Child and Youth Care students give back to community with project

January 4, 2024
Author: Eric Zimmer

Two second-year students share their story

As a student in VIU’s Child and Youth care program, Daniela Herrera says it’s important to learn about every area that may impact a child’s development. It’s why she believes the program’s second-year course, Trauma and Resiliency Across the Lifespan, is so crucial.

“Many times, professionals interact with children who have experienced significant loss and change in their lives, resulting in trauma that might negatively impact them in adulthood if not treated,” she says. “I wanted to gain an understanding of every aspect of trauma and get the knowledge to ensure that when I deal with children and youth, I can provide them with the tools and guidance to help them cope with trauma in a way that’s beneficial to them.”

The course is a partnership between VIU’s Child and Youth Care and Social Work programs. It prepares students for trauma-informed practice with individuals, groups and communities.

The course also strives to make a real-world difference in the form of a final group project called community gifting. Students pair up with a local community agency to learn about the agency’s needs and what the students can create for them “through a trauma-informed lens,” says program instructor Ashleigh Martinflatt. The students work on this throughout the semester and gift it to the agency at the end. 

“It’s a way for students to see where there’s an actual need for their work and it means more to them when they see how it’s going to benefit others,” says Ashleigh. “My teaching partner Louise Stern in Social Work came up with the idea of this project and last year was the first year that we did it. It went really well, so this our second go with it.”

This semester, Daniela and her group partner Jennifer Doran created a PowerPoint presentation for parents and caregivers of youth participants and mentors at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Vancouver Island.

The presentation will help parents and caregivers recognize behaviours that coincide with someone who is struggling with symptoms of trauma, and how to safely support youth in their healing,” says Jennifer. “They’ll also learn about predatory behaviours and patterns so they can help create and promote environments that are as safe as possible for youth.”

Working on this project has been an “enriching” learning experience, says Jennifer, who is also minoring in psychology and pursuing an Addictions Studies certificate.

Jennifer Doran

Jennifer Doran

“This type of project requires us to engage and build relationships in the very communities we will be working in and allows us to see what supports are already available and where needs still need to be met," she adds.

Daniela agrees: “During the last months of the course, I’ve learned more than I ever imagined.”

In early December, Jennifer and Daniela gifted their project to the agency.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Vancouver Island is grateful for our ongoing partnership alongside VIU to provide supports and resources for children and youth in our community,” says Cher Vaughn, Program Manager for Big Brothers Big Sister of Central Vancouver Island. “We are especially thankful to be a recipient of a legacy gift created by two of the second-year students of the CYC program. This invaluable support empowers our agency to continue to make a positive impact in the lives of children and youth and their families that we serve.”

After they graduate from VIU, both Jennifer and Daniela plan to continue their education and work in the field. Daniela plans to move to Spain or Germany and pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology. 

“I am passionate about the idea that education broadens a person’s knowledge and transforms one’s outlook on the world for the better,” she says. “I hope that as a CYC worker, I can make an improvement in our society.”

At 50 years old, Jennifer was drawn to this course because of her current profession as an equine-facilitated wellness professional “in which a trauma-informed environment is essential. It also aligns with my goal of specializing in trauma therapy.”

She plans to pursue a master’s degree in psychology to become a certified clinical counsellor, specializing in trauma work.

“I am doing this to bring counselling from the office to the outdoors, working with equine partners. I also intend to do further research in the field of trauma,” she says. “It’s never too late to further your education.”

For those thinking of taking this course in the future, both Daniela and Jennifer offer advice.

“Taking a trauma-focused course can be challenging for one’s mental health,” says Daniela. “This course tackles issues such as abuse, substance misuse, death, mental illness and a variety of other tough topics. But it’s an important course for students who want to have a better understanding of real-world scenarios and how our society is constructed and influenced by cultural, social, political and historical factors. Itcan be challenging, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Jennifer says it’s important to “treat yourself and peers with kindness and have a solid self-care plan in place that is realistic and that you will actually follow through with. This area of study can be challenging, but the growth that you may discover can have a powerful impact on not only yourself and those around you, but also entire communities.”

Related Posts

Got an article idea for the blog? Email students@viu.ca.

Sign up for our blog