By Bianca Caputo, WomanACT Social Media Team
Calling all Warriors! WomanACT’s Soul of a Warrior Awards nominations are now open.
The Soul of a Warrior Awards is an opportunity to recognize extraordinary front-line workers who consistently, through their perseverance and compassion, support women and children who have experienced violence.
There are four award categories—each one is a celebration and acknowledgement of the Warriors who are doing extraordinary work in the violence against women sector:
INNOVATION & CREATIVITY: This is a category for visionary Warriors who push the limits, question the status quo and break free from “what we’ve always done”. These are the front-line staff who look at problems as opportunities, offer new ways of thinking—big and small—that move the work forward and positively impact the lives of women and children experiencing violence. Nominate a Warrior Now
LEADERSHIP: This is a category for inspiring Warriors who lead from where they stand in their work to improve the lives of women and children experiencing violence. These are the front-line staff who bring vision, humility, courage and passion to the job every day, consistently leading others to work together to achieve great things. Nominate a Warrior Now
DEDICATION: This a category for committed Warriors who go the extra mile in all they do to improve the lives of women and children experiencing violence. These are the front-line staff who bring a can-do attitude, a determination to succeed, and a commitment that’s remarkable in its fierceness. Nominate a Warrior Now
PARTNERSHIP: This is a category for collaborative Warriors who know how much more you can achieve when you enlist others in your cause. These front-line staff reach beyond their organizations to bring together partners from the broader community to work together to improve the lives of women and children experiencing violence. Nominate a Warrior Now
Nominations must be submitted no later than November 17, 2017 at 5:00 p.m to be considered.
Visit http://www.womanact.ca/soul-of-a-warrior.html to learn more and submit your nominee!
Thank you to our 2018 Sponsors!
By Paula Wells, WomanACT Social Media Coordinator
For the sixth year in a row, WomanACT had the pleasure of hosting the 2017 Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS), a 2-day training conference part of the End Violence Against Women (VAW) Week in Toronto. On March 6th & 7th, front-line workers in the VAW sector had the opportunity to participate in panel discussions, speaker presentations and interactive training workshops. This year, training consisted of an amazing and world-renowned keynote speaker, Dr. Gabor Maté, who spoke about how to care for others while caring for ourselves. Read all about Dr. Maté’s keynote speech here.
Attendees were asked to complete evaluations of the conference throughout the week in order to gauge their opinions on speakers, workshops, content, etc. A post-conference evaluation was also sent out after the conference via Survey Monkey.
"Very well organized; Seamless!"
"Seems to get better every year."
The post-conference evaluation satisfaction rates were as follows:
When asked “do you plan on attending the conference again next year”, 92% of attendees responded ‘yes’. The other 8% were not sure.
"I am definitely looking forward to attending this fantastic event. It was more than training for me - it was an opportunity for me to become re-energized, re-educated, and re-motivated. In addition, it helped me to draw a bigger picture of my vision for my career. "
We wanted to know: What did you like most about the 2-day training?
"Positive energy and to be able to talk about the best practices and remember why we’re doing the work we’re doing."
"Meeting and connecting with people from different organizations."
"Bringing diverse staff from the VAW sector together to have an opportunity for training. The guest speaker was very impactful and there was a variety of workshops."
"I liked the format of having a panel for the first half of the day and workshops during the second half. By the time we got to the workshops, the panelists had gotten us thinking and inspired, and we still had the energy to participate in a workshop."
"Amazing time management, brilliant guest speaker (Dr. Maté), and overall organization was fantastic."
Overall, the SSxSS 2017 was a huge success and we are extremely excited for the 2018 training conference. Thank you to all attendees for participating in and providing your opinions on such an amazing week. We hope to see you in 2018!
We look forward to sharing news about the 2018 End VAW Week in Toronto in the upcoming months!
By Paula Wells, Social Media Coordinator
WomanACT has been organizing and hosting the annual Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS), 2-Day Training Conference since 2012. SSxSS is a 2-day, training event funded by The Ministry of Community and Social Services for front-line workers in the Violence Against Women sector. Conference attendees provide advocate and/or counselling services to women and children who have suffered abuse. Each day there are panel discussions, speaker presentations and interactive training workshops where sector experts discuss powerful and practical ideas on key issues facing the sector.
We are happy to announce that this year, our work is being supported by an advisory group made up of representatives from key networks providing VAW services in the city of Toronto. We are excited to have their input and expertise into the development of the 2018 Training Portfolio.
Each year, we create a needs assessment survey for front-line staff working in the GTA in the VAW sector to help us better understand their training requirements. This survey takes approximately 5 minutes to complete and responses are anonymous.This survey is a key tool in helping us determine the specific topics and themes throughout the training.
Thank you to everyone who has completed the annual Needs Assessment Survey so far. We are excited to receive so many responses and enjoying your feedback. We have extended the survey deadline to Friday September 8th to ensure we have given everyone a chance to provide their input. Your participation is completely voluntary and all of your responses will be kept confidential.
BY: Jenna Valleriani, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology and Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies, University of Toronto
As part of their annual End Violence Against Women Week, the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto hosted over 250 participants per day for a week of education, training and discussions in Toronto, Ontario. On Tuesday morning, one of their featured keynotes was Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician, best-selling author and renowned speaker on a range of issues such as addiction studies and childhood development. His focus was centered on the idea of “compassion fatigue”, really premised on how to care for others while caring for ourselves. Compassion fatigue is more than just what is commonly known as ‘burning out’, it refers to “the overall experience of emotional and physical fatigue that social service professionals experience due to chronic use of empathy when treating patients who are suffering in some way”. It’s also been referred to as ‘the cost of caring’. This is certainly a topic many people in the audience could identify with.
Dr. Maté is known nationally and is praised in harm reduction communities for his work in Vancouver’s downtown east side for over 12 years. If you’ve ever read his books, he weaves case studies with scientific theory, and his own experiences. The premise is that much ‘addiction’, mental illness or problematic behaviours is rooted in a common pathway: trauma – or hurt from one’s childhood, and the idea that the “patterns we develop around pain continue to generate more pain”.
Applying this to the case of compassion fatigue, Dr. Maté went on to explain that people who work with vulnerable communities can also be traumatized from working and hearing about other people’s trauma. The idea of compassion fatigue then becomes also rooted in our own “stuff” – meaning it’s less about the nature of the work itself, but how we relate to the work and how we care for ourselves. More broadly, we often worry about others without taking care of our own emotional responses, and most often women are ‘programmed’, or socially conditioned, to take that role on. The idea of compassionate fatigue is what Dr. Maté more accurately described as lack-of-compassion-for-the-self fatigue. Further, it can be part of a deeper inability to say no, which can exacerbate the difficult nature of the work.
Very central to Dr. Maté’s talk was the mind /body connection. In fact, historically, different medical traditions around the world are very much premised on the idea that the two can’t be separated. But in Western medicine, although we have made lots of scientific advances when it comes to acute care, in dealing with chronic conditions, we often focus on simply alleviating symptoms despite what traditional wisdom has taught us about this interconnection.
So in this way an illness is not just individual, it’s also conditioned by social facts. For example, Dr. Maté described a study which included both children and mothers. The children of mothers who are stressed and depressed were linked to an increased likelihood of having asthma. Stress, then, can be a powerful social experience, which is not just emotional but also physiological. The centers in the brain that process emotion are connected to one unifying system that includes our hormonal apparatus, nervous system, heart, gut, and more, and any aspect will have impacts on other functions. It makes sense that emotions are deeply implicated in the development of illness. These are observations that Dr. Maté makes based on his own experience working with chronically ill patients, and really prioritizes the critical role of individual emotional make up in a variety of disease.
On the role of burnout, I appreciated the idea that burnout is tied to us having to deal with our own self, but also that many people, particularly those working with vulnerable populations, often forget about their own self-care. The health, both mental and physical, of frontline workers, is influenced by the conditions in which they live and work. Particularly with workloads increasing and funding being reduced across the community service sector, front line workers often put their own physical, emotional and spiritual needs aside.
I really enjoyed the talk, and questions ranged from sharing experiences to queries about how we can be better at identifying the need for self-care. One question I had centered on the idea of trauma and how we define these experiences. For example, I struggle with the idea that all addiction is rooted in trauma precisely because if you look hard enough, don’t we all have some experiences that can be interpreted as trauma? Do childhood stressors always manifest itself as elevated risks? And if trauma really can be found or interpreted in anyone’s past (if we look hard enough), then how does this shape the explanatory power of how trauma affects our behaviours?
Overall, what really resonated with me was the need to listen to our bodies—and our gut, and unpacked a deeper source around the idea we know as “burnout”. Many people in the audience provide intensive support for others in time of transition and crisis. This work is arduous, demanding and complex, and often self-care takes a backseat. But every once in a while, the helper needs to be reminded to take care of themselves.
 Newell, J. M., & MacNeil, G. (2010). Professional burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion fatigue: A review of theoretical terms, risk factors, and preventive methods for clinicians. Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal, 6 (2), 57-68.
By Paula Wells, Conference & Social Media Coordinator
Happy New Year to our dedicated followers! I hope that 2017 is off to a good start for you.
I am thrilled to share our first blog post of the year with you with some great news; The deadline to nominate a staff member or fellow colleague for a WomanACT Soul of a Warrior Award has been extended!
You now have until January 31st, 2017 to submit your nominations. Nominate today by following this link.
There are six categories for our worthy warriors:
The Selection Process
The Selection Committee is comprised of WomanACT Board Members and Council members. Nominations will be rated against a nomination criteria and the committee may contact nominees, nominators and supporters to confirm information.
• Nominees must be front-line staff
• Nominees must self-identify as a woman
• Nominees must demonstrate a commitment to advocacy for improving the lives of women and children experiencing violence
• Nominees must work in Toronto
• Current WomanACT Staff members are not eligible to be nominated for the award
• Nominations not submitted as per the Nomination Submission Guidelines and deadline may be disqualified
• Managers or Executive Directors are not eligible for the “Soul Of A Warrior” Awards
• Self-nomination is not permitted
Tickets are now on Sale!
Once again we are offering discounted tickets to all front line staff working in the VAW sector. If you haven't received your discount code, please call email me for details.
Visit our Eventbrite page to purchase your ticket today and see you on the dance floor!
By Paula Wells, Conference and Social Media Coordinator at WomanACT
As you may be aware, WomanACT sends out an annual Needs Assessment Survey to gather feedback from the VAW sector on new and emerging topics affecting our work. The selection of keynote speakers and workshop topics to present during our annual End Violence Against Women Week in Toronto and the Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS) 2-day training are based on these survey results.
We have taken the time to aggregate and digest all of the submissions, and are pleased to release the results of our annual Training Needs Assessment.
Who Took the Survey
We received over 120 responses to this year's survey which is a record number of submissions! The majority of respondents (75%) were front-line staff and 25% hold management positions. Job titles include Transitional Housing Support Workers (THSW), Counsellors, Advocates, Program Coordinators, Social Workers, and Child and Youth Workers to name a few. More than 50% of respondents are working as THSW or Counsellors.
Not everyone could remember the number of SSxSS training sessions they have attended but some have recorded attended more than 10 of these training's over the years!
We asked respondents what areas of interest or issues affecting the VAW sector they would like to see covered at the 2017 training and the top 10 responses were:
Break it Down
We asked respondents about sub topics or specific areas of interest relating to the above top 10 list of topics and these are the results:
Thank you to everyone that took the time to complete the survey. We truly value your input. The search is now on for the perfect speakers to cover these important topics. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
WomanACT was pleased to welcome back Lisa Tomlinson from Children Aid’s Society of Toronto, and Greg Babcock fromCatholic Family Services of Toronto, to this year’s End Violence against Women Week in Toronto. Lisa and Greg facilitated a workshop together which focused on understanding men who use violence and interventions in order to maximize victims’ safety. This workshop sparked very high interest levels and a standing room only workshop as front line workers wanted to hear what they had to say.
Throughout the workshop, Lisa and Greg outlined characteristics, tactics, and types of abusive men which centred on the concept of understanding why males engage in violence in certain situations. The pair touched on their invitation for men to examine their fathering, values, and responsibility for the effects they have on their partner and/or child. If you wish to view their full presentation, download the file below.
The instructor’s would also like to share a link with everyone to view so please do so by reading “Fathering After Violence”. It is an initiative that aims to help end violence against women by motivating men to discontinue their abuse and become better fathers.
Lisa Tomlinson is the Co-Chair of the CAS/VAW Collaboration Advisory Committee of the Toronto Region, as well as a content developer of the E-learning Centre among the CAS/VAW workers. The e-learning program launched on March 11th during our End Violence against Women Week and includes three detailed and informative modules. Click here to log in and begin your e-learning experience.
Men Who Use Violence
Did you attend the Men Who Use Violence workshop at the Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff training conference? Let us know what you thought in the comment section below.
By Bianca Caputo, Social Media Placement Student at WomanACT
On Wednesday, March 9, Harsha Baxi spoke about her experience participating in “Telling Our Stories” to the attendees of our Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff Training. Telling Our Stories is organized by Irene Gabinet on behalf of WomanACT and is an opportunity for workers to collaboratively create artwork throughout a workshop series. After completing the four sessions, Harsha explained her feelings toward the process:
“As we know, working in the VAW sector, we get affected by secondary trauma and I feel this was the best way of self - care for me”.
She was extremely overjoyed by the collaborative participation and support that all of the members put forth during this workshop. Their creativity and dedication lead to some beautiful pieces of artwork that are displayed below. Besides the amazing physical work that resulted from this workshop, Harsha enjoyed the whole process of building, learning, and relaxing which assisted her in rejuvenating and caring for her own well-being.
WomanACT would like to give a big thank you to Harsha Baxi for sharing your experience with the attendees of End Violence against Women Week. We would also like to thank all of the workers who participated in Telling Our Stories; we are very excited to share your artwork.
I believe any kind of art is a medium of expression. This art work we created is an expression of our mind, our feelings, our thoughts and ultimately our actions.- Harsha Baxi
Special thank you to Stephanie Campos, a student studying digital photography, for taking such amazing photos throughout End Violence against Women Week. We appreciate your wonderful photography skills and your passion towards the art. Thank you for your work!
By Bianca Caputo, Social Media Placement Student at WomanACT
Last night's Soul of a Warrior Awards Gala 2016 was an evening full of excitement, prosperity and enjoyment as frontline staff in the violence against Women (VAW) sector came together for a night to celebrate. From the beginning of the night, workers were mingling, sharing ideas and overall having a great time. The aura among the room was very enjoyable with over 90 attendees present to admire the work of their sector.
We had the pleasure of having Cynthia Mulligan from CityNews as our Master of Ceremonies for the evening. She was beautifully spoken and did an amazing job leading the room throughout the night.
One of the most incredible parts of the evening was the presentation of the awards to 3 staff members in the VAW sector for their outstanding work and the positive impact they have on the community:
It was an honour to be able to award these professionals for their exceptional performance each day and celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulations to all of the winners!
WomanACT would like to share a special thank you to the Holiday Inn Yorkdale, Cynthia Mulligan, and all attendees and volunteers for making the evening a huge success. It was a pleasure to bring VAW staff together to share a night of triumph. Also, thank you to all of our 2016 sponsors for your support and acknowledgment, WomanACT truly appreciates you.
End Violence against Women Week 2016 is almost mid-way through and we are very excited to continue the workshops and events for the rest of the week. Stay tuned for more information!
By Bianca Caputo, Social Media Placement Student at WomanACT
Thank you to our keynote speaker, Annie Kashamura Zawadi, for starting off this morning's Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff Workshop! Your work is greatly appreciated and we are so thankful to have you speak to the staff here at End Violence against Women Week 2016.
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