When a Kitchener youth was murdered in 2001, the CMHA Grand River Branch responded by creating a peer-to-peer violence prevention program called WAYVE (Working Against Youth Violence Everywhere).
WAYVE brings together youth volunteers from high schools in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area and supports them to address youth-identified issues such as bullying and cyber-bullying, harassment, racism and discrimination, youth suicide, self-harm, and gang violence. These volunteers use youth-created activities to engage teams of younger youth from their high school in discussions about violence among youth, and then to take action to prevent violence and address existing problems in their school and community.
Over the years, the in-school teams have created and delivered a variety of original and impactful education and awareness projects. Some examples include:
- a Pink Day, during which students could have their fingernails painted pink while discussing issues of bullying, discrimination, and homophobia
- a “listening locker,” where students could write down issues that concerned them and ask for some support or help from a school staff
- student-designed posters and materials.
The students involved in WAYVE in-school teams are not just working to make a difference in their school and community; they benefit from being involved. They have developed supportive relationships with other youth and adults. They have gained tools to speak up, and to avoid and overcome situations that are abusive or potentially so. Being involved in WAYVE has also helped students develop a healthier self-esteem and has decreased stress for students who’ve experienced bullying.