Compassionate Leaders

Award-winning youth leadership program

The Cowichan Intercultural Society is proud to announce that our Compassionate Leaders Project has been selected by a jury to receive the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) National Award of Excellence in the youth category. As the winner, the Compassionate Leaders Project is recognized for “building an awareness and understanding of Canadian values and identity that are reflective of Canadian diversity” (CCRF).

The Compassionate Leaders Project partners with secondary schools in School District 79 to develop youth leadership skills and create more inclusive schools. The project also aims to help participants build positive community connections. It grew directly from the lifelong work of friend, mentor and CIS alumni, Linda Hill (co-founder of Inclusive Leadership Adventures).

Each year, the project kicks off with a weekend-long leadership camp. It built on the success of our first year’s camp with a fun weekend, packed full of participatory learning activities. Project Coordinator, Ray Anthony, explains that “the passion and energy of the youth participants never ceases to amaze me. They have an amazing capacity for compassion, empathy and action, especially when given meaningful opportunities.”

The participants of the camp will now create action plans for youth-led projects to address issues that they are most concerned about within their community and school. Our project coordinator will meet regularly with the teams over the rest of the semester to support the participants in successfully implementing their action plans.

In summing up the project, one past participant said,

 “I think this project is extremely important. For me, it was a way to figure out what to do if you were interested in making a difference with any issue. We need to know that it is possible to make a change. It pushed us to look into our schools and find out what we could do to make it a better place. Personally, I would be thrilled to do it again.”

Be the Change Day

At the 2014/2015 leadership camp, a few of the participants shared their positive experiences from attending a “We Day” in Vancouver organized by the Canadian-based, International NGO “Free the Children”. Further, they expressed how difficult it is to attend this annual event since the ticket allotment is very limiting. This discussion led to an idea to organize a ‘We-Like’ Day in the Cowichan Valley and a group of 5 students from Frances Kelsey, Cowichan Secondary, Chemainus Secondary and Lake Cowichan School decided to take this on as an extra action plan. Since then, the group has continued to meet and continue finalizing their action plan for an event tentatively titled “Be the Change Day”.



With funding from Coast Capital Savings, BC Gaming and School District 79 (through a Ministry of Justice/Violence Free BC Grant), the third installment of the Compassionate Leaders Project was the most successful to date! We recruited 38 project participants from the five secondary schools across the school district to attend a 2.5 day Leadership Camp at the Cowichan Lake Outdoor Education and Conference Centre.

After the November Leadership Camp, Project Coordinator Ray Anthony visited each school team weekly over the rest of the school year to support students in completing their action plans and implementing their team projects. The teams were all successful in implementing their projects which increased the impact of the project by engaging over 2,000 students and community members.

The year was capped by the completion of an ambitious inter-district student led action plan, Youth Action Day, which was nearly two years in the making. The event, inspired by Free the Children’s We Day, was an amazing opportunity to bring nearly 700 students, youth service providers, and special guests together to celebrate the service contributions of Cowichan Region’s “Youth in Action” as well as motivate and inspire other students to get involved in community service and social justice endeavors.

Some highlights from the various teams’ action plans and projects:

Frances Kelsey Secondary School Action Team

Rainbow Day – Compassion Week

  • Team organized and led activities associated with Rainbow Day, part of district-wide Compassion Week
  • Activities included: promotion of new Gay Straight Alliance Club (GSA), encouraging staff/students to sign banner (pledging support for equality for students of all sexual orientation/identity), handing out “Rainbow Cookies” and providing information/support
  • Engaged an estimated 300+ students representing all grades
  • Students promoted event using school FB page/newsletter, personal networks, posters and announcements
  • Event was held in “the Hub” during lunch to encourage participation from all students

Gay Straight Alliance Club (GSA)

  • Team felt it was important to have a weekly club at their school to provide support for the LBGTQ community – providing a safe place for students to meet and experience a sense of belonging. Club also intended for positive socialization and social justice/action
  • Only GSA currently operating in the district
  • Team meets weekly for planning and GSA meetings are attended by approximately 15-20 students on average each week

Meals on the Ground

  • The team supported the Meals on the Ground program by preparing a meal for community members experiencing homelessness
  • The team spent the afternoon at a local church cooking chili, making coleslaw and brownies
  • Served dinner to an estimated 50 people

Cowichan Valley Open Learning Cooperative (CVOLC)

  • The CVOLC team returned from the leadership camp and their action plan involved engaging the leadership class in a variety of projects including: participating on the Wellness Committee, organizing activities for their entire school (approx. 130) for the 5 days of Compassion Week, organizing visits to residential care homes, and engaging younger alternate education students (MAPS) in regular activities
  • Total engagement estimated at 250 (students and seniors)
  • Individual action plans included two participants representing CVOLC on the District Student Advisory Committee (DSAC)


Lake Cowichan School

  • Team wanted to take their new learning from the leadership camp and pass along to primary students at their school – used the Safe Harbour Youth Ambassador (20 hrs, train the trainer) facilitated by project coordinator
  • In turn, the team facilitated a 3 session children’s curriculum to a grade 6 class (30 students) – art, drama, play activities which focused on exploring differences/diversity and safe ways to stand up/get help for students who are experiencing exclusion/bullying

Chemainus Secondary School

  • Unfortunately, we were only able to recruit 2 students from CSS – these participants chose to join the Multicultural Leadership Group (community action team) and the Youth Action Day action team which are outlined below

Multicultural Leadership Group (MLG) Team

  • Since there was no viable Chemainus Team, some Cowichan Secondary (and Chemainus) students attending the leadership camp decided to form a community action team. These students were already engaged in this weekly community group which focuses on ongoing support, leadership skill development and community service. Further, a few of the students had special needs and could benefit by additional support
  • Team engaged other MLG participants (approx. 30-40 youth and adults) to help them on their action plan. Their action plan was to organize a talent show/dinner fundraiser for Youth Action Day. Using social media (FB), posters, and personal networks, the fundraiser was attended by an estimated 100 community members and raised over $500 for Youth Action Day.

Youth Action Day

  • The Youth Action Day planning team was comprised of 7 students representing all district secondary schools. This action plan began at the 2014/2015 leadership camp and was finally realized on April 22, 2016. The event aimed to celebrate Cowichan Region’s youth who are engaged in community service as well as motivate and inspire other youth to get involved
  • Team was supported by the project coordinator to plan all aspects of the event including raising the funds for the event (approx. 6K)
  • Event was attended by 600+ students, teachers, local government representatives, school trustees and other special guests. Featuring musical guests, inspirational speakers, Compassionate Leaders Project (film), and success story partners (film, power point, speakers) showing ‘youth in action’

Cowichan Secondary School

  • The team planned and organized 4 days of activities for Mental Health Awareness Week at their school
  • They organized a Mental Health Awareness Fair on Monday which featured 12 community service providers setting up information tables in the main hallways during x block and lunch time. The team solicited donations for prizes for a mental health scavenger hunt as an effective way to engage students (estimated 200)
  • Team also organized a speaker series each day of the week focusing on various mental health topics including substance abuse, bi-polar/psychosis, depression/anxiety and suicide prevention. Total speaker series engagement estimated at 500+ students.


For more information, please contact:

Ray Anthony, Project Coordinator

250-748-3112 or


Prov of BC

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