Team- and consensus-building, empathy, action planning and understanding gender-based violence were among topics at a leadership camp for 50 local youth, organized by School District 79 and funded by a $42,000 grant from provincial civil forfeiture proceeds.
The Compassionate Leaders Project centred on providing young people with foundational skills for building healthy, respectful relationships – and, in contrast, the root causes of violence. Other skills explored included developing self-awareness, exploring cultural identity, compassionate communication, combating discrimination and shared leadership.
After the camp, the project leader met weekly with all teams to complete project action plans, providing participants with ongoing opportunities to put learning into action by developing relationships with one another, building a team, practising compassionate communication and using consensus decision-making toward successfully implementing their plans.
Activities led by action teams at individual schools across the district included:
- Rainbow Day at Frances Kelsey Secondary school, with promotion of the district’s first Gay Straight Alliance Club, which meets weekly. More than 300 student participants were encouraged to sign a banner supporting equality for all students. Rainbow cookies were also handed out.
- Mental Health Awareness Week at Cowichan Secondary school, where four days of activities included information presentations by a dozen community service providers. A mental health scavenger hunt engaged an estimated 200 students and a speaker series reached more than 500 students, covering topics including substance abuse, depression and suicide prevention.
- Safe Harbour Youth Ambassador training at Lake Cowichan school, where Compassionate Leaders participants passed on their insights and skills to primary students at their school and facilitated a children’s curriculum with art, drama and play activities focused on exploring differences, diversity and safely standing up and getting help for fellow students experiencing bullying or exclusion.
Beyond a planned closing ceremony and certificates for all participants, a number of students have already received bursaries and scholarships – including a 2016 Loran Scholar award – that were supported by their participation in Compassionate Leaders. The program has yielded positive feedback from participants, including:
- “We became a community. I felt surrounded by positivity and creativity.”
- “I have grown so much since I came to camp. I now have the ability to see everyone with equal eyes. I am improving my leadership skills as well as my relationships.”
- “The level of motivation and passion was vibrating throughout the camp. Once I am away from school and the stigmas, my need to judge dissolves.”
Compassionate Leaders was among more than 220 anti-violence and crime prevention projects that received a total of $5 million in provincial grants from civil forfeiture proceeds in 2014-15. In March 2016, the Province announced another $7.3 million in grants for 2015-16.
Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General –
“The Compassionate Leaders project recognizes a simple truth: by supporting efforts to build empathy, relationship skills and respect among our young people now, we lay a foundation for safer families and a violence-free B.C. in the future. Funding this project is entirely consistent with the goals of our civil forfeiture grants program, through which we’ve made a multi-year commitment to projects that prevent victimization of girls and women and help those who have been victimized to heal.”
Rod Allen, superintendent, School District 79, Cowichan Valley –
“The Compassionate Leaders Project provided participants with a meaningful opportunity to come together with students from other schools in the district to explore topics such as diversity, inclusion and gender-based violence and learn skills to form healthy and respectful relationships. Student-led action plans and team projects gave the chance for participants to put their learning into action in creating positive social change in their schools and communities. Youth Action Day brought together over 600 secondary students to celebrate the success of the project and served to motivate and inspire other students to get involved in community service and volunteerism.”
Learn More at:
March 2016 record distribution of civil and criminal forfeiture proceeds: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PSSG0075-000446
Cowichan Valley School District 79: www.sd79.bc.ca