Supporting the Roots of Empathy

During these recessionary times we are hearing more stories about cuts being made to important programmes involving children in our community. As an example, the widely respected programme Roots of Empathy is experiencing significant financial challenges. Provincial funding has not been restored for the 2010 – 2011 school year. As a result of these cuts, each class wishing to take part will be required to pay $250 to have the Roots of Empathy programme visit their children for the school year.

The Roots of Empathy programme needs your help. To learn more about the Roots of Empathy programme, you’re invited to read the following piece written by a mother who enrolled her baby in the Roots of Empathy programme.

Image from Roots of Empathy Programme website

The Roots of Empathy programme is a great programme. My daughter was involved in the programme from 2 months to 9 months of age.

One day, after I dropped by eldest daughter off at her kindergarten class, another mother saw me walking down the school hall with my baby in her baby carrier and exclaimed “we need you in the Roots of Empathy” programme. Not knowing what she meant, I asked her to explain and she put me in touch with the district counselor, Nancy Buan. We met in Nancy’s office a few days later and organized the schedule.

I brought my daughter to a grade five class at Sir James Douglas Middle school every month to attend sessions led by Nancy Buan. The children sat around a bright, green blanket and my baby was in the middle. Various children were given toys, socks with bells, for example, on them and one at a time they would interact with her. She was a bit stunned looking most of the time, but the children were so delighted to see her grow throughout the year that they didn’t seem to mind the fact that she did not laugh much. The children sang a song at the beginning of the class and another song at the end. I would hold her and walk around the circle and give each child the chance to shake her foot. (The counselor asked the children not to touch her hands or face). This interaction was special and the children’s faces lit up as they had a chance to see her close up. She may even have smiled at a couple of them!

The counselor met on a separate day (usually a week earlier than our visit) to discuss a topic with the children. (There is a 639 page curriculum divided into nine topics. The programme, in general, focuses on the affective side of education but related closely to the school curriculum.) When my daughter and I came to class the children were lead in a specific discussion by the counselor which was related to the topic they had already discussed.

Participation in the programme can be quite challenging for the parent. I was usually exhausted from getting my other two children ready for school, dropping them off and trying to time my daughter’s naps so that she wouldn’t want to sleep through the class. She was a very laid back baby. She loved her pacifier those first couple of visits and the children really enjoyed watching me pull it out of her mouth and the reaction that followed. Nancy would take these small moments and make a point which helped the children understand the emotional fragility of a baby and how they completely rely on those around them to keep them safe and secure.

At the end of the school year, the children gave my baby a large card, signed by each of them, with a note and their class photo. There were also photos of her with the class.

I think the program was successful in large part because of the skilld of Nancy, the counselor.  The children were very responsive to her and enjoyed having her come to their class every month.

Linda Perry lives in the Lower Mainland with her husband and three girls.


Update:  In June, 2011 the funding for the Roots of Empathy programme was restored for five years.  Let’s keep our support of this programme strong so that there aren’t any possible cuts five years from now!

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Website (includes information about making a donation):

Roots of Empathy programme

Previous posting:

Finding the roots of empathy

News article:

Fighting bullying with babies


Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child


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