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A sitting female RCMP officer looks at a computer screen with a banner behind her that states Project Lavender.

Program helps young women face modern challenges

RCMP in Surrey, B.C., developed Project Lavender in collaboration with girls and young women to help them cope with modern issues such as sexting and substance abuse. Credit: RCMP


RCMP in Surrey, B.C., continue to support a school presentation to help young women avoid modern problems that can have serious outcomes.

The one-hour session was designed, in collaboration with female students from across the Surrey School District, to inform students about the importance of healthy relationships, the perils of sexting, and drug and alcohol awareness.

"It's a program that aims to empower young people, young women in particular, with the tools and strategies to deal with the challenges they may be facing," says RCMP Insp. Wendy Mehat, a former community support and safety officer who helped launch the initiative.

Overcome and succeed

Beginning in October 2019, the program — dubbed Project Lavender — has been available for female students in Surrey from Grades 5 to 10. But it's more than police officers encouraging students to make positive choices.

The RCMP has recruited community leaders to talk about overcoming their own issues, how they found confidence in themselves, and how that led to making smart decisions.

Raveena Oberoi is one of them and has recorded a video for Project Lavender.

"If I had someone come into my school when I was their age, who looked like me, and told me I have the power to believe in myself and follow my dreams, that would have been amazing," says Oberoi, owner of the bakery Just Cakes.

She has been recognized as one of Surrey's Top 25 under 25 by the city's Board of Trade and also received a Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the organization.

But it wasn't always so rosy for her.

"I felt isolated in high school. I felt like I didn't belong," says Oberoi, who suffered through bouts of depression. "Programs like this can help open up a dialogue with and among students to think for themselves and help them dream about doing things they're passionate about."

She eventually overcame her problems as a teen and found satisfaction through baking.

"I found my confidence in the kitchen. It was comforting, I found it a stress release and I was good at it," she says.

Informed by students

The program has also continued with online meetings despite restrictions presented by COVID-19.

Cst. Sukh Chattha, who has delivered in-school and online sessions, says not being able to interact directly with students has been challenging.

"Some may not feel comfortable asking questions (virtually) in front of their classmates," she says. "When I was presenting to the students face to face, I would always have girls approach me after the presentation to discuss certain topics in private."

Still, supporters say its important to continue programs like Project Lavender.

Mehat says for a generation that's constantly posting content on social media, there's a steady supply of material available for those who want to use it for abusive purposes.

She says because kids post a lot of photos of themselves, it can lead to hurtful comments or prompt them to post even more explicit images that can result in further ridicule and eventually even depression or substance abuse.

Mehat says the program is ultimately about giving young people the confidence to make the right choices — to avoid problems their peer group faces and lead their best possible life.

"Having self-worth is a huge part of being young, especially for girls, along with the need for acceptance among their peers," she says.

Insp. Harm Dosange, Surrey's current community support and safety officer, now oversees the program.

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