Teen Talk project kicked off by RBC grant program

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A youth led TEEN TALK project will be offered by the South Central Committee on Family Violence, thanks to a grant presented by the Winkler Community Foundation using funds supplied by the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge.

A national grant partnership between Community Foundations of Canada and RBC Foundation, The RBC Future Launch Community Challenge supports youth-led, community initiatives that involved a collaboration between youth leaders aged 15-29, in small and mid-sized communities across Canada.

The goal is to help shift the power to young leaders making positive social or environmental change in their communities, while also giving them valuable skills and experience.

The TEEN TALK project will attempt to deal with the root of a problem, breaking the cycle of domestic violence and abuse by providing education about healthy relationships to teens as well as giving teens the education needed to identify potentially dangerous situations.

Samantha Toews, a children’s counsellor at Genesis House is the Youth Leader of the new Teen Talk Program. She said they noticed a need for this type of program.

“A lot of the women that come in, they actually don’t know very much about their rights, such as the right to say no, the right to not only be respected as a partner but to expect to be respected, to make their own decisions and to both be listened too and loved by a partner,” she said. “We’re really looking at getting into when they’re younger and when those dating relationships are starting, and intervening right then and there and giving them the skills to be able to go about life with those healthy vs. unhealthy characteristics.”

Toews said it’s important to reach people when they’re younger and just starting out having relationships.

They will also work with Teen Clinics in Morden and Winkler and will spend time in schools where Toews will share her Red Cross Healthy Youth Relationships training.

“The program itself is split up for Grade 7-8, Grade 10 and Grades 11 and 12 so I’m really able to get specific with what the teens and young adults need,” she said. “I will be offering to the divisions to be speaking in gym and health classes as well as social skills classes and delivering the training I’ve achieved.”

Toews is also able to train students in a peer-to-peer model from the Red Cross Healthy Youth Relationships training.

The need for a program like this was made apparent by the ages of clients at Genesis House.

“One third to half of our residential clients are 25 and under,” she said. “We really learned these start right when they’re starting their dating relationships, and that those patterns continue, whether that’s from what they’re taking from their parents relationships or just what they’re getting at school is that man of our teens are not being taught healthy characteristics of a relationship.”

Abuse comes in many forms including physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and verbal. Communicating that early is important.

“By the time they make it to us at Genesis House they have no idea what’s right or what’s wrong,” she said. “We have lots of women who come in and say ‘I don’t even know what a healthy relationship looks like’.”

Winkler Community Foundation Executive Director Myra Peters said this partnership with RBC was a great fit as was the project chosen.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity,” she said. “We think the project is just a great project for our community.”

When Winkler Community Foundation was chosen as one that could deliver a grant, Peters said they didn’t know what to expect.

“We reached out in many ways to a lot of individuals, students, charities, just trying to see if we could come up with ideas,” she said. “We had many conversations, a couple of applications and then we had to decide how best to do this.”

She added they are very happy with how it worked out. “We’re very pleased with the organization we selected,” she said. “I think they do great work in the community.”

RBC Community Manager for the Pembina Valley Curtis Sanjenko and Branch Manager Miranda Rowson explained the RBC program was in conjunction with their 150th anniversary, as a way to put funds in the hands of rural causes.

“We were really, really excited when we heard that Winkler was part of that selection process,” he said. “It all aligns with the bigger picture future launch program, but then it really breaks it down to individual activities in the community.”

Because they handed the decision making to local foundations, Sanjenko said they weren’t sure what would develop.

“We at RBC didn’t really have a part to play in the actual end result but once we did hear that they were selected, it was amazing how it really aligns with what Future Launch stands for,” he said. “I think Myra and her team at the Winkler Foundation did an excellent job.”

Other initiatives approved in the Pembina Valley included projects in Altona, Portage and North Norfolk.