Compassionate Leaders Project Co-ordinator, Ray Anthony travelled to Toronto, Ontario to receive the award on behalf of CIS. In his acceptance speech he kindly equated Compassionate Leaders as Inclusive Leaders. “This project grew directly from my friend and mentor, Linda Hill’s life long work developing Inclusive Leadership.”
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) Awards of Excellence pays tribute to public, private and voluntary organizations whose efforts represent best practices in building an awareness and understanding of Canadian values and identity that are reflective of Canadian diversity and respectful race relations. Ray says, “When we received the news that we had won this award, we were shocked and amazed! It is such an honour to receive national recognition for our work in a small non-profit society, in a small community on an island way over on the west coast of Canada.” As the winning Canadian Youth initiative, the Compassionate Leaders Project is recognized by CRRF for, “…building an awareness and understanding of Canadian values and identity that are reflective of Canadian diversity.”
Now in its second year, the Compassionate Leaders Project partners with secondary schools in Cowichan School District to engage youth in exploring, sharing and celebrating their identities as compassionate leaders. The outcomes are skilled student leaders who are actively involved in, as Ray says, “doing the real work of creating more inclusive schools , building positive community connections, and making their schools and communities places where everybody feels a strong sense of belonging,”
The Compassionate Leaders project begins by gathering teams of youth from participating schools at a Leadership Camp based on the Inclusive Leadership Adventure curriculum. Ray follows the Building Bridges steps to develop an agenda that is packed full of participatory learning activities for building compassionate leadership skills and awareness: Connecting with Differences, Communicating with Compassion, Being an Ally, Making a Difference, responding with Anti- Discrimination First Aid, Connecting with Nature, Action Planning and much more. “The passion and energy of the youth participants never ceases to amaze me.” observed Ray. “They have an amazing capacity for compassion, empathy and action – especially when given meaningful opportunities”.
Now that the students have returned to their schools, they are implementing their action plans for addressing problems of racism, homophobia, bullying, social isolation, poverty, depression and other mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse and more concerns. Action plans include support groups and alliances, co-operative art projects, peer to peer workshops, compassionate listening,, games, sports, and all forms of playful community-building creativity. Ray meets with each group of students weekly to support what they are doing to build more welcoming and inclusive schools. Participating students see Compassionate Leaders as extremely important. As one student commented on a feedback form, “For me, it was a way to figure out what to do if you were interested in making a difference with any issue. We need to know that it is possible to make a change. It pushed us to look into our school and find out what we could do to make it a better place.”
Ray began developing his own Inclusive Leadership skills for building welcoming and inclusive communities long before 2007 when he became involved in the Inclusive Leadership community, Back in 2007, Ray had returned to Canada after one year volunteering in Juba, South Sudan with the international Right to Play Movement. Just like Inclusive Leaders everywhere, Right to Play volunteers know that play is children’s peace-building work.
In addition to his involvement in the Right to Play movement and the Inclusive Leadership movement, Ray was an award winning Child and Youth Care student at Vancouver Island University, he has co-ordinated the Cowichan community’s Annual Walk of Nations since 2009 and he is an immigrant support worker at CIS. In all these roles, Ray is a master at applying games, sports, festivals, and all forms of playful creativity to educate and empower children, youth and adults to become connected, compassionate and courageous leaders in their communities.