Masonic Foundation Of Ontario

"There are lots of young men and women we would love to have as students, the Nobel Prize winners, the Lasker Award winners of the future. It would be a sin if society is deprived of the fruits of their work down the road because those of us, today, who could have helped, didn't."
-- Michael Bloomberg

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Challenges, Beliefs and Changes

by V.W. Bro. Ted Morris

Would you really want to be a kid again?

Really?

A teenager daily faces angst and acne and authoritarian rule. A number don't make it through those years and even more are scarred by the experience.

A program sponsored by the Masonic Foundation has been identifying the pressures of an adolescent's rites of passage.

What's in a Name?

The program is about more than drugs. It's designed to respond to adolescent options, those decisions kids must make daily, and to equip them with alternatives. If life is a challenge, then these young people have to develop an ability to cope with problems.

The name that evolved was "Challenges, Beliefs and Changes." It reflects the individual's belief in a set of values, a faith in himself, and confidence in his own abilities. It's called "CBC" for short and develops a belief in the broader sense of values, self-trust and expanded social capabilities.

These aren't skills developed from being preached at. That's where peer education comes in.

Foundation Involvement

The Masonic Foundation has been active in peer education with the Parent Action on Drugs since 1988. It started with a campaign for funds for "Nip Drugs in The Bud." More than a million dollars was raised and the revenue from that kitty is the source for all peer education support. The CBC is an eight-year-old spin-off totally financed by the Foundation. The programs are both educational and preventative.

Nip Drugs in the Bud continues with last year's funding totaling $95,000. CBC, a highly cost-effective project, was given $50,000.

Lonely Times

Teen years are marked by infinite changes and challenges. Ostracism, loneliness, or the weight of depression. Separations of many kinds, like the death of a parent or family breakup, or even leaving the old neighborhood for another city. Sickness, either mental or physical, real or imagined, bulimia or anorexia. A pesky kid brother or sister. Kids have problems and few coping skills. And all of this coincides with leaving the structured public school while being jangled by the genes of puberty.

Who can they talk with? Who really knows the enormity of society's expectations and the demand for perfection? Certainly not adults who are part of the problem. And not immediate peers with problems of their own. The answer is teenagers, just a little older, just a little more experienced, and completely empathic. High school students willing to share become peer models.

How It Works

First it has to be requested, but that's no problem. Word is out that it's a good program and the price is right. The provincial department of education demands drug education, and CBC meets its criteria. The demand is steady with public health departments in Haliburton, Thunder Bay, Renfrew County, Orillia, Huntsville, Peterborough, Toronto, and the Niagara region all coming back for more. All these municipalities have facilitated running CBC sessions. Ottawa was also a recent participant, along with other Ontario communities. The expertise and resources are there for schools that require them Educators are strongly committed to providing CBC in the schools and they take a strong liaison role in helping it happen. But they don't run it. They are good partners for the kids who do.

The Foundation provides funding for the two-day training the models require. When the high-schoolers go back to grade eight, they come equipped with a video to ease the way into discussion, some role playing games skills, and most important, personal testimonials. The video asks, "When you are striving to be popular, what is expected?" Opinions are asked, making the youngsters think for themselves instead of being given answers. Easy avenue to popularity could be drugs and booze, but together the kids establish acceptable parameters. A lot of the teen workers are graduates the program themselves, which is in itself a testimonial.

The whole program takes only three-and-a-half hours of listening, learning, and feedback after school. PAD's chief concern is drug and alcohol abuse, but the focus is on the general problems of being young and growing older. In concentrating on life skills, CBC emphasizes the personal worth of teenagers and how they can survive the transition from public school to high school. Ease the transition and the problem isn't about drugs; it's about change.

This program, along with many others, is supported by Yellow Envelopes, donations, and bequests to the Masonic Foundation. If you live in Haliburton, Thunder Bay, Renfrew County, Orillia, Huntsville, Peterborough, Toronto, the Niagara region, or wherever the program has been presented, children in your community have already benefited from Challenges, Beliefs, and Changes. The program, however, is on-going. Children grow up and move on. New peer educators are continually needed to work with new grade eight students.

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V.W. Bro. Ted Morris
76 Ballacaine Drive, Etobicoke, ON, M8Y 4B7
If you want to chat, call Ted at (416) 232 - 9545 or (705) 448 - 2574