By: Brittany Beckett, third-year Loyalist College Child and Youth Worker student
Throughout the month of October, Loyalist College Child and Youth Worker (CYW) students had the opportunity to run what they call the “Handprint Project” in the Loyalist Dining Hall, in support of Child Abuse Prevention month in Ontario. You may have seen people in our community wearing purple awareness ribbons. During October, Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies raised awareness about child abuse prevention month, and Loyalist’s CYW students wanted to do their part.
The Child and Youth Worker program at Loyalist is a three-year advanced diploma program in which students learn to work with and empower children, youth and their families, who may be experiencing a variety of social, behavioural, interpersonal and/or emotional difficulties. Throughout the program, we learn to use non-judgmental support to build therapeutic relationships with our clients. Then we put those skills to work and gain valuable experience in the field through placements in each year of study. I still remember reading the program description back in 2010 and, as goose bumps crept across my skin, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.
The first step to making positive change in our community is to raise awareness and advocate for those who do not always have a voice of their own. You have no doubt heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child,” and there is no better time than October to put these words into action. It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that a child’s social and emotional wellbeing is nurtured. Building on this theme, we came up with the idea to do the Handprint Project; a fun way to include everyone in the College and get out the word about child abuse prevention.
Second and third-year Child and Youth Worker students who felt strongly about the cause volunteered for the project, and split into groups to persuade members of the College community to pledge that they will not raise their hand in violence against a child. As a sign of their pledge, CYW students asked participants to leave their handprint in purple paint, as well as their name if they wished, on a large scroll of white paper on the wall of the Dining Hall. My group was the first to take part in the campaign, and we were so excited to be a part of this experience. We felt passionate about the cause, and I think our positive vibes rubbed off on people; it seemed as though everybody involved shared that great feeling!
The response was overwhelming, even on the first day, with hundreds of handprints making their mark. By the end of October, a total of 419 handprints had been collected in support of our efforts to raise awareness about child abuse prevention. It was such an incredible feeling to know that there was so much support across the College. The word spread and support continued throughout October. Next year, we hope to go even bigger, and get out in the community to continue raising awareness and getting more people involved in this wonderful and very important cause.