BY: KATHY MCDONALD
I was thrilled to see a notable increase in the number of Black and Caribbean families that attend the Numeracy and Beyond conference on April the first. Every year the Peel District School Board (PDSB) puts on this first class symposium to empower parents. This was the first year I can honestly say” Mi glad bag bus”. Yes, I was elated. The reviews were positive. There was not only a record number of attendees but a record number from the Caribbean or Black community.
To see valuable information being disseminated and seeing people from the Caribbean community and Black families being empowered made me say “YES!” Sometimes you have to keep hammering home a message until it sticks. I am challenging all who attended to return next year and bring two friends to be exposed to the wonderful learning opportunity at hand.
There were numerous publishing houses and book distributors represented. The number of workbooks and learning aids were mind boggling. There was also information on before/after school programs, summer camps and extra-curricular activities.
There were support programs for grieving families, families struggling with mental health issues and learning challenges. The Ontario Colleges of Teachers (OCT), various unions groups and government agencies were also represented. But there were a few booths that stood out from the crowd that I will like to encourage parents to take a closer look at.
In today’s rapidly changing world one’s mental health is often relegated to the back seat. The lowest rung on the priority ladder. So I was delighted to meet a group of trailblazers and visionaries in the child well-being arena.
I met Susan Howson a PDSB Community Outreach Worker, that has been using her magnificent affirmation cards to nurture and in some cases repair children’s self-esteem.
Howson is an author, creator and a coach that has found a way to address mental health issues, the notion of a healthy self-concept and reinforces the need for open honest dialogue. Ms. Howson received the 2013 coaching toy product award.
The sixty four affirmation cards can be used to stimulate thoughtful discussions on a child’s feelings, emotion and self-image.
Hero Intelligence Coach, Tammy Vallieres works to make a “transformational difference” as she trains teachers, parents, educators and children to develop their minds, bodies and hearts.
Light House is a peer support non-profit charitable organization. Their brochure says “…offering hope and encouragement to grieving children, teens and their families in Halton, Peel and beyond since 1999”. Light Houses recognizes that everyone grieves differently and mourning time varies from individual to individual.
I remember being at a community event and listening to the story of one of Brampton’s most successful Caribbean restaurateurs and businessman, Lloyd McDowell from Gems. As a young man, Lloyd struggled in school as a result of his inability to cope with seeing his friend brutally murdered. He was not able to control his anger until he received emotional support.
This understanding of loss and the ability to express his frustrations facilitated Lloyd to turn his life around. Today Lloyd works diligently not only in his business but he gives back to the community and even provides financial support for young Black or Caribbean students. Acknowledging and having a safe space to talk about his feelings was the first step in Lloyd’s journey to being whole again.
Be big and bold, like the change makers in the Dreaming Big Being Bold Volume 2 series co-authored by Paula Morand and Victoria Craig. Let us continue to journey on together and leave no student behind. So Walk Good. Belle Marché.