A program developed in the mid-Island and now used nationally is helping prepare storefront staff to accommodate people who have different needs and help people in distress.
Local cultural diversity trainer Evelin Kruger explained that the Safe Harbour program, developed by the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society in 2008, gives two-to-three-hour training sessions to any interested business, agency or institution with a public “storefront.”
“The idea is to prepare staff to provide an immediate safe place for people who are in distress, to accommodate people who have different needs, and to keep an open mind towards people who look different,” she said.
She added that differences can be anything from age, language, gender, physical ability, sexuality, or “something as simple as someone with a mohawk not feeling comfortable in a certain store — the objective is to make everyone feel welcome.”
Through experiential learning, participants examine different scenarios and come up with equitable ways to treat everyone.
On completion, the organization displays a decal and certificate so the public knows they are a safe place to go. She said the federally- funded program will do a promotional campaign to make people aware of the decals.
She said along with being physically and emotionally accessible to everyone, participating organizations are asked to provide a safe space, ideally a quiet room or corner, but maybe just a chair, or access to a phone, a glass of water and a list of helpful contacts in the community like medical and social services.
With more than 1,000 locations across the country, Safe Harbour partners are specifically not expected to provide counselling, just a safe place.
Kruger did the workshops at the Career Centre and Forward House in Parksville this week and is available to other businesses and organizations.
Contact the regional Safe Harbour coordinator, Charlee Touchette at 1-250-753-6911 Ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.