One of the most popular and highly-sought community programs that the VPF funds is the Women’s Personal Safety Team. This program, delivered by 25 female VPD officers who volunteer their time (up to 60 hours per year), has touched the lives of 5,614 women and girls since 2012.
The typical participant is a non-disabled female, and the workshop combines an hour of “classroom” instruction, followed by self-defence techniques taught and demonstrated in a gym-type setting.
Feedback from this program is always overwhelmingly positive, often with comments like “empowering” “enlightening” “a must-do for every woman” and more.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that in early April, we received a call from Matt Salli, a member of the public and part of the BC Dogwoods, a group of Guide Dogs for the Blind alumni. He and his fellow group members are visually impaired or blind and wondered if the program could be tailored to them. The coronavirus lockdown had further isolated many of the group members and shaken their confidence about having to navigate in public.
When we passed along the request to Kerry-Anne Horgan and Ali Gailus of the WPST, they didn’t hesitate to say yes. They weren’t sure how they would do it, but they wanted to help this group and potentially, many other vulnerable people.
They started with three pre-meetings with Matt and another Dogwood member, Heather W., to better understand the unique needs of this group and some of the things that members were experiencing. Matt noted that both Kerry-Anne and Ali seemed anxious that they would get the words wrong or inadvertently cause offence. They didn’t. Matt said that Kerry-Anne and Ali’s passion, concern and empathy came through loud and clear and that “it felt like the police were talking to us…not down to us.”
And like this story, Matt and the Dogwoods are not done yet. They are hoping to have a part two – and go through some of the self-defence techniques and the physical portion of the program when public health guidelines allow it.
The Foundation is grateful to the First Light Foundation for its generous support of WPST for the past several years.
You can help empower women and keep our communities safe by becoming a monthly donor for as little as $5/month. For less than the price of a (fancy!) coffee, you will support officer-initiated programs and make a real difference for our neighbourhoods.
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