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