The 16- to 19-year-old volunteers were recruited through organizations and schools to comprise the ReDirect Youth Innovation Group — an education program by Calgary police and neighbourhoods that aims to get youth coming up with solutions to ward off division in the city.
The quintet chose to address “us versus them” thinking through activities that promoted togetherness with the first-ever youth-led education program on empathy.
The program, which received funding from Public Safety Canada, addresses issues that can lead vulnerable people down a path of polarization, division or dehumanization. Awareness is at the heart of the youth-driven prevention program.
“Each station is about how we can bring people together and celebrate differences, and also what unifies us,” said John Acheson, a ReDirect family liaison and outreach worker with the Calgary Police Service.
One goal is about building empathy early on, he said.
“How do we understand people that are different than us?” Acheson asked. “Or maybe, how do we understand people who have gone through a phase of their life and have changed? Or understanding people who are perhaps new to Canada.”
We build empathy through curiosity, Acheson said — asking questions and learning to know people without judgement.