Leave Out Violence, Finally Someone is Doing Something about Youth Violence

By Joe Dunn

The 7th National Meeting of the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health featured a workshop on youth violence and a unique approach that has been developed by Brenda Proulx, a professor of journalism at Concordia University. The program is called L.O.V.E., (Leave Out ViolencE) and originated and functions in the Montreal area. When I was deciding which workshop I should attend, this programme caught my eye.

Youth violence is a problem that has been escalating. Every day seems to bring more news accounts of youth involved in violent crime. For some time I have been thinking that someone should try and develop a program that will really deal with this issue. this program does.

The L.O.V.E. program works through the schools to identify youth that have been involved in violence, either as victims or perpetrators. Once students are identified and referred by school counsellors, they are offered an interview at a local community college for a photo-journalism program. The student must agree to continue in school (the program is offered after school). Once in the program they are provided with a camera and film and asked to photograph and record their experiences. Feedback sessions and group meetings focus on the photo-journalism that the students produce.

Eventually their photographs and writings are published in the project's own newspaper. These papers are then sent to centers in the community where students will see and read them. The staff also work with members of the programme to provide workshops and exhibitions on violence prevention in regional schools.

The program helps young people find the root of their anger and helps them express it in more positive ways than lashing out at society and those around. There are many elements of violence, and addressing them and helping youth realize that violence is not the answer to their pain is an important part of the program. Some of these elements are :

The L.O.V.E. program seeks out youth who are dealing with these elements by providing an opportunity to learn about themselves and to help others. L.O.V.E.'s goal is to effect a positive change in the negative mind-set of youth with respect to violence. By working along side college and university students in a non-judgmental atmosphere the teenager is able to express his/her feelings.

The writing aspect of this program helps the youth in letting out anger in the form of poetry. All work is from the heart, and most of it does get published or used by L.O.V.E. in some way. From this experience the youth receives a sense of achievement, a sense of expression , and a sense of relief that he or she is able to openly express a lot of bottled-up feelings and emotions.

The photography aspect of this program shows the young person how to visually express thoughts and feelings when they are combined with writing and poetry in a way that shows their inner experience. There is one more aspect of the program that I found particularly interesting. During the program, members are sent out to schools and classrooms to promote non-violence with other students.

In conclusion. L.OV.E. is a community that provides young people, whose lives have been affected by violence, with measurable skills, a sense of purpose, and the support they need to reject violent behavior. Once they find their "voice" the youths learn to work with L.O.V.E. in a provocative effort to promote non-violence in communities. This outreach initiative impacts on children, other youth, and decision makers, reaching across racial, cultural, socio-economic, and generational issues.

Reproduced from: Monthly News in Adolescence.