Hello Neighbour. Come on in! A Family Day blog inspired by Fred Rogers

By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre

As a child, I frequently watched the children’s television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Of course, I never met Mr. Rogers, but like many children I felt that I knew him and that, somehow, he knew me. Now, as an adult, I remember his stories and advice and have a deeper appreciation for the lessons he taught. “Be kind, smile, be a helper, and look for the good in yourself and others,” he told us. These are simple and meaningful messages that stand the test of time.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

Mr. Rogers

Our shared experiences over the past year with our families, neighbours, communities, and indeed the world, have united us. This is one of the unexpected benefits that the pandemic has offered us for the taking. In this time of continued uncertainty, stress, and change, I suggest that there is no better way to respond than with Fred Rogers’ lessons of empathy, connection, and the opportunity to help others. I believe that this is the real work of humanity and that it preserves and heals the soul.

Family Day 2021: Hello Neighbour!

As we look to Family Day 2021, we can take some of these lessons to heart and act on them. We can find inspiration and inner-strength in Mr. Rogers’ example, and extend our family to include our neighbours, friends and even strangers along our path.

While we continue to maintain physical distance for everyone’s health, each of us still has the opportunity to make a difference for others. As we continue to spend most of our time with family in our own homes, let’s think about how we can become helpers and better neighbours.

  • Young Boy sticking his drawing on home window during the Covid-19 crisis

Family Day 2021 Challenge!

In previous blogs, I’ve sent out a challenge to readers and here’s one for 2021! On Family Day, this Monday, February 15 (and every day), be a helper! Try some of the suggestions below and see how the people you come in contact with (either within 6 feet or virtually, of course) feel cared for and connected. I hope you’ll find these ideas useful and share them with your families as well as the ones you support in your work.

Make cards to share. With your family members, create cards. Encourage your children to join in with their own pictures and messages. Deliver the notes to your neighbours; perhaps a local senior’s residence or hospital. Hand them out to strangers you see on your travels. Imagine the lasting impact of this simple gesture.

Share in a project. Many groups are already rallying friends and neighbours to share in common projects and activities. Capture your outdoor adventures on video or in photos, create a community time capsule, or build birdhouses to keep our feathered friends sheltered from the cold February days. Connect on a virtual platform like Zoom to share your ideas and progress.

Take a walk and SMILE at everyone you see. Smiles are contagious and make everyone feel better.

“Be a helper” coupons. Handing out coupons for helping with everyday tasks like shoveling driveways, preparing a meal, or reading a story together will surely lift spirits – the coupon recipients and yours. Be creative.

Commit to regular check-in calls with those who may be alone and lonely.

Plan a virtual games night with family, friends and neighbours. There are lots of apps and ideas online for virtual all-ages fun.

Welcome to the neighbourhood! Come on in!

One of our collective tasks in raising the next generation is to create an understanding of what it feels like to have empathy, compassion, and to care for those around us – in good times and in bad. Let’s make an effort to share generously the good in ourselves and our families, and see the good in others.

Do you work with youth? Learn about the Halton Youth Initiative Model!

By Siobhan Laverdiere, Halton Youth Initiative Coordinator, and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset-Builder

The Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) completed its second year at the end of 2020. At this point, we wanted to share with Our Kids Network and the Halton professional community, the valuable knowledge and insight that we, and our colleagues and community partners, have gained. Practical resources, programming ideas, and approaches to engaging youth can all be found on the HYI website. And as HYI leaders, we’re both available for consultations regarding youth programming and engagement. Contact us at siobhan@ourkidsnetwork.ca or lily@ourkidsnetwork.ca.

As HYI begins its third year, we look forward to even more community connections and partnerships that will play a role in sustaining this important work in the future.

Siobhan and Lily

Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville! 

It all started with the slogan Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville!  The idea was to elevate youth voice and empower youth to have a positive impact in the neighbourhood of North Oakville.

Since 2017 those youth voices have grown louder and louder to include the Acton, Aldershot and Milton neighbourhoods. Today our 94 (and growing) youth volunteers’ thoughts, opinions, ideas and creativity can be found on the HYI website and across social media channels, HYI blogs, podcasts, YouTube , and associated Instagram pages such as @miltonactionteam @youthaldershot @sevensomebodies @northoakYDC

Website as a Forum for Youth and a Resource for Professionals

The HYI website is packed with information about the activities of HYI over the past 2 years. It includes so many stories that reveal what youth learned and felt as they expressed their views about tough topics such as mental health, Developmental Relationships, and Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation in blogs and podcasts.

Professionals who work with youth will find the HYI website useful for information on program planning, ideas on youth engagement and leadership, as a practical community development model, and much more.

Info & Links resources on mental health and developmental assets, description of the adult ally role and the 2018 results of the Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville survey

Events archived database of community and youth events from 2017 to present.

Youth Council information descriptions of each of the four youth councils prior to transitioning to virtual teams post-COVID

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive special resources and information.

Put Developmental Relationships at the Centre of your Work with Youth 

HYI’s success with youth engagement is founded on the five elements of the Developmental Relationships (DR) framework: Expressing Care; Challenging Growth; Providing Support; Sharing Power; and Expanding Possibilities. When we center our work on relationships, all the rest seems to fall into place.

As you explore the website, we encourage you to view it through the lens of DR and consider the positive effects of youth working with adults (while the adults demonstrate one or more of the five elements of the DR framework). We believe this approach has made a significant difference in the motivation and enthusiasm of HYI young people to become actively involved in their community (currently virtually). Some even take on leadership roles. If you haven’t already, consider putting Developmental Relationships at the centre of your organization’s work.

 “At the Halton Youth Initiative, we are avid participants who empathize and advocate for the empowerment of ourselves as youth and for others in the community. We are inspired by the voices we are bringing to youth around Halton and the happiness we can bring into people’s lives.”

Angela, HYI youth volunteer

Partner Support is the Key to Engaging Youth in the Community

Welcoming caring community partners into the work of HYI has also been pivotal to our success. These agencies and organizations are stakeholders in the community who want to be involved with HYI other than as adult allies. We hope to welcome even more exceptional partners in the future.

Community partners provide support to HYI youth councils by: 

  • building connections between the youth council and their organizations (generating awareness about the youth council and related activities, advocating for youth mentorship opportunities, and increasing youth Developmental Assets).
  • promoting the initiative in the community.
  • encouraging and welcoming youth in the community.
  • participating on subcommittees or workgroups.
  • providing in-kind resources.
  • attending meetings as a guest occasionally, as invited by youth members.

The Halton Youth Initiative partners below have made a world of difference to the youth members over the past 2 years. Thank you!

Special thanks to Pat Howell-Blackmore of PHBSpark Consulting, and Josh Taylor-Detlor, Indigenous Environmental & Youth Engagement Consultant, for their dedication and ongoing support.

Footnote:
Our Kids Network provides management and administrative services to the Halton Youth Initiative which is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

What’s in a name?

By Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous Lead

Have you ever thought about the name you were given? Is there a story behind how you came to have your name? What about the children, youth, and families you work with? Do you think about the significance of their names? For many Indigenous people, our naming story is one of the most important stories that form our identity. Indeed, how we receive our name is important to everyone. For many Indigenous people, the story of how we received our name and what our name means is very important to our individual identity and shapes our place in the world. Indeed, how we all receive our name is important to every person, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Naming traditions

Mother Holding NewbornSome of you may think I am referring to my traditional Indigenous name – the name I received as an adult in sacred ceremony. I choose to not share my traditional name widely, but some Indigenous people prefer to be known by their Indigenous name. This choice is significant to them, to their family, and to their community. Many Indigenous people also indicate the name of their people, such as Anishnaabeg or Cree, when introducing themselves. Pay attention when you hear them pronounce their Indigenous name, the name of their people, and their First Nation. They are sharing an important part of who they are with you. Learn how to pronounce these names properly. Ask them to repeat their name if you need to. Say it out loud. Be courageous and take the step to learn.

It’s important to note that not all Indigenous people have been honored with their Indigenous name. Colonialism has interfered with this traditional practice. Some of us were taken from our communities and families and we are still searching for who we are.

We often indicate the name of our First Nation in our introductions. You will hear me say that I am a band member of Peepeekisis Cree First Nation. There is a lot of Canadian Indigenous history wrapped up in those four words. I recently met with a community partner who used her historical knowledge of my reserve to set the tone of our meeting. It was wonderful. Have you thought this way about the name of your workplace, home, and community? Not the traditional Indigenous name but the current name being used? What does “Halton” mean to you?

Reclaiming our names

The government changed our names at the time of treaty signing, and religious and government-appointed administrators at residential schools Christianized our names. This is well documented. In fact, Call to Action number 17 addresses these facts by calling on the government to waive administrative costs for those who want to reclaim their names. Think about this for a moment. What would you do? This is the dilemma that my uncles and aunties are contemplating now. Their current names have come to mean just as much to them as the traditional names that were changed.

Nicknames and movie stars

The importance of nicknames for Indigenous people cannot be understated. For some Indigenous people, a nickname is the only name they are known by. When people ask who my father was, I must identify him by his nickname and his given name.

I love the moment of realization when I meet someone who knew my father by his nickname. It means they knew him when he was young, and as a player on the notorious Lebret Indians hockey team. In those days, nicknames meant you belonged to the team, even if it was “Team Residential School”. Having a nickname still means that you are accepted and acknowledged by your peers and, to us, are part of a family within an oppressive system.

Let me name drop a little and tell you about the time I met Hollywood actor, the late Gordon Tootoosis at a powwow my father and I attended. I was star struck as he greeted my dad with a thundering “Jojo!”, my father’s nickname. Gordon knew Brad Pitt, for heaven’s sake, but I was in awe of his many references to our people. “Skin is here. Did you see Skin? I heard Cannonball wasn’t well. Have you heard anything?” he queried. Skin? Cannonball? Who were these people and how did they get those names? Their nicknames were their stories and I cherished the times when my dad shared these moments of our history with me. These stories also provided insight into his time at residential school, something he didn’t speak much about.

More than just a name

The name on my birth certificate is the name I’m writing about today. There is a history to my name that tells you where I’m from, who my people are, and my place in this world. When meeting other Indigenous people for the first time, our names will be the starting point for conversation.

When I lived in Alberta, people knew that I was from Saskatchewan because of my last name. “Bellegarde. A cousin from next door over, eh?” In turn, I know an Indigenous person from Alberta by their usually, very descriptive last names given to them by government agents: Weaseltallow, Littlebear, Shotonbothsides…Alberta Indigenous people for sure.

My children know their name stories and we talk about them frequently. I have taught them that when they are asked their name, they are to say it loud and clear. This is meaningful and is a part of Canada’s history. All our names are.

I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your name. What is its origin story? What about the names of your clients? Have they anglicized their names because it’s easier to apply for employment or be accepted in the community? Were they given a different name at birth than the one they have now? What does that mean to them? Knowing a person’s name is an opportunity to learn about them and who they are. Use your clients’ names as often as possible when meeting together. This acknowledges their whole being.

Read more…

Giving my children Cree names is a powerful act of reclamation | CBC News

Chelsea Vowel (BEd, LLB) is a Métis writer and educator from Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., currently doing her graduate studies in Edmonton. Mother to six girls, she co-hosts the Indigenous feminist sci-fi podcast Métis in Space and is the author of Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada.

OKN resources to increase Indigenous literacy.

2020: OKN’s Year of Resilience

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

While physical distancing, masking, and staying home became typical, it was encouraging and inspiring to see Halton professionals using innovative ways to continue their work supporting children, youth and families. Our strong and resilient partnerships and communities are getting us through this! We have adapted to our new routines and not only stayed connected, but have become more interconnected over the last 10 months (and counting).

Adapting

resilience tree growing out of old trunk

In survival mode, we’ve all become experts at using Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom and other platforms, and used these venues well to continue to build relationships and partnerships, get work done, and even start brand new initiatives. We quickly learned that the chat feature gives everyone at the meeting a voice!

In the absence of face-to-face committee meetings, where so much information is shared, we launched the OKN Community Message in March. The intent was to keep everyone updated and linked to OKN’s key activities and news. At the time, we believed this would be a short-term solution. Here it is December and the OKN Community Message continues to serve us well, with one due out this week.

With gatherings allowed in only very limited numbers, virtual (live and recorded) is now the media of choice for OKN staff offering workshops and information sessions. Recently, Angela Bellegarde, OKN Indigenous lead, partnered with staff at the Town of Oakville and Oakville Public Library to produce videos on Indigenous literacy and territorial acknowledgements. Liz Wells, OKN Researcher & Knowledge Broker, and Eileen Palermo, OKN Program Administrator, produced a live webinar on the Early Development Instrument (EDI), and the popular Relationships First workshop went virtual with facilitator Steve Levac, Manager of Youth Services, Halton Children’s Aid Society.

The Halton Youth Initiative used social media to embark on a year-long Truth and Reconciliation journey that resulted in increased participation from the members and expanded engagement of youth across Halton.

In November, OKN called together professionals from Halton community organizations and agencies to help determine the key priorities that OKN will focus on to positively impact children, youth and families in the future. This was an interactive and thought-provoking virtual conference. The primary focus was ensuring that professionals who work with children and youth have a role in decision-making. We then have a common agenda across Halton.

Interconnecting

“I believe that it will be about the chance to strengthen our resiliency and relationships, and build deep, nurturing interdependence. Now more than ever, we understand how interconnected and reliant we are on each other – in our families, in our communities, and on a global level.”

Nikki Taylor
Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre

In her September blog, Nikki Taylor looked at the impact of the pandemic on Halton children as they returned to school. The longer-term impact of COVID-19 on children was also a key, common concern across professionals during the OKN Planning Conference in November.

We recognize now, while we all share this life-changing experience of the pandemic, how important we are to each other – in our families and friendships and, just as significantly, among our colleagues. At the OKN Planning Conference, participants pointed out that professionals working with families, youth and children are also members of their own families, and are in need of care themselves.

Our Kids Network leads the Asset-Building movement in Halton, a community investment in positive child and youth development. Building on this work will be paramount in the years to come.

“When this pandemic has ended, what will stand out most in our memories is how we treated each other.”

Nikki Taylor

Resilience: Change happens – what’s next?

Among many other accomplishments, OKN Executive Director, Elena DiBattista has led the OKN plan to grow and strengthen the network by introducing and implementing fundamental frameworks and strategies. In this way, she has built the platform that will launch the next generation of OKN’s work in Halton. And through 2020, she has always been at the helm helping us navigate these challenging new times.

Having announced her retirement, she is preparing (and helping us prepare) for what is next. For Elena, we know that well-deserved time to focus on family and friends is in her future and when it is safe, she will travel to the few exotic locations in the world that she has not yet visited.

We can’t thank you enough, Elena, for your dedication, passion, compassion, and visionary leadership over the past 10 years.

Especially now, it’s critically important that, as a Halton-wide collaborative, we have a view of the overall well-being of children and youth. As committee members work on identifying priorities, they are in the final phase of the restructuring of the network. This final phase represents a new direction for OKN, in aligning the work we do with our refined role and renewed mission and vision.

We are thankful to you, the countless, compassionate professionals who continue to provide essential services to your clients. To support the important work you do, OKN is continuing to focus on building capacity in the professional community, sharing knowledge, and developing resources to assist you.

OKN Resources for Information and Connection

Information on the OKN Community.
Information about OKN Champions.
Structure of Our Kids Network.
Explore the OKN Research.
Information on Asset-Building.

National Child Day 2020 Advancing children’s rights. If not now, when?

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

“The 21st Century will belong to our children and our children’s children. It is their dreams and aspirations, shaped by the circumstances into which they are born and which surround them as they grow up, that will give this century its final definition. Those who are under 18 today constitute more than a third of the world’s population and are already profoundly affecting our lives by their decisions and actions. For their sake as well as our own, we must do everything possible to reduce the suffering that weighs them down, open up their opportunities for success and ensure them a culture of respect.”

Senator Landon Pearson, National Early Years Conference, March 2007

Senator Pearson’s words resonate even more deeply today than they did 13 years ago. The children and youth of Halton are sharing the pandemic experience with the children of the world. Reducing their suffering and threats, creating opportunities for them, helping them build resilience, and most of all, creating a culture of support and respect are paramount. There has never been a better time to advance the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights than on this year’s National Child Day, Friday, November 20.

The Canadian version of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child was created in 2018

Cover of Canadian Children's Charter PDF
Click to download the Charter.

Developed by Children First Canada with the active participation of thousands of Canadian children and youth, the The Canadian Children’s Charter: A Call to Action to Respect, Protect and Fulfil the Rights of Canada’s Children came to be through a broad consultation process that included government, the private sector, and community leaders. The final version was released on National Child Day in November 2018, and received support from Prime Minister Trudeau and other parliamentarians, business leaders, and those serving and supporting children, youth and families.

Why are National Child Day and a Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights important?

The more children know and understand their rights, the more empowered they become. National Child Day is the perfect time to open the conversation and teach children about their rights. It’s an opportunity to explore the UN Convention for a global perspective and look at the Canadian charter for a national and local view.

A national day to celebrate children reminds us to reflect on and question how we are treating and interacting with children and youth. As adults, we must acknowledge that it is our duty to listen and to act when children express their needs, thoughts, and opinions.

In 2020, we recognize that the world, our countries, and our communities have changed forever. With everything that children have to deal with today, the Canadian Children’s Charter can be another resource to help us understand the challenges they face and create a sense of security and safety for them.

What can you do to take part in National Child Day 2020?

Become familiar with the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights and the nine calls to action that specifically address the “gap between the promises made to children, and the harsh realities that millions of Canadian children face each day due to poverty, abuse, discrimination, along with threats to physical and emotional health.”  

Know the Canadian laws and policies that protect the rights and safety of children (in addition to the UNCRC, which was ratified in Canada in 1991.)

  • Optional Protocols 1 and 2 (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography)
  • A Canada Fit for Children: a National Plan of Action
  • Children: the Silenced Citizens, a Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights  
  • Jordan’s Principle                  
  • House  of Commons All-Party Resolution to End Child Poverty by the Year 2000

Study the research on the status of children in Canada and in Halton. Learn about the inequities and challenges that children in Canada and Halton face today.

Join the online National Child Day 2020 campaign. Use your social media networks and the hashtag #SeenAndHeard to spread the word.

Attend the National Child Day interactive digital event – for children and adults alike – on November 20 at 1 p.m. ET. This year, children and youth from across the country will discuss what it means to be #SeenAndHeard. You’ll also hear from youth activists, Canada’s leading voices for children’s rights, government and industry leaders, and more.

Start conversations about the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights with the children and youth in your life. Listen closely to their comments and thoughts.

Visit the Halton Youth Initiative website and see how groups of young people are making a difference in Halton by working with adult allies to elevate youth voice, empowering themselves and having a positive impact in the communities of North Oakville, Acton, Aldershot and Milton.

Read the Children First Canada National Child Day blogs to find voices of youth, fast facts about National Child Day, and how partnerships can help support children’s rights.

Now more than ever, the importance of our collective work supporting Halton’s children, youth, and families cannot be underestimated. On National Child Day and every day, we thank you.