Dozens of Roots of Empathy babies and children celebrated: Program recently
discovered by U.S. media marks 10 years in Vancouver and BC

VANCOUVER, June 11 /CNW/ - A multitude of babies and children were fêted yesterday as "Vancouver's youngest teachers" at a Roots of Empathy baby celebration. The event, titled "A Decade of Empathy," was held at the Museum of Vancouver to mark the 10th anniversary of Roots of Empathy in British Columbia.

Launched in British Columbia in 2000, Roots of Empathy - a classroom program that aims to change the world using a baby and parent as a model for empathy - is now widely acclaimed and has recently received unprecedented international media attention.

Roots of Empathy fell on hard times in the province in 2009 when provincial funding cutbacks - widely experienced by many charities and school boards in B.C. - forced the cancellation of more than 50 per cent of its programs. The "Decade of Empathy" event signaled a renewal of sorts, with the announcement that the program would continue next year thanks to other funders that have stepped forward.

"We are very lucky to have new funding partners this year, although we are still seeking further funding support in B.C.," said Mary Gordon, Founder/President of Roots of Empathy. "We are not going full-force next year, but we are still very much alive in the province. And we remain grateful to the Government of British Columbia for its outstanding support for so many years. We will continue to work closely in partnership with them and we are very hopeful funding can be restored when finances stabilize in the province."

The Vancouver event featured several dozen children and babies, all wearing Roots of Empathy "Teacher" t-shirts. Over the past 10 years, they have been teaching Vancouver's schoolchildren important lessons about empathy, emotions, neuroscience, temperament, inclusion, infant safety, and the power of a loving bond between parent and child. Many of the children present were Roots of Empathy "alumni" - former babies who participated in the program.

The festivities featured remarks from the Honourable Linda Reid, MLA; Hal Wake, Artistic Director, Vancouver International Writers Festival; Lyle Viereck, Roots of Empathy Board Member and BC Hydro Director of Aboriginal Relations and Negotiations; and past and current Vancouver School Board representatives Chris Kelly, Larry Haberlin and Lisa Pedrini. As well, Hereditary Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation gave a traditional welcome to the territory and spoke warmly about the program:

"'Nexwniw' is a Squamish word for a good upbringing. The work of Roots of Empathy is vital in immersing young children with foundations of success. I commend the good work being done by this organization," he said.

One of the highlights of the event was the Roots of Empathy welcome song, a Baby Celebration tradition. The babies and their parents took in the ceremony from a giant padded green blanket - a nod to the trademark green blanket that children sit around in every Roots of Empathy program worldwide.

Gordon believes the program is making a difference. "We started by reaching 250 children in Vancouver ten years ago, and to date we have reached more than 17,000 in the city and 85,000 in British Columbia. It is these children who are lighting the footpath to the future. Empathy is the very foundation of a civil society."

At the heart of the Roots of Empathy program are classroom visits by an infant and parent. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor guides children in labeling the baby's emotions and reflecting on their own feelings and those of others (empathy). A decade of independent research consistently shows that children who receive Roots of Empathy experience dramatic and lasting effects in terms of increased positive social behaviour (sharing, helping and including) and decreased aggression (particularly bullying), and that the effects last for years.

Roots of Empathy is a charitable, non-profit organization with award-winning programs informed by the power of empathy. Founded in 1996, the program has now reached 325,000 children worldwide and has been recognized by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Daniel Goleman, and the World Health Organization. The organization works in partnership with Indigenous people globally, and has been endorsed in Canada by National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations. Roots of Empathy has recently been profiled in Time magazine and on Fox News.

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Roots of Empathy

For further information: For further information: or interviews with spokespeople: Julia Morgan, Roots of Empathy, Cell: (416) 828-5538, E: jmorgan@rootsofempathy.org, www.rootsofempathy.org

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