At what age should children begin learning and, more significantly, participating in social justice issues?
SD&G seem to be taking this issue very seriously with groups participating in events like Light Up Your World (LUYW), “We Day,” and “Step Up to Leadership.”
“Light Up Your World”
Lisa Sanchez and Miguel Sanchez, creators of LUYW, visited the area on October 29th at the Morrisburg Pentecostal Tabernacle. They have also visited Morrisburg Public School and Seaway Intermediate and District High School in the past year.
At Saturday’s session, the pair began explaining that while this program was originally designed for grade 7 and 8 students, “the message is good for everyone, kindergarten and up.”
The LUYW seminar has three sessions, each between one to two hours in length. The message for each session is delivered through stories, short film clips, lots of games, demonstrations, discussion and fun.
The first session introduces the concept of lightness versus darkness with lightness being the spread of positivity and darkness being the spread of negativity. The Sanchez’s demonstrate that every choice made, big or small, has a consequence. The choice will determine whether the consequence is positive or negative.
The second session devotes itself to helping participants realize and accept their own value, as well as the value of others. The Sanchez’s assured the children that “you can’t do anything to lose your value” because it is intrinsic.
They pointed out that while other people, situations, or events can “affect our sense of value, they can never affect our true value.”
The final session brought everything together, showing children how to become a “world changer.”
“Each of us is just one person, but we can have a big effect,” they said.
“You have the power to make a choice, therefore you have the power to bring change.”
The Durham region couple first designed LUYW in response to the need in their local school. Lisa told the Leader that the venture was successful; they had impacted “kids lives in a positive way.”
News of the seminar’s effectiveness spread and, in a short time, the Sanchez’s reach had stretched outward to their school district and, eventually, to the world.
LUYW is not the Sanchez’s first contact with social justice work. It has been a way of life for the couple for years. They’ve also instilled their values and sense of justice in their own children, who have also made “spreading light” a part of their lives.
Lisa told the Leader, “change the heart, and your behaviour will follow.” As she explained to the group, every thought creates a ripple effect by informing our actions, which eventually become habits and then, in time, become our character.
Schools or groups interested in bringing the program to children in their care can either have a LUYW representative come in to conduct a seminar or they can take training sessions to learn how to do so themselves. Their website is www.lightupyourworld.org.
The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSB) is also getting children involved in social justice.
Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Cornwall has a “Trinity Justice League” led by Gordie Van Putten, Chaplaincy Leader.
Van Putten told the Leader that they are a mixed group of both boys and girls from grades seven to twelve and they meet every Wednesday at lunchtime.
This year they had an exciting “kick-off” to their social justice year with a trip to “We Day” in Toronto in September. This was the group’s first year attending the event.
Van Putten said there were approximately 20,000 students in the Air Canada Centre. Holy Trinity received 15 free tickets to attend.
According to their website, “at We Day, youth from across North America join together to celebrate the positive actions they are taking and to build the momentum of the movement of young people making a difference in their communities and around the world. Through We Day, youth learn that it is cool to care.”
We Day began in 2007. It is an initiative of Free the Children.
“Free the Children was founded on the understanding that by awakening the spirit of activism in young people, anything is possible – injustices can be stopped, our local and global communities can be transformed for the better, and hope for the future can be sustained.”
The website, www.weday.com, provides a wealth of information for teachers, students and parents. In order to apply to participate in the event, school’s must take part in a major project of their own.
On November 1st the Trinity Justice League gave an “all school presentation” about their current project of bringing clean water to Haiti.
The first fundraiser for the cause will be St. Albert’s Cheese sales. In this way, other students, not currently members of the League, will have an opportunity to help out and make a difference. As Van Putten pointed out, it’s the “power of we: we can’t do things alone.”
He also reported that the group has grown in number since he first started at the school four years ago. He said that other students see what the members of the League are doing and they think, “Oh, wow, look what they’re doing!”
“Step Up to Leadership”
Step Up to Leadership (SUL) was created by the Rural Ontario Institute, 4-H Ontario and the Foundation for Rural Living.
The weekend long program “inspires next-generation leaders (between the ages of 16 and 25) to encourage positive community growth through their involvement and their leadership.”
McIntosh Country Inn and Conference Centre in Morrisburg will be home for the SD&G event from November 4 to 6, 2011.
Alicia Evans, Project Manager for Leadership Programs told the Leader on October 26th: “We have a few people signed up so far and there seems to be quite a bit of interest. But there is still lots of room.” www.stepstoleadership.ca.