Program helps bullies

Josh Winquist

UPDATED 10:47 a.m.

Bullying has been around as long as there have been people on the earth, but that does not mean it is acceptable.

Wednesday is Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying movement that began several years ago designed to unite people against bullies.

A local organization is battling bullies year round through programs that deal with the bully and the victim.

Brooke Vasconcelos, with North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society (NOYFSS), said the program Taking Care of You and Me is for children nine to 12 years old.

“It is for all children on the spectrum of bullying,” said Vasconcelos. “We include the bully, the bullied and the bystander.”

The eight-week program is run by two facilitators and can accommodate eight children per cycle.

For the first four weeks, participants are taught communication skills, how to collaborate, how to be assertive without being aggressive or passive and other life skills.

The next four weeks of the course are spent at Heron Grove, a senior's facility where they work one on one with a senior with dementia.

“This program is amazing. You get kids who have difficulty forming friendships or relationships, difficulty with empathy and relating to other people and you match them with someone they wouldn't typically get to interact with and you can see their very best self come out,” said Vasconcelos. “They learn these skills in the first four weeks of the program and then they get to practice them in a safe place like Heron Grove.”

The program shows participants how to put someone ahead of themselves.

“It's really cool to watch them problem solve and to see the seniors how excited they get to work with the kids. They light up when we show up,” said Vasconcelos.

The free program is on a first-come-first-serve basis.

For more information, contact Vasconcelos at NOYFSS by calling 250-545-3572.

- with files from Darren Handschuh

Today is Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying day across Canada.

In downtown Vernon, the colour pink is everywhere. 

NOYFSS, along with Bean Scene, has jumped on board with "NOYFSS Goes Pink."

Brooke Vasconcelos is the group facilitator for NOYFSS and she is celebrating the day by selling decorated pink cupcakes.

"All the proceeds go to our anti-bullying program."

Vasconcelos calls the cupcakes their 'compliment cupcakes.' Each cupcake has a unique, uplifting message on it, like: 

'You light up a room,' and 'I love you, for you.'

"Our anti-bullying group,'Taking care of you and me' is entirely done with fundraising dollars, so that makes it free and accessible to all of the public in the North Okanagan," says Vasconcelos.

"Fundraisers like this help us fund that program."

After they sell out of cupcakes from their spot in front of Bean Scene, NOYFSS volunteers will set up in front of the NOYFSS office on 32 Avenue. 

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