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Growing the ‘Roots of Empathy’ in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark

Photo via Roots of Empathy Facebook

The Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark (LGL) District Health Unit, in collaboration with Roots of Empathy, is calling for volunteer instructors and volunteer parents to help make a positive difference in their local schools. 

Roots of Empathy (ROE) provides programs in schools and childcare centres that emphasize empathy in all that they do. They train volunteer instructors to teach a curriculum tailored to different age groups, highlighting the foundational model of empathy. ROE’s mission statement is to “build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults.”

To date, the organization has helped over 1.2 million children worldwide. 

Brockvilleist spoke with LGL Health Unit Communications Coordinator Susan Healey to understand how the health unit is involved with this program.

“The Health Unit provides a Public Health Nurse to work as the Roots of Empathy Key Point Person (KPP),” Healey explained. “The KPP is an important link to the local community, helping to raise awareness for program opportunities with local school boards and community agencies and to recruit and match instructors to schools and volunteer families. They also coordinate the annual program start-up and implementation, and support new and veteran instructors.”

Healey continued, “Instructors often have backgrounds or experience in many fields, including but not limited to non-teaching school staff and retired teachers, health care, early childhood education, social work, guidance counselling, speech therapy and recreation, policing, community volunteers and more. And certainly, ROE welcomes parents to be volunteer instructors.”

If you love working with children and are passionate about helping them grow, then you can volunteer to be an in-class instructor at a school near you. Volunteers will be able to take a four-day training program and will be matched with mentors for extra support and guidance throughout the process. 

Volunteer instructors will be attending 27 classes over the school year.

If this sounds right up your alley, you can learn more and sign up here.

Roots of Empathy is also encouraging another unique opportunity for families in the community. Local parents who will have a two to four month old baby in October, 2024 are invited to turn their tiny tot into a “tiny teacher.” 

Through this program, volunteers and their ‘tiny teachers’ will visit a local school nine separate times over the school year to interact with the students and teach them all about their baby.

Susan Healey detailed, “At the heart of the program is a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the class every three weeks, for the family visit, over the school year. Using the curriculum and philosophies of Roots of Empathy, Instructors guide the children in the experiential learning that happens during the family visit, helping the children to observe and reflect on the baby’s feelings, then their own, and those of their classmates, friends and family. “

When the LGL District Health Unit posted their call for parent volunteers on Facebook, many previous ROE volunteers commented to share their positive memories of the program.

User Paula Grenke commented “We did this program when my daughter was a baby. It was a great experience! The kids loved it when we came.”

Ashley Kinch echoed that sentiment, writing, “Amazing program for baby, parents, and the whole classroom! So heartwarming!”

To learn more about becoming a Roots of Empathy volunteer family, visit their website.

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