There are a whole lot of people trying to stop violence and create a culture of peace in the world. It is absolutely amazing and uplifting to see it, and now I am part of such a remarkable movement. I’ve just completed delivering ten days of Respectful Relationships coursework in the school.

I’ve co-facilitated the Grade 9 and 10 curriculum and am amazed by not only  the remarkable thought which went into developing such an innovative violence prevention curriculum, but am equally ‘starstruck’ by the thoughts from students.  Hearing about what their experiences have been like, walking in both the more peaceful world that is Salt Spring Island, but also treading carefully in other less peaceful places. To say it has been an eye opener would be an understatement. I have seen and experienced violence in my life journeys, but the youth of today face different forms of violence and challenges than my generation did and it is my firm belief that the R+R program is giving them the tools to not only survive, but thrive!

More and more, we understand that violence is a growing, not shrinking global pandemic, affecting everyone. And when we say that it affects everyone, we mean that the health of people is dramatically affected. Violence is a determinant of health – whether it is women being raped, young men being shot and killed, or more subtle forms of violence. Huge portions of the global population are starving because of the persistent focus of resources to perpetuate violence and the promotion of and advancement of corporations, instead of food security or health care.

In marginalized communities where violence is pervasive and widespread, we often see higher rates of alcohol consumption. Studies done by Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) through violence prevention, indicate not only is advertising for alcohol more common in low income communities, but there are far more liquor stores in lower income areas. As the study indicates, “Alcohol is involved in two-thirds of all homicides and is associated with rape and battering.” (Links between Violence and Health Equity www.preventioninstitute.org/unity). Admittedly the consumption of alcohol is one of many factors in the ongoing perpetuation of violence in communities around the world. It is however the number one date rape drug.  It is also a significant factor stopping many people from making real and meaningful change not only in their lives, but in the world. There are many other factors which cause violence and many other affects that violence can have on health. For our children, most importantly, a climate of violence hinders their learning and development. I am in awe of the climate of learning at Gulf Islands Secondary School on Salt Spring Island. It is remarkable and enhanced by the Respectful Relationships program.

Where people, young and old, are encouraged to adopt a peaceful existence, and given the tools to not only be peaceful in their lives, but resolve conflict and unravel the layers of violence, society as a whole can live up to its truest potential. I see that here on Salt Spring Island in my day to day existence. Yesterday in a parking lot there was a group of young people hanging around their car. I was with my Mom who was visiting the island. I could see that she was slightly nervous because they were in her way, and she didn’t want to ask them to move, perhaps afraid of violence. The young people saw us and immediately said hello and moved themselves out of the way so that she could get into the truck. I think little stories like this, while certainly not news-breaking, are inspiring, heart-warming, and indicative of the culture of peace and respect for fellow human beings that is present. Not because it’s a great act of nobility or sacrifice, but because in bigger places; in more violent places, there would be the potential for an assault, particularly if there had been alcohol involved. I know it because I’ve experienced violence over less. It warmed my heart, and I thought I would share the story. I’d love to hear your stories of peace.

 By Kevin VowlesR+R Facilitator

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