“She told me she could finally breathe.”

Thanks to you, Hannah Gillis is helping to change young lives. Hannah, 17, is a facilitator with Healthy Relationships for Youth, a violence prevention program supported by your investment.

Hannah GillisWhen I was in Grade 9, I attended the Healthy Relationships for Youth program. It helped me realize that a lot of what you see on TV is completely different from reality.

One of the girls in my class was so shy, I’ve never heard her speak up, really. Then one day in the program, it’s almost like a light bulb went off.  She completely opened up to us about her views on violence against women. It was just so amazing to see her participating. The facilitators had created such a positive environment for us – I think that’s why she was able to speak up.

I thought it was amazing that this program could change someone so much over such a short time. I can still see that’s she’s a changed person.

In Grade 10, I was asked to be a facilitator and have been doing that for the last two years.

There’s always some kids in the class who aren’t into it. But session by session, you can see them changing. Even the typical “class clowns” end up way more respectful.

Once a student came up to me after a session and said the skills she was learning had helped her to escape an uncomfortable, unhealthy relationship. She was able to stand up for herself and say that it wasn’t working for her. She told me that she didn’t feel as trapped. It was like she could finally breathe.

That was life changing for me, to see how this program affected her. It made me feel a lot more passionate about being a facilitator. It made me want to keep going and take it further, and to try harder to help the youth understand messages in the media and stereotypes around women.

When I go to other schools, I notice a significant difference in attitudes, especially towards sexual orientation. People are really respectful in my community and I believe it’s because of this program.

And at other schools there’s a stigma against counselling or getting help, but here if we have an issue there’s lots of people we can talk to.

We need to create a positive environment where everyone is accepted. An unhealthy relationship holds you back, and doesn't allow you to reach your full potential.

I wish this program could be in every school across Canada, because youth are the future.