We have provided a $5,000 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to PLEA Community Services Society of BC to help fund their Taking Care of Ourselves, Taking Care of Others (TCO2) Workshops. These one-hour workshops give young people information and practical tools to learn how to keep themselves, and their friends safe from sexual exploitation.
(Left to right) Christine Buttkus and Camila Jimenez
PLEA is an accredited, not-for-profit, charitable community services agency that has operated throughout BC for over 40 years. PLEA delivers high quality, innovative services to children, youth, adults and families facing significant challenges in their lives. The organization continually adapts its programs to suit each individual’s diverse strengths, needs, and circumstances. As a result, PLEA has a strong reputation for enabling those they help to overcome the challenges they face and lead fulfilling lives in their communities.
PLEA is the only group in BC that provides free prevention workshops aimed at stopping child sexual exploitation. The need for education has never been greater; the pandemic has caused an increase in the number of child sexual exploitation cases, particularly online. This is evidenced in recent reports from law enforcement on the increase in sexual exploitation cases against children. The Surrey RCMP recently reported a 122% increase in the number of online child sexual exploitation cases. These are reported cases, many other cases often go unreported. There is a need to normalize talking about youth's personal life online and the potential of exploiters. Raising awareness on the topic of online exploitation and providing information on where youth can reach out for help is necessary during this time and in the future.
“With children increasing the amount of time online due to COVID-19, our free prevention workshops play an integral role in empowering children to learn how to be safe online and keep safe from sexual exploitation,” said Camila Jimenez, Program Manager at PLEA. “Our TCO2 workshops are designed and delivered by young adults who use monologues, role-playing, multimedia, and interactive games to engage with children. We use a peer-to-peer model to deliver our workshops as it’s a proven method of providing education to youth on sensitive issues involving sexuality, intimate relationships, substance use, and more. The workshops take place virtually to ensure safety for staff and students during the pandemic.”
The virtual format of the TCO2 Workshops was implemented in October 2020 and has been running exclusively online since December 2020. In Surrey and Langley, children (10-18 years of age) are the primary people who benefit from these workshops; however, these workshops also benefit the adults (teachers, parents/caregivers) who attend. On average each year, PLEA reaches 25,000 young people and 1,000 adults in BC communities. In Surrey and Langley, the organization reaches between 1,000-2,500 children. Most PLEA workshops are delivered to children from all socio-economic backgrounds in mainstream and alternative schools. However, PLEA also aims to reach high-risk populations such as youth in custody, Indigenous children, newcomer children, and LGBTQ+ children.
This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada's $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round and now, over $575,000 in the second round.
“With the spike in child sexual exploitation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is incredibly important to continue providing necessary education and tools for children,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “SureyCares Community Foundation is grateful to be able to support PLEA’s outstanding initiative that provides sexual exploitation prevention workshops to children in Surrey and Langley.”
Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Surrey Community Relief Fund. In partnership with the Surrey Now-Leader, Surrey Board of Trade and The Saheli Foundation, the goal is to raise $500,000 to support the most vulnerable populations in Surrey.
Visit PLEA’s website to learn more: https://www.plea.ca/