This week we find ourselves inspired by Lana Feinstein, Executive Director of Leave our Violence (LOVE).
LOVE’S mission is to end the cycle of violence by giving young people opportunities to become leaders in their communities through positive engagement, skill based learning and self-expression. LOVE Ontario provides media-arts and leadership training programs to youth who have experienced violence and trauma in high needs and underserved Toronto communities.
LOVE was created in Montreal in 1993 by Mrs. Sheila Rudberg after her husband was murdered by a 14-year old boy. From this tragedy Mrs. Rudberg realized that the young person who killed her husband was, himself, a victim of violence. Along with journalist Brenda Proulx and photographer Stan Chase, Mrs. Rudberg founded an organization that would give young people a way to express themselves, discuss issues they are experiencing in their lives and alternative outlets.
Since 1996, LOVE’s programs have broken the cycle of violence in the lives of thousands of young people. That’s the kind of organization we can really get behind, so we’re proud to support the work of Lana and her amazing team.
We got the chance to chat with Lana about the work that she does, and why LOVE is so important.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
I was working running parent education groups focusing on child behaviour management, when I heard about Leave Out Violence opening in Toronto. I was extremely impressed with LOVE’s programs and very much wanted to work with vulnerable young people to help them reach their full potential.
Much of my professional work at the time was grounded in building self-esteem and I felt LOVE’s model would help young people feel heard, understood and valued. I believed in this approach, and as a result I have spent the past 20 years committed to helping the organization grow, so we could reach as many youth as possible.
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
We are all imperfect beings, living in an imperfect world. If we support each other and embrace the fact that we are here to learn, grow and contribute to each others well being, our life journey becomes more meaningful.
I believe in the potential of youth to develop and achieve, if they are given the tools and support needed. Adults have a responsibility to youth to build an environment that can help them in their learning journey. Youth can improve the world and themselves, when they believe that their voice matters and that they can impact positive change.
What are the biggest challenges/setbacks you’ve had to face?
The biggest challenge in LOVE reaching more youth is securing consistent funding so we can focus on program growth and engage as many youth as possible. LOVE has a 20 year history of success and a long-term ripple effect on the lives of hundreds of youth who have experienced bullying, racism, homophobia, relationship abuse, gang violence and self-harm. It’s a proven and well researched model, and has changed the trajectory of the lives of hundreds of young people. It seems only logical to me that funders would want to invest in a proven organization that is making a significant impact.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
LOVE began in Ontario in 1996, so we have continued to grow and provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable youth. This is a significant achievement for a not-for-profit that has received no core government funding.
Meeting with the LOVE alumni today, who graduated years ago from LOVE , and hearing how the staff and programs had a profound impact on their lives is truly a privilege.
How do you manage to do it all?
One of the key hiring principles with a small not for profit is to select individuals with varied backgrounds and skill sets to develop a diverse team. We have a great staff made up of people with lots of different skills – from photography and media to counselling and community work, you can see the passion and commitment of the people who work for LOVE on a daily basis. We also have wonderful youth who go through the program and stay involved for years. Our alumni continue to show their support and desire to “pay it forward”. As well, most of our stakeholders, like our board of directors, have been volunteers with LOVE for a number of years and are extremely committed to our success. It always helps when you have a support network of people who believe in the cause, the organization and the most importantly the individual youth we serve.
On June 3rd, LOVE will be hosting their spoken word festival Louder than a Bomb. Attend, support and help us all Leave out Violence today. Visit their website and keep an eye out for new details on this amazing event. Get Tickets here!