Infants foster bullying prevention among Toronto students

Photo available upon request

TORONTO, June 5, 2013 /CNW/ - It is teacher appreciation day for the world's youngest educators, the babies at the heart of Roots of Empathy. Canada's most established and researched bullying prevention program, Roots of Empathy aims to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. Since last fall, 119 'tiny teachers' have been visiting classrooms throughout Toronto schools, helping students to first recognize emotions in the baby, then in themselves, and finally in others. Through these infants and trained Instructors, Roots of Empathy reduces levels of aggression among school children by raising their social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.

Over 60 babies joined in today's celebration at St. Lawrence Hall, hosted by Scott Rutherford, Chair of Roots of Empathy and Founder of Rutherford Development Strategies. Mary Gordon, Founder/President of Roots of Empathy, was present to thank the babies, their parents, Instructors and Mentors who conduct the programs, educators and administrators from the Toronto District School Board, corporate sponsors, agencies supporting program delivery and representatives from the government, all of whom make the Roots of Empathy program possible through their partnership and support. Also recognized were Instructors who have been delivering the Roots of Empathy program for 5, 10, and even 15 years.

"It is fantastic to celebrate our youngest citizens for their contributions - 119 babies from our community have visited Toronto District School Board schools over this past year, helping to prevent bullying before it even starts," notes Gordon.

Seventeen years after Roots of Empathy was first created in Toronto, the program has now expanded to reach over half a million children on three continents. In Canada, the program is offered in English and French, in rural, urban and remote communities - including First Nations communities - in every province. Called "Canada's olive branch to the world," by the World Health Organization, Roots of Empathy is recognized by the Assembly of First Nations, the Dalai Lama, the European Union, the Ashoka Foundation and the United Nations, which most recently invited Mary Gordon to share her expertise as part of its 2015 Millennium Development Goals for Education.

As the birthplace of Roots of Empathy, Toronto hosts the largest annual baby celebration. The 60 almost-one-year-olds honoured today have already made a significant contribution to the prevention of bullying: changing the world, child by child.

Mary Gordon was recognized as Canada's top social innovator in 2011 with the Manning Innovation Awards' David E. Mitchell Award of Distinction. The first female Canadian Ashoka Fellow and an Ashoka Globalizer, she was a featured speaker representing 50 of the world's leading social entrepreneurs at Ireland's ChangeNation in 2012, a presenter at the 2012 Skoll World Forum in Oxford, and was most recently invited to share her expertise at the United Nations as part of its 2015 Millennium Development Goals for Education.


SOURCE: Roots of Empathy

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