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Sea to Sky's PearlSpace expands Violence is Preventable educational program

'It makes an enormous difference’: $20k Telus grant helps the program reach more youth.
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According to PearlSpace executive director, Ashley Oakes, all kiddos in Grades 5, 6, and 7 attending a Squamish, Whistler, or Pemberton-based school will take part in the Violence is Preventable educational initiative, as they have since 2007. But this year, thanks to the grant, 900 additional students will be able to access this program.

, a non-profit that works to stop gender-based violence and to support survivors, is set to expand its prevention program across local schools thanks to a $20,000 Telus Friendly Future Foundation grant. 

According to PearlSpace executive director, Ashley Oakes, all kiddos in Grades 5, 6, and 7 attending a Squamish, Whistler, or Pemberton-based school will take part in the Violence is Preventable educational initiative, as they have since 2007. But this year, thanks to the grant, 900 additional students will be able to access this program.

PearlSpace is looking to expand into private schools—specifically noting hopes to get into Waldorf, Montessori, and Coast Mountain Academy.

“We want to make sure that all [kids in] this age group …  has the toolkit that they need to understand what a healthy relationship looks like, and understands consent,” said Oakes. 

The presentations also share tools to deal with bullying and create online safety. 

The school-based educational program typically costs PearlSpace, $30,000 annually—most of which goes to “adequately and appropriately compensating trained professionals to deliver this programming,” said Oakes.

Up until this point, the program has largely been funded through private donations. With the Telus Friendly Futures Foundation funding, PealSpace can use those donations to support other underfunded areas, said Oakes. 

“It makes an enormous difference,” she said.

Disrupting cycles of violence

According to Telus Friendly Future Foundation, in 2023, the organization provided more than $9 million in grants to more than 550 Canadian charities. “We are proud to be able to support PearlSpace Support Services Society, with a Community Board grant in order to help them deliver youth education presentations,”  wrote the executive director of Telus Friendly Future Foundation, Nimtaz Kanji in a news release. 

According to the addressing gender-based violence is an urgent need. Not just because four in 10 women will experience intimate partner violence, but because the kids who grow up seeing it are at double the risk of mental illness.

The PearlSpace program specifically works to disrupt cycles of violence by not only providing resources to those who may be experiencing violence, but making sure folks are not perpetrating it either. According to Oakes, a core aspect of the program is helping children dismantle how gender stereotypes may be harmful—this could look like jokes about someone's body or holding the belief that certain genders are better suited to particular jobs. As well as discussing the ever present gender wage gap.

“When we want to disrupt heteronormative stereotypes we want to do so by including, traditionally, men and boys in the feminist movement because it is just as much on the shoulders of men and boys to call out inequity,” said Oakes. 

Just as the program aims to increase awareness of gender normativity, it also looks at heteronormativity—the idea that heterosexuality is the only standard. According to Oakes, the 2SLGBTQ+ community experiences higher rates of gender-based violence and is at higher risk of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and discrimination. 

Despite this, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are less likely to be able to identify gender-based violence because examples rarely showcase these types of relationships, which is why Oakes says it is important to explicitly include this community in the educational presentations.

“Our youth have the capacity in this generation more than any other generation in the past to have dialogue around consent and safety. These kids know this language,” said Oakes. “And our hope is that we can continue to expand this program in an age-appropriate way.” 

 

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