Mentors in Violence Training held Dec. 6 in Sechelt, BC

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I was delighted to receive one-day training in Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) on Dec. 6, 2016 in Sechelt, BC. Roughly a dozen of us attended, including local teachers and providers of an after-school teen drop-in program. The event’s co-facilitators were Wayne Spychka, my boss as an SCCSS gender violence prevention worker, and Keely Halward, Wayne’s boss. Both are experienced MVP mentors and employees in Together Against Violence at the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS).

In male-only and female-only groups, we did exercises that identify gender stereotypes and practised facilitating and observing scenarios portraying inappropriate sexual behaviour. The MVP process reinforces a stance of Be More Than a Bystander: if you witness anything sexually inappropriate occurring between others, doing nothing is not an option. It is important for youths to either notify an adult or authorities and/or intervene, if they can do this safely.

MVP Strategies was developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, based on a peer leadership model using trained student leaders. It strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations of violence unfolding around them. The primary goals of MVP are to

  1. Increase awareness of verbal/emotional/psychological and sexual abuse.
  2. Challenges messages within a social setting about gender/sex/relationship violence.
  3. Inspire leadership by empowering participants with options to effect change in social norms.

For more details read my MVP training Dec 2016 Coast Reporter.

Heather Conn reveals two favourite cards from her SoulCollage deck

The following article, which I wrote, appeared in the Sept. 26, 2016 issue of the global e-newsletter Soul Treasures, published by KaleidoSoul in Massachusetts.

Reader Kas Sobey-Knabb responded: “Heather, just wanted to reach out to you after reading your upbeat and lovely piece in Kaleidosoul Soul Songs.Enjoyed it and meeting your 2 Neters [symbolic guides]! Quite colorful and they have given me something new and refreshing.”

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SoulCollage facilitator Heather Conn with some of her 250 cards in 2013

Grieving my father’s death. Healing from incest. Transforming feelings about everyday situations and people. SoulCollage® has been my silent sanctuary of grace and empowerment for more than a decade. It allows me to surpass the limitations of written and spoken language and instead, immerse myself in archetypal forces, intuition, and the rich universal world of visual imagery.

If I have conflicted feelings about a situation or person, I feel related sensations in my body: an ache, a tightness, whatever. I don’t want to ignore that by “escaping” into my head. SoulCollage® provides a tactile way for me to keep or release the flow of any given energy in my body. When I create a card related to those feelings, I don’t stay in my head. I don’t try to tame or control these emotions through words. SoulCollage® gives them a different outlet, a form of creative self-expression that balances my intellectual life as a professional writer and editor.

I have loved making collages since childhood. When I saw Seena’s first SoulCollage® book at a women’s conference in Seattle, I couldn’t put it down. The four-color images of the cards spoke to me in every way possible. SoulCollage® incorporated so many of my favorite passions, including photography, spirituality, art, and archetypes. How could I not explore that?

I love SoulCollage® because it offers rewards similar to free-association or “wild mind” writing. I don’t have to know the answers to a dilemma; things don’t have to make sense. In free flow, I’m co-creating with my subconscious. I just start in and pick images that evoke a visceral response. This might make no sense at all to my Inner Critic, but that’s fine. I can stay in confusion or bewilderment or joy or grief or fear and honor that, without a label. Like the Fool, I can tap into wisdom or insights without conscious intent. To me, the card-making process, the finished card, and interacting with the card are all forms of true presence: engagement with my deepest, most authentic Self.

I love that SoulCollage honors equally all aspects of self, without making character traits positive or negative. This makes it easier for me to “own,” befriend, and transform them, rather than resist or deny them. This embracing of my otherwise split-off or buried parts of self is one of the most powerful and exciting aspects of SoulCollage®, in my view. It reinforces unconditional self-love and acceptance, which is at the core of healing and personal transformation. And the process is so accessible!

Like dream work, SoulCollage is a non-threatening medium that can enable others, with little or no exposure to it, to open up and share in ways they might not otherwise. I have witnessed this repeatedly with workshop participants, one-on-one clients, and my family. It is so rewarding to see and hear people making “aha” connections with images on a card, even if it is one that they didn’t make.

I made cards on my own for at least three years before receiving my SoulCollage® Facilitator’s training in 2008. I began offering workshops in 2009. Most of the time, I started making a card with a specific intention. For example, if I wanted to tap into archetypal Peace, I made a Peace card. Or if I wanted to represent a certain sub-personality, I would create a Committee Suit card for that. But in the last three years or so, I have given myself the freedom to create a card with no specific intention. Even when I’m finished a card, I’ll sometimes have no idea what it represents and I’m fine with that. My controlling self might niggle a little, but I can handle that.

As with dream work, I will review such cards weeks or months later and usually, the meaning or importance of certain symbols will be obvious. I love this delayed process of discovery. It reinforces that we are ever-changing, ever-growing beings and our rational brains aren’t the sum total of all we are. I encourage anyone creating SoulCollage® cards to combine both an intentional and non-intentional approach.

In a handful of cases, I have asked the person honored on a Community card I’ve made to sign the back of it. This way, I feel as if I’m making a connection with someone I admire. The signature imbues the card with that person’s spirit and energy, which adds a special touch. That makes it even more of a cherished keepsake.

You can find me at sunshinecoastsoulcollage.ca.

Here are my 2 favorite cards:

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My Source Card (Transpersonal)

I loved creating this card because it represents my sense of being a tiny speck in the Cosmos, part of infinite inter-being and the Great Mystery. It inspired me to use imagery of night skies with stars on other SoulCollage® cards to remind me of my interconnectedness with All That Is. When I cut out some of the background image, I liked the empty space that it left behind, so I decided to incorporate that into the card. I put black behind this space and left it open, to represent the Unknown.

The glowing circular white rows are a close-up photo of a backlit dandelion. I like the notion that something traditionally viewed as an unwanted weed can be a source of beauty and wonder, depending on your perspective. That reinforces to me that Source energy is everywhere, in everything, even in the last places where I might think to look for or find it. This image has inspired me to include pictures of dandelions gone to seed as a repeat motif on some of my cards. These silently remind me to find the beauty in everything.

img_2015My 6th Chakra Animal Guide

This card came together quickly and effortlessly. I loved the colors and sense of flow with it. Since I am drawn to the imagery of circles as a symbol of wholeness, I cut out a circle around the Dragonfly. I liked this card so much, I made it my business card image.

I am one who is with you always.

I am one who brings vibrant beauty to the glimmer of a moment.

For more information about SoulCollage, please see my website Sunshine Coast SoulCollage.

An honour to host and organize Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program

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Former BC Lions player J.R. LaRose (back row, centre) joins grade 10 and 11 students at Mentors in Violence Prevention event in Sechelt, BC

I was honoured to organize and host Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program in Sechelt, BC on May 5. Here’s a story that I wrote for the local media:

 

A former B.C. Lions player, open discussions and hands-on scenarios recently helped about 40 local high school students learn what words and actions can lead to violence against women.

 

Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), in collaboration with School District No. 46, hosted a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Summit May 5 at Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Grade 10 and 11 students from Chatelech, Elphinstone and Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sunshine Coast Alternative School and the Aboriginal Program attended, along with about 20 school administrators, SCCSS staff, and RCMP members trained in MVP strategies.

 

“I’m not OK with just standing by and being silent when someone is being abused,” keynote speaker J. R. LaRose, a former BC Lions and spokesperson for Be More Than a Bystander, told the group. “It’s time we speak up and be a voice for those that have been hurt and abused. Speak up and break the silence.”

 

This event marked the first time in Canada that high school youth have participated in an MVP program. Developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, this peer leadership model, using trained student leaders, strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations where bullying and violence is unfolding.

 

“We are so proud of the youth stepping up as leaders and change-makers at the MVP Student Summit,” said Keely Halward, director of SCCSS’s Together Against Violence Services. “Gender-based violence is not just a statistic, but the reality for hundreds of women and girls on the Sunshine Coast. Almost half of our Police Based Victim Services files relate to domestic violence, and research tells us that most domestic violence goes unreported.”

 

In scenarios that ranged from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, and from dating violence to sexual consent, students learned practical ways to communicate that violence and abuse are not acceptable. They discussed related issues as a whole group, and in male-only, female-only and fluid-gender groups.

 

The ongoing MVP initiative is possible thanks to funders including the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Department of Justice Canada, RCMP National Crime Prevention Initiative, the Sechelt Indian Government District and donors. For more information about this initiative and to learn about services addressing gender violence, please go to the Sunshine Coast Community Services website at www.sccss.ca or contact Heather Conn at hconn@sccss.ca.

To see story and photo in The Local, click this link: Tackling violence against women.

UBC Law magazine: Lawyers in small communities think big

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A book about John Steinbeck’s marine biologist friend inspired B.C. lawyer Myron Plett to move to Ucluelet and set up practice in this island town.

Plett is one of four B.C. lawyers I profiled for the cover story “Thinking big in small communities” for the winter 2012 issue of UBC Law magazine.

Pictured on the issue’s cover is another lawyer I interviewed for this feature: Theresa Arsenault, QC, based in Kelowna.

Click this UBC Law winter 2012 link to read these two profiles.

Why so many cavities in pre-school immigrant children?

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Dr. Rosamund Harrison, chair of pediatric dentistry at the University of British Columbia, does exciting cutting-edge research and clinical work in low-income and new immigrant communities in Canada.

Many of UBC’s treated preschool children have a high rate of cavities. Her compassionate, hands-on work has resulted in huge improvements in dental care in groups ranging from South Asians and Vietnamese in British Columbia to Cree in remote Quebec villages.

Here’s what Dr. Harrison said about my article that featured her in the spring 2009 issue of Impressions magazine:

“I was delighted with the lovely article that you put together about our MI (motivational interviewing) community projects. The way that you ‘told a story’ and integrated the comments of my colleagues and friends was so well done and readable. My mother started to cry when she read your article!

“I gained a new admiration and respect for writers like you who are so good at journalism.  Such a breath of fresh air from the stodgy scientific papers that I read on a daily basis. Thank you for the care and attention that you put into telling this story.  It was a pleasure to work with you!”

Click this link spring 2009 issue of Impressions magazine (page 14) and scroll down to page 14 to read my feature.

Health & lifestyle

These samples of my published magazine writing show the range of topics I’ve covered over the decades in Health and Lifestyle. Periodically, I add new material and more from my archives. Stay tuned.

Forensic dentistry: a lot more than just murder cases

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In the fall of 2008, I interviewed forensic dentist Dr. David Sweet, who runs B.O.L.D., the world’s leading forensic dentistry lab at the University of British Columbia. Sweet has pioneered many cutting-edge forensic techniques and  appeared on the television show Cold Case Files.

Click this link http://www.dentistry.ubc.ca/impressions/2008/fall/Impressions-Fall2008.pdf to see my Impressions magazine cover story, page 9.

(Impressions won the North-America-wide 2010 Meskin Journalism Award from the American Association of Dental Editors for the best overall excellence in publishing, including editorial content and design, for a dental student publication.)