
  • Gratitude to Lynda Laushway for steering the ship in the right direction—always.
  • Many thanks to Megan and Juli for helping with the things that needed doing to keep us afloat.
  • A huge acknowledgement to the youth of the community. You are being the change we need by participating, encouraging respectful behaviours, sharing your stories, listening and engaging in dialogue about change.
  • Finally, many, many thanks to all of the staff in the school district for continuing to make our program accessible to the youth. We could not do it without you.


by Kevin Vowles, R+R Adult Facilitator

And My Best Friend is Gay – by Christina Antonick

In the classroom, we use Energizers as activities for groups of youth to practice skill building related to the Respectful Relationships program as well as have the opportunity to move around and be in their bodies during our sessions. In a recent circle we played “The Wind Blows For” which is an activity where one youth stands in the middle and shares something that is true for him/her and then if anyone in the outer circle agrees or shares the statement in common, they move and find a new chair. It’s playful and engaging – an activity that youth enjoy.

Recently, a youth spoke the following, “The wind blows for anyone who has a best friend who is gay.” More than a handful of youth moved to different seats. As an educator doing youth violence prevention work for almost two decades, I always hold tight to these magical moments. I am certain that in many other BC communities, many youth would not feel safe to make such a statement – when I was in high school, this would not have happened. It is a great thing to realize that youth are grappling with homophobia and attempting to make conscious efforts to get real with themselves and others about the importance of diversity and respect and to feel comfortable to speak about friendship and community as it relates to sexual orientation.

Christina Antonick, Adult Facilitator, Respectful Relationships Program