Tagged: Youth programs

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:

http://ssifoundation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/SSIF-Vital-Signs-Report.pdf

 

Grant cheque presentation photo

2016-17 Membership & Fundraising Appeal

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November 2016

Dear Friends of SWOVA,

 

SWOVA engages this Fall season with all the excitement and creativity that new staff and new programs bring.  Our new Executive Director, Kiran Dhingra and her staff, share the passion that has inspired SWOVA’s work for the last twenty years – a passion for violence-prevention programming and the mentorship of tomorrow’s leaders.

Those young leaders are the best spokespeople for SWOVA’s programs:

Maja Nordine, Respectful Relationships & Youth Team participant 6+ years; 2016 grad:

“I truly believe this program works. It’s all the stuff you’re expected to know entering teenage and adulthood but aren’t taught. Things that are considered common sense like how to manage stress and anxiety, how to talk to your peers and people of authority confidently and respectfully, how to be assertive, consent, empathy, and most importantly how to prevent violence towards other people and yourself…”

High School Mentor of Grade 8 girl through Pass It On, Girls’ Program, Spring, 2016:

“It’s empowering and inspiring and talks about legit (not sugar-coated) stuff.  So vital!” 

High School member, Council of new Pass It On, Boys’ Program, September, 2016:

“I have only attended two Councils and already I notice a difference in the ways I am acting.”

Empowered young people may be the island’s greatest export.  Wherever they go, we know they will use the communication and conflict resolution skills they’ve developed through SWOVA.

Please consider supporting SWOVA and investing in tomorrow’s leaders. Then take the next step–become a member of SWOVA today. Members stay connected to our work through quarterly newsletters and receive news of our events such as our International Women’s Day Gala.

We know empowerment goes both ways: those who enable our programs get to belong to a vibrant, equitable and healthy community.  Thank you for your support of SWOVA.

Please join/renew your membership on or before Thursday, December 1, 2016 to have voting rights at our Annual General Meeting.  Time and place to be announced, watch our website and Facebook page and the “What’s On” calendar in the Driftwood.  

Click HERE to renew/purchase your membership or make a donation.

Click HERE to read about the most recent additions to our our programs!

Warmly,

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Sarah Belknap
Chair of the Board, SWOVA

 

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

Respectful Relationships National Grantee Meeting in Calgary by Christina Antonick

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“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

 

Australian’s research on best-practice respectful relationships programs includes SWOVA – by Ellen Poyner

Ellyn with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

Ellen with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

I’m an Australian Social Worker, who had the privilege of visiting SWOVA as part of my Churchill Fellowship – a scholarship supporting me to travel to Canada and the USA to investigate Family Violence and Sexual Assault prevention programs, approaches and evaluations.

As I travel around, my intention is to learn about unique and promising practice, to then share when I return home. I was inspired by Lynda, Christina and Sharyn who shared details about SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program, training and youth engagement. I was particularly interested to learn about the Youth Team as I’ve not heard of such an established youth-leadership component in any program back home. I loved that the focus was on providing further enrichment and opportunity for the participants, as much as supporting them to co-facilitate future programs.

I was also interested to hear about the strengths and challenges of SWOVA’s online, module style training which allows the program to reach more young people in more parts of Canada. This is perhaps something for Australian’s to consider, given our equally large and expansive country.

Given that Salt Spring Island is relatively isolated, I was amazed that the SWOVA team has achieved so much.

Thanks for having me!

by Ellen Poyner

If you would like, you can follow my Fellowship blog – ellenpoyner.wordpress.com

 

Ellyn with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Ellen with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Re-defining Feminism by Elise Pearson

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I find that definitions can be limiting and problematic, and I’d like to see if I can encourage you to think for yourselves about what this word, or movement, or ideology might mean to you. Instead I’ll start by providing a few different definitions I’ve come across that I like, and try to give evidence as to why I think that feminism is a topic vital of covering here.

Bell Hooks describes feminism as the movement to end sexism.

Others say it is a collective effort to dismantle patriarchy.

A common definition is the aim to strive towards political, economic, cultural and social equality for women.

I say “for women” because throughout history (at least in the Western world) feminism has largely been coined as a “women’s” fight or movement. I’ll talk mainly about the West because that is the world that many of us find ourselves situated in. I think that when we discuss any kind of social justice work, it is vital that we start with ourselves.

We have the first wave and the second wave and the third waves of feminism, and I am not going to deny that there have been pivotal moments throughout our history that have largely influenced where we are today in terms of equality. We’ve made some huge leaps. However, I am curious about the spaces between these moments – what has and still is falling through the cracks, and how each and every one of us participates in ways that allow us to be complicit in systems that work to recreate and maintain social inequality.

I have come across a lot of people that shy away from the word feminism. I believe that this word is misunderstood. For myself, feminism has never been an attack on men, but people ask all the time, why not humanism?

I’ll give you the short version of my response: many of the systems we live in here, are patriarchal. Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination is still pervasive in our culture; unequal pay for the same work, sexual harassment and abuse, sexist comments, and still the constant message that one half of our worlds’ population is worth less than their male counterparts.

We are often bombarded with media and messages about what a “feminist” is. I see a disconnection between what feminist ideologies have sought to uncover or achieve, and common perceptions or stereotypes of what feminism is or should be. The self-identified feminists I know are curious about social inequality. I have witnessed many, across any gender category, who do “feminist work” that have often been silenced in sometimes disturbing ways, because to question the systems and social norms we exist within means questioning the ways in which we ourselves perpetuate them.

What I have come to learn about feminist theory is that many feminist academics don’t believe in an end goal of perfect equality for all. They seek to find ways in which to address how or why we live in a socially unjust world, and provide insight into ways that we might seek to do better. Let’s take an oversimplified example and contrast a child living in the Western world, say Canada, who never goes without, and is surrounded by TV screens with a child living in Sub-Saharan Africa, who has a plastic bottle to play with. How do we compare their happiness? I think that many feminists I know would agree that “equality” across the board is not necessarily going to be the answer. Better quality of life is going to look different across different contexts. One of the things that I admire about feminism is that it tends to cherish complexity.

The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project seeks to develop leadership skills in young women. This work has provided me with a window into the ramifications of living in what I call, a wounded world. It has forced me to look at myself, and listen to how my peers suffer from the same fears that I did and still do – feelings of inadequacy, barriers keeping them from stating how they truly feel, loving whom they truly want to love, striving for what they truly want, and caring for their bodies amidst the pressures of an unattainable ideal of beauty. Despite having been handed immense amounts privilege, too many of us are hurting. In the Girl’s Leadership project, I have been witness to the power of what I call feminism. We speak honestly, curiously, and approach conversations with open minds and hearts.

What really hurts is that we live in a world where men and women are expected to BE certain ways.  A world where men are dominant and women subordinate and anyone in between doesn’t even fit inside the frame — a world without a Salish Sea Boys’ Leadership Project. I grieve for that world, and I’m sad for men. In the past, feminism has targeted and been exclusive and sometimes it has had good reason to be. It’s 2015 and we live and exist in this world together. No one benefits from oppression. No one benefits from a world where men are told not to care and not to cry and women are told be quiet and comply. What I see is feminism bringing light to the tangled mess that we’ve made of our society.

I don’t think that it is the word Feminism that scares us, or even it’s connotations. What scares us is the the potential that if we could be honest with ourselves and the way things are going in our world, we’d see that they are pretty messed up. That would call into question a lot of truths we (often somewhat unconsciously) hold about others and ourselves. I am a woman. I am cisgenderd. I am white. But what do those categories do for me? Why am I allowed to participate in spaces where I can be emotional, open and honest with my heart? What are the kinds of barriers I may or may not face as I move through the world as a result of both my privileges and oppressions? I think there is value in asking questions about the way the world works, and noticing how that directly impacts who we are. Only then can we forge a path towards the kind of world we want to live in. Feminism has allowed me to find agency in awareness, both open-mindedness and critique, and curiosity.

I wish I could somehow make feminism more accessible, because I think that the world could be a better, more socially just, place if we were all a little bit more curious, and a little bit more honest. I think the best place to start is with ourselves. So I boldly encourage you to ask more questions and to be more honest, whatever that looks like for you – also, unabashedly, to promote feminism.

Elise Pearson, Outreach Coordinator for the Salish Sea Girl’s Leadership project

 

 

 

SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

The Process of Consent by Elise Pearson

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On May 25th girls from the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project and recruits from grade 12 at GISS (Gulf Islands Secondary School) entered the high school to talk to the grade 11 students about sexual health and consent. In my own experience, and in speaking with young people in my community, the process of negotiating consent seems to be conflated with a multitude of pressures. R+R has definitely helped to create dialogue amongst youth.  However, aspects of negotiation that are rarely discussed are the roles that power, privilege and stereotypes play within everyday expectations of what it means to be a sexual being. Rejection came up as another challenge when talking about consent, and consumption of drugs and alcohol also complicate any form of negotiation.

I believe that any time a pair of people negotiate consent, they bring expectations about gender identity, sexuality and experience. We opened our workshops with conversations about stereotypes with the hope that students and our facilitators might address some dynamics of power/disempowerment that exist in our day-to-day lives. I felt we only skimmed the surface; still, our object was to invoke conversation about how we identify, and how this might influence the way that we treat one another. In discussions after our role-play on consent, we questioned why certain stereotypes came up, where they came from, and how they might be debunked.

We had several conversations in our group about vulnerability, confidence, empowerment, and specifically, how we tend to attribute rejection to a lack of self-worth. The process of rejecting some one else who might be pursuing you was seen as more challenging than being rejected. Our consent scenarios only showed glimpses of what it looks like to experience this “letting down.” I am curious about how youth, or anyone, can communicate in ways that allow for rejection to be a positive process. Instead of immediately attributing rejection to personal inadequacy, can we thank each other for being clear about our boundaries?  Our hope with these workshops was to get students thinking about alternative, healthier processes of agreement or consensus. For whoever is initiating, is it possible not to pressure the other person if they seem unsure? Can we use our personal power to be receptive to rejection? Another question was raised in our group –

“why would you want to try and have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?”

While Canadian law clearly states that you cannot receive consent from someone who is intoxicated, the reality is that youth are negotiating sexual activity in the same moment that they are dealing with substance use. Our team of facilitators decided collectively that the best message to promote was a sober, enthusiastic yes, but conversations about these issues need to keep happening, because there is clearly no hard and fast solution.

First and foremost, the process of negotiating consent is dependent on those involved. Regardless of social pressures, they decide how those interactions play out. As much as we could all encourage vulnerability, open communication, safety and consent, I believe it will take a lot more than an afternoon of conversation to instigate consenting sexual activity across the board. There is a deeply gendered history of non-consenting sexual interactions. Still, the fact that conversations are even happening with youth today might mean that we are moving forward in a positive direction. I returned home after our workshops and talked with my family and friends about consent, and perhaps students in grade 11 and our team of facilitators did the same.

Elise Pearson, Outreach Coordinator for the Salish Sea Girl’s Leadership project

 

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