A variety of initiatives in Sylvan Lake are aimed at strengthening the community to help prevent family violence and bullying.
Alissa McDonald, Community Development Co-ordinator for Sylvan Lake, said a regional conference — Creating a Vision for Non-Violence — last week in the community drew 65 people.
Speakers covered several topics, including sex assault, elder abuse, bullying and the effects of domestic violence on children. This month is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta.
McDonald co-chairs a community group called Vision for Non-Violence that has been working on family violence and bullying initiatives since about 2007.
The group now has three subcommittees and some of their work raising awareness in the community is drawing interest from smaller rural communities.
Vision for Non-Violence does presentations and also provides information in the community about such topics as dating violence, elder abuse, creating a safety plan, and resources and contact information. The group has three subcommittees.
“How can we build up people so that they are strong enough not to let those things happen? It’s really about self-esteem building and confidence, creating positive supportive relationships,” said McDonald.
The Strengthening Positive Assets and Resiliency in Communities (SPARC) committee focuses on creating relationships with youth. A survey of Grade 4, 5 and 6 students led to initiatives such as positive ticketing by the RCMP and neighbourhood block parties planned for next year.
A youth advisory committee and a youth inter-agency group have been formed.
The Building Bridges committee connects seniors and youth. One joint activity involves Walk the Talk where youth from Grades 5 or 6 are matched with seniors.
They take a walk around the park, with conversation starters along the way such as who is your role model, have you volunteered in your community, have you ever been bullied.
“It’s so cute to see the relationships formed,” McDonald said.
“It might just be that one senior that had a conversation with a youth that empowered them. That it was okay, that things will be fine if they have somebody new to talk to. So we’re looking at family violence sort of from the other side of the coin.
“We feel like we need to start with youth for a system change to happen,” McDonald said.
“If we support kids … teaching them about their internal strength and external support, that we will raise a stronger resilient community in the long run.”
Another subcommittee is called Elder Abuse — A Community Co-ordinated Response. It was formed to look at specific issues that elders face. For example, shelters don’t have a lot of rooms that are accessible for seniors.
Other communities have expressed interest in Sylvan Lake’s approach and as a result, a regional Vision for Non-Violence group was formed last February.
This month, Vision for Non-Violence for the first time asked businesses in Sylvan to each display a single red rose in a vase in memory of the women, men and children who have died from domestic violence. About 30 businesses participated.
“We’re really proud of the for