Jessie’s Hope Society Celebrates ‘EveryBody’ by Fostering Healthy Resilience

Brian W. Chittock, Quinn Cashion-Vosburgh and Heather Quick Rajala

Reprinted from "Schools" issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 5 (2), pp. 11-13

What if we had a society where everybody was celebrated? Where individuals found a way to appreciate themselves regardless of shortcomings they may see in themselves?

Jessie’s Hope Society is a BC non-profit, volunteer, organization that focuses on the innate resiliency and capacity for well-being that everyone has, regardless of circumstances and problems.

Jessie’s Hope Society believes that we don’t need to ‘fix’ people, we just need to help them tap into to this resilience they already have inside. A 15-year-old high school student once described resilience as “bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and more smarts.” This understanding speaks to the human self-righting ability we all have.

When children are living in well-being, they work well, play well, love well and expect well.

Three life principles that guide our work

At the heart of our program is the Three Principles of Innate Health—Mind, Consciousness and Thought. This leading-edge approach to wellness has been researched and developed for over 25 years. It has been shown to decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms, and to increase self-esteem and positive changes in personal relationships and communities.1 The academic home of this approach is the West Virginia Initiative for Innate Health at the University of West Virginia (www.hsc.wvu.edu/wviih) in the United States.

Our mental life operates from these Three Principles of Innate Health at all times; they govern how we experience life, moment to moment. Mind is described as the energy behind life. Like electricity, it is a formless energy, and is a constant source of power and wisdom. Consciousness is awareness; like a cord being plugged into an outlet, we can access different levels of wisdom through our understanding of this principle. Thought is like a light bulb: it’s how we see life. It’s through Thought that we create our personal reality.

When we have an understanding of these principles, we are less reactive to life and more responsive. By responding rather than reacting to life’s challenges, we can handle our challenges with greater ease of mind. This helps us maintain our wellness.

Our school prevention program: Celebrating EveryBody!

To engage the wellness of children, we developed the two parts to our Celebrating EveryBody! program—one for teachers and one for students. We also have a program for parents, as an extension to the in-class program for students.

Training teachers to share the Three Principles of Innate Health

Teachers must take a 12-hour training workshop in order to use the Celebrating EveryBody! lesson plans with their students. School counsellors and special education assistants are also encouraged to take this training so they can support the teachers by also speaking resilience-based language with the students.

The health of the teacher and support staff—which is facilitated by this training—is critical for sharing the Three Principles of Innate Health with students. By living in their own well-being, teachers will naturally role model resiliency and wellness

Our training is relaxed and informal and taught through presentations, discussions and group work. It doesn’t rely on memorizing techniques, tools or skills. Rather, trainees explore how their experiences in life are created and how they can use the function of thought to help them day to day, moment to moment. By learning to quiet their mind, participants discover how to live in a state of well-being more of the time. When teachers live in this state of mind more of the time, they create a learning environment where children are better able to reach their potential.

Here’s what teaching staff have said:

  • “Thank you so much for helping us shift our thinking and learn about our ‘higher state of mind.’ This is important personal and professional work. We are all on this journey. Your workshop helped us move along the path to greater peace of mind.” – SD#36 counsellors and teachers

  • “It has been very powerful for me on a personal level. I have been able to use this training in various situations. Now, I am becoming more aware of my thoughts.” – a SD#42 support teacher

Training students to use the power of Thought in their lives

Celebrating EveryBody! is focused on bringing the best out in children. Through a variety of activities and reflection time, the students begin to see how they do or do not live in their well-being. Part of the learning touches on positive body image and developing healthy eating behaviours.

Celebrating EveryBody! is designed for students in grades four, five, six and seven. The lesson plans are adaptable to each teacher’s personal teaching style and can be used to enrich lessons in core academic subjects. The 10 lessons range from 30 to 45 minutes in length and can be presented over a 5- to 10-week period.

Each lesson is matched to Ministry of Education learning outcomes. The program also supports BC Schools Performance Standards by providing social responsibility programming for students.2

To help students engage with their resilience and common sense, the program uses metaphors to explain the workings of the inner life. We use the sun as a metaphor to convey the power of the human potential that exists in all of us. This includes ideas of goodness, wisdom and peace. The students are asked: What does it feel like to live in this place? And to understand the power of Thought and Consciousness, the metaphor of clouds is used. Habitual thinking can get in the way of, or cloud, our sun. The goal is to guide children back to the sun, back to this innate ability to make healthy choices in their lives. Thought is the “vehicle” in which they learn how to do this.

To determine the impact our program is having on the students, we include questionnaires for students to fill out before and after the program. There are also reflection sheets for the students to complete. We want to hear from the students about how Celebrate EveryBody! guides them in their everyday life.

Here’s what students have said:

  • “I never knew feelings were so powerful, and thoughts too. I didn’t know how to see a situation in another person’s view. But, thanks to Jessie’s Hope, I now know.” – a grade five female student

  • “I learned that nobody can hurt your feelings.” – a grade five male student

Connecting with Your Kids

Our Connecting with Your Kids program provides training to parents who want to raise their children in an atmosphere of well-being and resiliency. We offer a four-week parenting workshop to help parents discover how their state of mind impacts the way they connect with their children. Parents have said the program has also helped in other aspects of their lives such as work and other relationships.

Here’s what parents are saying:

  • “It’s more about how I need to change than about what I want my kids to do.”

  • “[I learned how] to stay present—to connect in the moment.”

Making inroads to change

Since April 2007, Jessie’s Hope Society has trained over 500 counsellors, teachers, parents, community nurses, and mental health workers working in human services programs and schools. Last year, trained teachers and school counsellors reached over 570 students with our program. School districts, teachers, school counsellors and parents are embracing our approach, which explores the root cause of harmful behaviour and focuses on drawing out children’s natural resiliency.

We have continued to expand our programs throughout the Lower Mainland and plan on expanding to key communities throughout the province in the coming years.

For more information about Jessie’s Hope Society, its other programs and opportunities to become a trainer, visit www.jessieshope.org or call 604-466-4877.

 
About the author
Brian is the Executive Director of Jessie’s Hope Society. He has participated in the development of the society’s provincial prevention program for children, Celebrating EveryBODY! Brian oversees all Jessie’s Hope program development in the province of BC Quinn is Program Director for Jessie’s Hope Society. She has over 15 years experience as a trainer in personal and professional development. Quinn designed and has delivered Celebrating EveryBODY! to parents, teachers, children and professionals in communities around BC Heather is the Program Coordinator and Executive Assistant for Jessie’s Hope Society, and has assisted in the design and development of Celebrating EveryBODY! She currently coordinates the logistics for taking the program to schools, community professionals and parent groups
Footnotes:
  1. Banerjee, K., Howard, M., Mansheim, K. et al. (2007). Comparison of Health Realization and 12-step treatment in women’s residential substance abuse treatment programs. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 33(2), 207-215.

  2. BC Ministry of Education. (2001). BC Performance Standards. Social Responsibility: A Framework. Ministry of Education, Student Assessment and Program Evaluation Branch. www.bced.gov.bc.ca/perf_stands/social_resp.htm.

 

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