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Category "Education"

30Aug

Back-to-school is big business for B.C.’s lice busters

by admin

Busy schedules, resistant bugs and, of course, the ‘ick’ factor.

B.C.’s lice busters say there are several reasons more parents are seeking professional help to deal with lice infestations — and as kids head back to school on Tuesday, they’re bracing for a busy month.

“By the end of September, we’ll likely see a few outbreaks,” said Rochelle Ivany, a Chilliwack nit picker who runs The Lice House with friend Ashley Wall. “Over the summer, kids have been off at camp, sleepovers and grandparents’ houses. When they come back to school, lice can come with them.”

Ivany entered the business when one of her kids came home with lice.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “Lice can be a taboo subject. No one wants to be the kid with it. Parents dread the letter coming home from school saying that there’s an outbreak in their kid’s class.”

After research and practice, Ivany set up shop in her home last year, offering people in the Fraser Valley an alternative to over-the-counter pesticides and hours of combing.

The key is to be “meticulous” while manually removing all lice and eggs with a special comb, she said.

Confidential sessions at The Lice House take between one-and-a-half to three hours depending on the severity of the infestation and the length of the client’s hair. Ivany charges $50 an hour — a lower rate than many of the services closer to Vancouver — and does comb-outs every three days until the client gets three clean comb-outs. She also provides treatment at cost for people who are referred to her through a social worker or community support worker.

“I get calls from a lot of panicked parents,” she said. “The message is that it’s OK, it’s going to be OK. We can help you.”

While it’s unclear if lice outbreaks are increasing — the B.C. Centre for Disease Control does not keep data on cases — more people are turning to professional lice removal services for help.

In Maple Ridge, Lice911 owner Barbara Pattison has been nit picking for 18 years.

“We’re the original,” she said. “When I started, there were four companies in North America.”

In the last decade, she’s expanded to provide mobile service in communities across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. In addition to Lice911, there are almost a dozen other companies offering treatment in B.C.

Pattison said lice seem to be more resistant to chemicals, which have become weaker in the last 10 years, while people may be too busy, or unwilling, to spend hours combing out bugs. In the last few years, she’s also seen a shift toward more teens and young adults arranging treatment for themselves, which she attributes to selfies and people putting their heads together to look at phones.

“All it takes is three seconds of hair-to-hair contact,” she said.

The lice expert advises parents to check their kids’ hair regularly for lice, looking for sticky black, brown or grey eggs half the size of a sesame seed attached to strands of hair. Some kids may have an itchy head or a rash at the nape of their neck.

“If you can catch it early, when there are 30 or 40 eggs, it’s much easier to deal with,” she said. “An average infestation is about 500 eggs.”

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18Mar

Rob Shaw: NDP government ‘reviewing’ a basic human right for girls

by admin

VICTORIA — Annie Ohana was in her classroom at L.A. Matheson high school in Surrey last week, when an all-too-common scene played out. A young woman ducked into her room after the final bell rang and quietly asked: “Ms. Ohana, do you have a tampon or pad?”

“Teachers at schools and counsellors, especially as women, we do often keep a little stash of products,” said Ohana.

So Ohana, the Aboriginal department head at the school, gladly reached into her own supply to help out. It made the difference between the student being able to stay at school for her extracurricular activities, or having to leave.

“She was volunteering for something, but instead of going home because of her period, she was able to ask me,” said Ohana. “I was able to provide it, but that’s my own money …  the system should provide it. In this case I was there, but what if I was gone?”

It’s a question increasingly being asked by teachers, parents, students and advocates in hundreds of schools across the province. Why is there no provincial funding to provide free tampons and pads for female students in school washrooms?

Instead, B.C. has a patchwork system that varies from school to school and often results in embarrassment and shame for female students.

Some districts put coin-operated dispensers in women’s bathrooms (requiring girls to have exact change to get a pad or tampon while bleeding and in need). Others schools have literally nothing. In some cases, like in Burnaby North Secondary, students have taken it upon themselves to organize free baskets of products in washrooms because nobody else will do it for them.

Some schools do offer free tampons or pads — but only if the student interrupts her teacher in class, asks to be excused in front of all her classmates, walks to the office, waits in the queue at the front desk and then asks the (possibly male) receptionist in front of everyone else sitting in that office if she can please have a tampon thank-you-very-much. You couldn’t create a more cumbersome and humiliating system if you tried.


L.A. Matheson teacher Annie Ohana.

Mark van Manen /

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Some girls can’t afford to buy their own products. And there’s cultural and social stigmas around menstruation that can leave young women, at a difficult time in their life, isolated from family and friends. It’s even more difficult if the student is transgender. The very least the education system could do is offer them a discreet, free, and easy way to get a tampon or pad from every school washroom, without having to ask.

One in seven Canadian girls have missed school because they couldn’t get a tampon or pad during their period, according to a Procter & Gamble survey.

The issue was raised at the legislature by Green Leader Andrew Weaver during International Women’s Day. He based his question on a suggestion from one of his staff members, Stephanie Siddon.

Education Minister Rob Fleming responded by pointing to community grant programs that schools could try to tap, while offering to conduct more research into the issue.

It was an unimpressive display of leadership, said Weaver.

“There are some things that you just think about for 30 seconds and you realize, yeah that just makes sense,” said Weaver. “Here we are in 2019. You just do it. This falls into that. … “I would have thought he’d just have done it.”

Weaver’s own quick calculations — done in the middle of an interview using public pricing for hygiene products — pegged the rough cost at $200,000 a month for the education system, or $2.4 million a year to give more than 260,000 enrolled female students access to tampons and pads.

That amounts to a “rounding error” in the ministry’s $6.5-billion annual budget that should be acted upon without wasting time researching further, said Weaver.

New Westminster became one of the first school districts in Canada to fully fund feminine hygiene products when it voted last month to spend $10,000 of its own operating budget on dispensers and $7,000 annually to stock them with free supplies for women.

The issue is also on agendas for school trustees in Surrey, Greater Victoria, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Burnaby and Vancouver.

School districts are charging forward on their own, while the province lags behind.

The government could save time and effort by simply listening to advocates like Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who has been clear, consistent and vocal about the issue for months.

Or Sussanne Skidmore, the secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour who is helping lead the United Way’s Period Promise campaign that sent a letter to Fleming on March 7 asking him to “take a leadership role in addressing period poverty in our province.”

“If there’s public policy around this, we can normalize it and make it no different than toilet paper,” Skidmore said. “It’s a human right.”

How frustrating it must be for socially progressive New Democrats to watch their government move so slowly on a clear-cut human rights issue like this.

“There are lots of leaders stepping up to say it can be done and it’s not that complicated,” said Skidmore.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson is set to announce B.C.’s new poverty reduction strategy on Monday. There’s no good reason why this couldn’t be included.

Fleming said in statements last week that he’s “committed to supporting students around the province who need access to these products and I look forward to putting forward a plan soon.”

In the meantime, he said, “ministry staff are currently researching this further.”

Researching what exactly?

Is there some sort of cost-benefit ratio needed before the minister will sign off on funding access to hygiene products?

Is there a price to be put on the embarrassment faced in having to ask the office receptionist or school nurse (if the nursing office hasn’t already been eliminated due to cutbacks) for a tampon?

Is there a figure we can apply to how many days it’s acceptable for a female student to go home sick because they get their period in class and have nowhere to turn?

Does the ministry research the cost of toilet paper or soap?

For Ohana, who teaches social justice to her high school students, the issue is clear.

“To me, this is tied in to social justice,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a human right. It’s a human reality.

“There’s a shame element,” Ohana added. “If girls can feel they can be proud of their bodies, and part of that being menstruation, that’s going to impact their self-esteem and confidence.”

That’s worth the cost.

Free advice to the education minister: Just do it.

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19Feb

What the 2019 B.C. Budget means to you: Six things to know

by admin


Finance Minister Carole James arrives to deliver the budget speech as she waves to people in the gallery at the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, February 19, 2018.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The B.C. NDP government’s second budget focused on tax breaks and benefits for people with children, students and businesses, and investments in clean energy and climate initiatives. Here’s a brief summary of how British Columbians will be affected.


CHILD CARE

The budget didn’t make any large strides toward $10-a-day child care beyond continuing funding for the government’s 2018 child care plan into 2021/2022 and increasing it by $9 million a year. The bigger news was the introduction of a B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit to replace the early childhood tax benefit, which currently provides families with up to $660 a year per child under the age of six.

The new benefit, which begins in October 2020, will provide families with one child up to $1,600 a year, with two children up to $2,600 a year and with three children up to $3,400 a year. Instead of ending at six years of age, the benefit will be paid until the child is 18.



Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.

Jason Payne /

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EDUCATION

Good news for British Columbians with student loans — no more interest payments. As of Tuesday, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest, saving someone with $11,700 in provincial student loans $2,300 over the 10-year repayment period. This will cost the government $318 million.

The public education system will get a boost, with $2.7 billion set aside over three years to maintain, replace, renovate or expand facilities. There will also be $550 million invested to hire new teachers and special education assistants, and improve classrooms.


RENTAL HOUSING

Community organizations will be provided with funding to operate rent banks to provide short-term loans with little or no interest to low-income tenants who can’t pay their rent because of a financial crisis. It will cost $10 million and be funded through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

The implementation of a B.C.-wide rent bank system for low-income people was one of 23 recommendations delivered late last year from the Rental Housing Task Force struck by the B.C. government.


The Vancouver skyline.

DARRYL DYCK /

THE CANADIAN PRESS


CLIMATE CHANGE

The climate action tax credit will be increased in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Starting July 1, the maximum credit will go up by 14 per cent for adults and children, meaning low- and middle-income families of four will receive up to $400 for this year.

More than $107 million in operating funding will provide incentives for battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (up to $6,000), incentives for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, incentives for home charging stations, as well as other programs.


HEALTH CARE

Pharmacare program will be expanded with an additional $42 million to cover more drugs, including those for diabetes, asthma and hypertension. An additional $30 million will be invested in tackling the drug overdose crisis, bringing the total investment since 2017 to $608 million. Mental health programs focused on prevention and early intervention for children, youth and young adults will be funded to the tune of $74 million.

As promised previously, Medical Services Plan premiums will be fully eliminated on Jan. 1, 2020, saving families up to $1,800 per year.



Snow covers Oppenheimer Park as homeless people sleep in tents .

NICK PROCAYLO /

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POVERTY REDUCTION

Income and disability assistance rates will be increased by a $50 a month, a total increase of $150 a month (or $1,800 a year) since the 2017 budget update. Before 2017, the rates had not been increased for a decade. This will cost an extra $44 million over three years.

A homelessness plan will invest $76 million in land acquisition and services to build 200 more modular homes, bringing the total to 2,200 units.

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2Jan

B.C. government to develop 24/7 mental health resource for students

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The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health, stress and addiction challenges.


fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health and addiction challenges.

The program will include phone, online chat, text and email support for young adults available around the clock, including confidential virtual counselling sessions.

The province will be posting a procurement notice to B.C. Bid in mid-January to seek proposals from parties interested in working with the B.C. government to develop the support tool.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Minister Melanie Mark.

“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”

A total of $1.5 million has already been approved for the first year of the 24/7 support resource, with further hopes of expanding the program to reach teens.

The 2016 National College Health Association Survey surveyed Canadian post-secondary students about their mental health experiences in the past 12 months. According to the survey’s results:

• 44.4 per cent said that they had at some point felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”
• 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide
• 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide
• 18.4 per cent had been “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety

“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students.

“Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”

The service will be available to B.C.’s approximately 275,000 students at 25 public post-secondary schools and 51,000 students at private training institutions. There are about 1.3 million children, youth and young adults living in B.C.

The project will be a collaboration between the Ministry of Advanced Education, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development.

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6Dec

Students fold 2,000 paper cranes for woman struggling with leukemia

by admin

The classroom was quiet when Alison Lockhart arrived on Thursday afternoon.

Twenty-eight students were bent over small squares of patterned paper, their fingers moving quickly to fold the thin sheets into paper cranes.

Just 300 to go.

“It was amazing to see,” said Lockhart.

The paper cranes — 2,000 in all — were folded for Lockhart’s daughter, Amy Lee Croft, as she battles leukemia.

Inspired by a Postmedia story about Lockhart’s campaign to collect 1,000 paper cranes for her daughter, the Grade 5/6 class at Brantford Elementary in Burnaby put a lesson about empathy into practice.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said student teacher Wilson Chu.

In November, Chu, a 23-year-old Simon Fraser University student was teaching a novel study about Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes when the classroom teacher, Mick Cole, read the article about Lockhart’s campaign.

The Victoria woman was hoping to collect donations and well wishes for Croft, 32, as she recovered from a blood stem cell transplant at Vancouver General Hospital. She planned to write the wishes on origami paper and fold them into cranes, although she’d only received 89.

Cole’s class had already folded about 600 paper birds as a team-building exercise, using an assembly line as they became quicker and quicker.


Students at Brantford Elementary school in Burnaby have presented Alison Lockhart with more than 2000 paper cranes.

Jason Payne /

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Cole and Chu reached out to Lockhart before asking the students if they’d like to donate their cranes to her cause. When the group of 10 and 11-year-olds learned about Croft, they kicked into high gear, producing 1,000 more cranes in just a few days. They began bringing in paper from home and teaching friends to make the origami birds. They collected them in baskets of 100 at the front of the classroom.

“We try to teach the students to think outside the four walls of the school,” said Cole. “Suddenly, those cranes had a purpose.”

When they learned Lockhart would be coming to pick up the cranes on Thursday, the class made a new goal — 2,000 cranes.

It takes Chu about two-and-a-half minutes to make one crane. He estimated that many of the students could produce them even faster. Together, they folded the last 300 cranes in under an hour.

“I told the students that these cranes are magical because they’re full of hope,” said Lockhart after receiving the cranes.

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Croft was diagnosed with acutelymphoblasticleukemia at Victoria General Hospital on March 9. She was flown to VGH to begin chemotherapy two hours later.

Since then, she’s been in and out of hospital. She and her husband Joshua have rented a suite near VGH.

On Nov. 7, Croft had a blood stem cell transplant after three rounds of radiation. She must now remain in isolation at the hospital until her immune system begins to recover. It’s likely she’ll be in the hospital over Christmas.

Lockhart was looking for a way to encourage her daughter when she attended a reunion with a group of friends she had met during an exchange to Japan when she was 16. The event caused her to recall the origami cranes she received as a gift while studying abroad.

“A group of five Japanese elementary school students presented me with 1,000 origami cranes, strung on thread,” she said.

She’s treasured the paper birds since then. When the thread broke, she put them in a large bowl on her coffee table, where they stayed through Croft’s childhood.

Traditionally, it was believed that if someone folded 1,000 paper cranes, their wish would come true. The birds became a symbol of hope and healing after a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, started folding cranes after contracting leukemia following the A-bombing of Hiroshima during the Second World War. As the story goes, Sasaki died before completing the cranes, but her friends finished the project to honour her memory.


Alison Lockhart is asking people to send well wishes to her daughter, Amy Lee Croft, as she battles leukemia. She plans to fold the messages into paper cranes.

Submitted photo /

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Lockhart created a Facebook fundraiser called 1,000 origami cranes for Amy Lee. So far, she’s collected just over $5,000 to help her daughter with expenses as she continues treatment in Vancouver. She’s asking anyone who donates to include a message that she can transcribe onto origami paper and then fold into a crane.


Students at Brantford Elementary school in Burnaby presented Alison Lockhart (pictured) with more than 2000 paper cranes.

Jason Payne /

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She’s also asking people to consider becoming a blood stem cell donor by registering with Canadian Blood Services.

The mother plans to take a photograph of the 2,000 cranes to show to Croft. She’ll also read the well wishes the students penned to her daughter. Over Christmas, she hopes to string all the cranes on a chain to hang in Croft’s home when she is eventually released from hospital.

“I feel filled with hope right now,” she said.

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