December 3, 2023

Resilience symposium will foster community resilience training for Kingston-area educators, service providers and community organizations

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The first-ever Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Resilience Symposium is set to take place next week.

The symposium is designed to bring together members of the Kingston region who have been building knowledge and tools around ideas of community resilience, thanks to courses being offered through Pathways to Education and Kingston Community Health Centres via its Teach Resilience program.

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Roger Romero is the manager of youth services with Kingston Community Health Centres and the program manager for Pathways to Education. He’s the principal consultant with the Teach Resilience social enterprise, which is being run by Pathways to Education as a method for teaching community organizations and service agencies how to build community resilience in order to help the individuals who they support.

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Teach Resilience courses are being offered online with materials developed by a Washington state-based organization called the Community Resilience Initiative, a collective that started addressing societal issues a decade ago in their region by joining forces as a community and educating leaders about the science around resiliency, to many positive results, Romero said.

“After 10 years of doing this work, they saw a decrease in violent crime, gang activity in their region, school truancy, they saw that there were fewer calls to the police, things like that,” Romero said. “It all kind of works together to decrease some of these health and social issues.”

The materials explore the neuroscience of resilience, how stress affects relationships, behaviour and decision-making processes, epigenetics — the study of how genes can be modified by traumatic experiences, especially those in childhood — and how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have direct impacts on a child’s future physical, mental and social wellbeing.

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“It’s so crucial for people to understand, and I think in this region we weren’t really talking about how proper development in childhood is the keystone or the foundation of really successful adults in our region, so we should really start focusing on how do we buffer adversity,” he said. “We can’t really control home life, but what we can do is when young people or kids come into our spaces, whether it be education, health care, public transit, we can really give healing interactions with the work that we do if we understand that the root cause of behaviour might be a lack of basic needs (being met), a lack of connection with adults or trusted adults. We don’t blame families, by any means, but we know that not every family has that equity start to life.”

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The materials are helping local educators, service providers and community organizations understand the science behind resilience in individuals and how community plays a role in an individual’s ability to not only survive but thrive.

“There’s kind of a misconception that individuals have the ability to be resilient, and therefore when they’re in the community, they’ll be really active and thriving members of the community,” Romero said. “We have this kind of mentality that you’ve got to pull yourself up by your boot straps, get over challenges and do better. But the reality, and actually the neuroscience, talks about resilience is a skill that is not innate to humans. We have to learn it, and we have to see it.”

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, online Teach Resilience courses trained approximately 1,500 individuals across the region in trauma response approaches.

Out of those online interactions, the idea for an inaugural community resilience symposium was formed.

“We had this idea of bringing all these organizations, service providers, everyone in the community together to start having these conversations about how do we build community resilience and no longer leave it up to individuals to be resilient,” Romero said. “That’s how it started.”

The event is being hosted by KCHC, Teach Resilience and the Community Foundation for Kingston and Area. A number of community organizations will have members present to learn about community resilience, including Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, both local school boards, the local Ontario Health Team and numerous youth organizations.

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“We have health, education, child welfare agencies, the St. Lawrence Youth Association will be represented as well, Youth Diversion is there,” Romero said. “It’s the intersection between a lot of different service providers.”

The resilience symposium takes place Oct. 25 to 27, offering keynote speakers, lunch and dinner events and some course refreshers and certification opportunities.

Romero said the event chose The Harbour Community Kitchen, located in the former Harbour Restaurant at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, to cater the event. The community kitchen project is hosted by KEYS, an employment services agency.

“We thought that this event is a living example of how we build resilience in a community, we give the people the skills, the opportunity to learn how to work in a safe environment,” Romero said. “In this enterprise, it’s about coaching the person, mentorship. It’s a really unique part to hold this at The Harbour. The food is being catered by the cooks internship program at (Loyalist Collegiate). We’re trying to model resiliency, show how we can use resiliency in our community.”

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