YMCA Celebrates Peace in the Community

YMCA Breakfast for Peace
Photo by Megan Pounder/SaultOnline

The Sault Ste. Marie YMCA and Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore hosted their Breakfast for Peace at the Grand Gardens North on Friday morning.

This breakfast, which featured keynote speaker Hetty van Gurp, wraps up Peace Week, a week where YMCAs across Canada celebrate the presence of peace in our communities, and reflect on the peace-building work that happens all year both inside and outside the YMCA.

“We’re happy and excited to have this event here as the pinnacle event of our peace week,” SSM YMCA CEO Tracey Cooke told SaultOnline.

“At the YMCA, we feel that peace is a very important building block to providing all of the bases that we need to build strong and healthy communities and support communities in Canada. So, it’s something that’s important to highlight every year and we try to bring in events and speakers that really focus on the fact of peace as a building block.”

Van Grup spoke to the audience about the need to teach peace in order to create a culture in which bullying and other forms of violence would be considered unacceptable by everyone.

She has travelled the world, speaking to parents and teachers, as well as written books and taught university courses on that theme. She told SaultOnline she took on this mission after her son was killed due to a bullying incident when he was 14.

“When that happened, I was teaching a kindergarten class, and I just decided that I would start infusing peace education in my own classroom, and was happy just to do that,” she explained.

“But, one thing led to another and it soon grew into more of a movement.”

Van Grup said she hopes her message inspires change in the community.

“I think (local community organizations) and families can also play a role,” she said.

“I think it’s not just the responsibility of the school, but anyone involved in the lives of children can get involved in one way or another; and they can lobby school boards and ministers to include peace education in the daily curriculum.”

She said she thinks doing this is important because school should be a place where children can learn free from fear, but in a lot of classrooms, that’s not the case.

“Forty-seven per cent of Canadian parents say their child is being bullied and school…and if you’re fearful sitting in a desk, you’re not paying attention and you’re not learning. School should be a happy time in the life of a child, and unfortunately, for over a third of children in this country, it’s not.”

The breakfast also included the presentation of the YMCA Peace Medal, which is presented to Peacemakers who challenge and inspire others to pursue acts for peace. This year’s recipients were Koach Katrina and Unfiltered Facts North.

Katrina Francella, or Koach Katrina as she’s well-known in the community as, told SaultOnline she was pleasantly surprised to learn she was a recipient of this award.

“It came at a time when I was really low and questioning what I was doing, so it was a great reminder to keep going,” she said.

Francella runs The Klub on Queen St., where she offers personal and group training, and a youth group for 2SLGBTQQIA+ and allies.

“It’s just a safe space for them to hang out and build social relationships,” she explained, saying she hopes to find some financial help in order to keep the Klub running.

Francella said she thinks the peace medal recognition is an important reminder to the community to keep working on their missions.

“Those little acts of compassion can really multiply and create a great impact on our community, so I think it’s really important to get re-inspired and for forth and do good.”