By Paula Wells, WomanACT Events and Social Media Planner
On Tuesday, March 6th and Wednesday, March 7th, close to 250 front-line workers from 40 agencies in Toronto's Violence Against Women (VAW) sector attended the 2018 Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS) Training Conference. The event is a part of WomanACT's annual End Violence Against Women Week in Toronto.
This year’s training, entitled ‘Let’s Get Into It Together’, was facilitated by Bo Yih Thom and J. McKnight. These facilitators lead us through a fully packed, 2-day workshop experience focused on four core topics: trauma-informed care and practice, trauma and the brain, self-reflection, and unpacking bias.
Each day, we were guided through several interactive practices and exercises to give front-line staff in the GTA the opportunity to network and engage with each other. Also, through these exercises, participants experienced some of the discomfort, challenges and barriers that women trying to flee violence may face on a daily basis. This was emphasised during an exercise where participants were forced to find new seating arrangements.
Before each break, participants were lead through a breathing exercise encouraging them to unwind their bodies and minds. The poetry mash-up on day two was enjoyed by all and allowed one’s work and life experience to foster into a beautiful poem. Please view the picture gallery below to see some of the poetry mash ups created by attendees.
We are currently reviewing the evaluations from the training. Your input is highly valued and we take all of your comments into consideration for future events!
Our post conference survey is open until April 6th. If you were at the training, please take a moment to share your thoughts with us. Click here to fill out our short post-conference survey!
This valuable training would not be possible without the generous funding of The Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Thank you to our facilitators, Bo Yih Thom & J. McKnight for taking the time to create this 2 day experience specifically designed for front-line staff in Toronto in the VAW sector.
We were happy to welcome back Caversham Books who supplied our attendees with a huge selection of books geared to the important work they do.
And, of course, a special shout out to the hotel staff and Chef Kalvin at the Holiday Inn Yorkdale for their non-stop, incredible service and amazingly tasty food throughout our entire week-long stay.
By Paula Wells, WomanACT Social Media Coordinator
You heard correct... Registration for this year's Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS) is now OPEN!
On Tuesday March 6th and Wednesday March 7th, facilitators Bo Yih Thom, MSW, RSW, RP, and J. McKnight will be guiding us through a 2-day training conference which will bring a strong focus on trauma-informed care and practice, trauma and the brain, self-reflection, and unpacking bias.
Registration closes on February 23rd, 2018 so be sure to register now while you can! This is your chance to engage, learn and grow with other front-line workers in VAW agencies.
If you have not received an email from WomanACT yet or would like more information, please email us today.
Click here to read our latest blog with more details about SSxSS 2018 and our outstanding facilitators.
By Paula Wells, WomanACT Social Media Coordinator
It is that wonderful time of the year again!
As the 2018 End Violence against Women Week is quickly approaching, we want to get you excited about this year's Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff (SSxSS) 2-day training conference!
Our goal for this year is that over two days, the same facilitators will support individual, organizational, and sector capacity through a combination of experiential and content based learning activities. We will work together to expand our knowledge of how trauma and other forms of violence affect the mind, body, and Spirit, while increasing our collective capacity to respond effectively and respectfully as a system.
We welcome this year's facilitators, Bo Yih Thom, MSW, RSW, RP, and J. McKnight, who will bring a strong focus on trauma-informed care and practice, trauma and the brain, self-reflection, and unpacking bias. Let's learn about our amazing facilitators...
Bo Yih Thom, MSW, RSW, RP, is the Director of Integrative Counselling Resources, a Toronto-based private practice that offers psychotherapy, clinical supervision, and consultation services to individuals and agencies across Ontario. She has an extensive background in community-based organizations, where she worked as a therapist and social worker with vulnerable populations experiencing trauma and substance use. Bo Yih was a part time professor in the Assaulted Women and Children’s Counsellor Advocate Program at George Brown College, and a course facilitator with the Harm Reduction Certificate Program at York University. Bo Yih is a specialist in intersectionality, especially as it relates to surviving trauma and ambiguous grief. She works from a strengths based perspective that can integrate short and long term counselling modalities with anti-oppression frameworks and mindfulness.
J McKnight worked in Toronto's community service sector from 2002-2013, most recently as Manager of Clinical Services for YWCA Toronto. J was part of the evolution of the service delivery system in the GTA that aimed to improve the capacity of VAW (violence against women) and community mental health services to support women and families who had experienced violence and other forms of oppression. J is currently a psychotherapist in private practice in the Finger Lakes region of New York, working with individuals and families using an experiential approach that integrates mind, body and spirit to support healing, growth, and transformation.
Date: Tuesday March 6th, Wednesday March 7th
*Note: While you have the option to attend only one of the above dates, we highly recommend attending both days to get the most of out this interactive workshop!
Location: Holiday Inn Yorkdale - 3450 Dufferin Street, Toronto ON, M6A 2V1
Breakfast, lunch, and refreshments will be provided.
Registration is limited to VAW agencies funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. To view a list of qualifying agencies, please click here.
An email to register was sent last week. If you didn't get yours or would like more information, email us today.
You won't want to miss out! Come prepared to engage, expand, and grow together!
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 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.
Building economic stability through micro-enterprise: The Women and Micro-Enterprise Project at Women's Habitat
By Laura Boccioni, Community Development Worker and Coordinator for the Women and Micro-Enterprise Project
If you were at the Supporting Survivors by Supporting Staff training conference in March 2016, you may have heard Leila Sarangi from Women's Habitat speak during the "Social Innovation in Response to Economic Abuse and Violence against Women" panel. As Manager of Community Programs, Leila leads the Women and Micro-Enterprise (WME) Project, supporting women as they develop, test, and grow their own small businesses.
Developed in collaboration with Scadding Court Community Centre, and with supporting research from the Rotman School of Business’ DesignWorks Program, the WME Project is designed to respond directly to the unique needs of women-entrepreneurs who have experienced violence and abuse, seeking to fill the gaps they found through their research into existing employment programs. The project takes a holistic approach, understanding that in addition to business skills training, access to life skills training, opportunities for business testing, individual business coaching, peer support, and comprehensive wraparound supports (including case-management and counselling) are key to supporting women who have experienced abuse as they pursue economic stability through micro-entrepreneurship.
Registration is now open!
Please spread the word about this unique opportunity.Participation is open to women who are living on low incomes, have experienced gender-based abuse, and have an interest in starting their own business. Whether they’re just starting with an idea and building from the ground up, or they’re micro-entrepreneurs looking for opportunities to develop their skills and grow their existing enterprise, participants will be connected with business and life skill development opportunities to help them reach their goals.
The WME Program is an 8 month program (running from September 2016 to April 2017) that includes a multi-session business course, life skills development sessions, and ongoing business development through working with business coaches, life skills mentors, and their peers. Participants can enroll in the 9 week, part-time businesses course, which covers all they need to know about starting a small business. The course is offered at the Learning Enrichment Foundation (116 Industry Street), from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, from September 19 to November 17. Upon graduation, students will have developed a business plan that will help them as they continue with the program, working collaboratively and independently to grow their businesses, with ongoing access to business coaches and further life and business skills development sessions.
Throughout the 8 months, participants work together, sharing their ideas and knowledge, and offering each other valuable emotional and entrepreneurial support. They will have access to counsellors and a project coordinator who will connect them with key wrap-around supports. They also have the opportunity to join the Toronto Women’s Collective, a group of micro-entrepreneurs and program participants who share business opportunities using a collective model where overhead costs and resources are shared. This model creates a flexible, supportive, and low-risk environment for incubating their small businesses, and helps to mitigate many of the added barriers women face as they embark on entrepreneurship.
September 2016 to April 2017 (8 months). Includes a 9 week course from September to November
Participation is open to those who identify as a woman or genderqueer, who have experienced gender-based abuse, and who are living on low incomes.
Schedule: September 19 to November 17, 2016
Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
Additional life skills sessions may be scheduled on some Wednesdays or Fridays
Deadline to register: September 12 at 5:00 pm
Location: Learning Enrichment Foundation
116 Industry Street, York, Ontario, M6M 4L8
The Learning Enrichment Foundation is committed to AODA compliance. Please let us know if you require any specific accommodations when you call to register.
Life Skills Sessions
Life skills sessions will be scheduled throughout the 8 months. A full course schedule will be provided to registrants before the business course starts.
For more information, and to register, contact Laura Buccioni, Community Development Worker and Coordinator for the Women and Micro-enterprise Project: 416-252-7949 x237
You can support the businesses involved in our project by following the Toronto Women’s Collective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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!
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