In partnership with PLEA Ridge Meadows Youth Services Tuesday night youth drop in, Children of the Street provided three Youth Art Engagement Project sessions for 12 participants. The project was funded by Vancouver Coast Health Call Out Leadership Grants, and the youth were actively engaged as part of the organization process of this project to help them gain experience and leadership skills.

Facilitators Jenny and Kevin

The first hour of The Youth Art Engagement Project features interactive education on sexual exploitation, media influence and gender roles, and peer to peer empowerment. The second hour is dedicated to social justice art, where youth have the opportunity to try an art form of their choosing to express their thoughts on the education they participated in.

A group art piece created in one of our interactive education sessions

A group art piece created in one of our interactive education sessions

Youth participants created masks, collage, clay sculpture, photography, watercolor, acrylic, and pencil drawing. Some of the goals youth identified for their projects were to create beautiful art, to be able to show their art in a gallery setting, to inspire and educate others, and be self aware of what supports are available.

Art projects created by youth participants

Art projects created by youth participants

The project was a wonderful success, and the youth art created were showcased on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, from 3-6pm at The Maple Ridge Arts Centre and Theatre. Youth participants will also be invited to join Children of the Street’s Celebration Art Gallery coming up in June.


Today marks the 15th Annual Stop the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth Awareness Week.

In celebration of this week, we are launching our new campaign ‘Just One Photo’.

More information:

Please help us to prevent sexual exploitation by sharing this video and raising awareness about the issue! This year, the Awareness Week will run from March 11 – 17, 2013. The week recognizes the importance of supporting communities to develop prevention, education, enforcement and intervention strategies to address the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

Fuchsia-colored ribbons symbolize efforts in preventing the sexual exploitation of children and youth because it is a combination of red, for red light districts and purple, the provincial color for violence prevention. Please wear a Fuchsia Ribbon during the week to help raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

Fuchsia-coloured Ribbon

Happy Awareness Week!

Children of the Street Society has started our spring Youth Art Engagement Project – a nine session project that combines sexual exploitation prevention education, with social justice art creation. In partnership with the City of Coquitlam, City of Port Coquitlam, CKNW Orphan’s Fund, Coquitlam Foundation, Face the World Foundation, TELUS, The Amir and Yasmin Virani Family Foundation, The McLean Foundation, Vancity and Vancouver Foundation Youth Philanthropy Council, we are partnering with three alternate youth programs in the Tri-Cities & Maple Ridge.

Youth Art Engagement Project

Over nine sessions, workshop facilitators engage youth for the first hour in interactive education on topics related to exploitation- such as human trafficking, the influence of the media, drugs & alcohol, gangs and girls, technology and online exploitation, and peer to peer empowerment. In the second hour, youth have the opportunity to take what they have learned and express themselves through social justice art, or art with a message.

Our TCO² workshop facilitators re-craft the curriculum each year to incorporate new trends, resources, and activities. This year’s project includes games, a t-shirt making activity, interactive dramatic exercises, and video. This project offers a more in depth level of engagement on the contributing factors to sexual exploitation of children and youth, and allows students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and raise awareness about the issue.

Youth in the past have created masks, paintings, drawings, graphic design, photography, sculpture, jewellery, typography, spoken word, rap, street art, and drama. We are excited for what art work youth participants will create this year.

We look forward to sharing the participants’ hard work with you in a celebration art gallery in June. Stay tuned for further details!

Three friends will be racing 3,000 km in Indonesia to raise awareness for the issue of human trafficking! They will be racing for 2 weeks and blogging about their trip in and out of jungles. Please share with your friends and family through Facebook and Twitter!

In our TCO2 workshop, we consider how the media plays a role in influencing our understanding of gender. Media depictions of men and women; boys and girls, can inform us of how each gender is expected to look, dress and behave.

In 2011, many problematic representations of women were found in popular media. We saw Lady Gaga take the female sex symbol to a new level of raunch, surpassing her pop princess predecessors to break records for most scantily clad pop star and least interested in censorship for her young audiences. Gaga epitomizes a focus of sexually explicit celebrities from reality TV stars like the Kardashian’s, to music’s biggest hit-makers like Katy Perry and Ke$ha, to silverscreen actresses like Megan Fox and Kirsten Stewart. Breaking Dawn, the third installment of the Twilight movie series and this year’s tween blockbuster, depicts a helplessly lovestruck Bella, so transfixed by her male suitor that she sacrifices her humanity to join her lover’s eternally tortured ranks as a vampire.

The argument must be made that we have regressed in some ways from our gender equality initiatives of the 80’s and 90’s. And while pop culture staples like Gaga may seem to show more sexual agency, compared to the passive portrayal we have seen for so long, this self-objectification can be seen as equally if not more harmful for young women’s body image and self-worth. While it may seem to empower Ke$ha to claim her sexual autonomy through raunchy music videos, perhaps this is only setting a new standard for young women. Now, not only should we be impossibly beautiful, we should also be “sexy, sexually knowledgeable/practiced and always ‘up for it’.” (Gill, 2008) This issue of the sexually objectified representation of women in the media (whether passive or active) is a tired one; yet we still must ask: How are these depictions informing our youth? Below is a video clip of the trailer for the new documentary, Miss Representation, which explores this question pertinently.

In our workshop, we discuss how these images and representations of women can affect our self esteem, our sense of worth, and our understanding of how we are valued. In short, they can make us feel vulnerable when we inevitably cannot meet their impossible standards for beauty and sex appeal. And Canadians agree. A national survey in the Girls Action 2011 report shows that 87% of Canadians feel that the media puts too much emphasis on young women being sexy and not enough on their abilities and intelligence. We brainstorm with students how these depictions might make a person feel when they don’t fit the narrow mold of gender roles set by the media’s standards. We also talk about how these representations can affect the way boys and young men believe that girls should look, act, and be treated. Ultimately, these depictions make it unsurprising that there is a notion of entitlement to female bodies in the issue of sexual exploitation.

With all this in mind, we encourage students to hone their media literacy and to be critical of the depictions they see of women and girls in popular culture. While pressures may exist to interact and present our gender in a certain way, these expectations only limit us from being comfortable and safe in our own skin.

Welcome to our final instalment of our Youth Art Engagement Project! Today we will be featuring artist statements from Larissa and Andrea.

 The following projects and artist statements are pieces that were created by each facilitator and the Program Coordinator that reflect a personal response to the sexual exploitation of children and youth throughout our communities.

Title: It’s Time, by Larissa Maxwell

Medium/Materials: Spoken Word, voice 

It’s Time..

          To address the elephant in the room.

We might be looking, but are we really seeing?

          The babies, the children, the youth who are being


And then bought


And exploited


It’s Time..

To start calling this what it really is, I have a few suggestions

Present day slavery

Captivity of the vulnerable

The prey of grocery store predators, high society abusers, and online slavers

It’s Time..

To look in the mirror- is this really someone else’s problem?

Or do we all hold a share in the blame?

For over sexualizing an entire society

For telling young men to get theirs at the cost of everyone else

For showing young women they are only good for one thing

For normalizing violence- think about it for a second…

cuz tank tops should be called wife beaters

Great things naturally should be called pimp

If something’s sweet, it makes sense to call it dope

Does that make sense to you?


It’s Time…

          To do something

To say enough is enough and stand up

          To inspire generations to use their VOICE

          To make the choice


Cuz It’s Time..

          To stop buying sex

To stop demanding

To step out of self centered living

To see the vulnerable with compassion instead of sexual appetite

It’s time…

To recognize our part

To from here on out refuse to participate

To revolutionize core fundamental premises of our society

          To give every child a chance in this world…


It’s time

It’s time


This spoken word piece is inspired by my own sense of purpose at this point in our employment. It’s often overwhelming to face in the world and within myself the issues and factors that are breeding grounds for exploitation. I am often frustrated by my own buy in to certain systems, language, and ideas that cause such dehumanization of others. It’s time for me to deal with I, both inwardly and outwardly, and play my part in stopping the mistreatment of the vulnerable.

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Title: Obstacles, by Andrea Krakan

Medium/materials:  Sculpture, Molding Clay

The piece I have created is a representation of overcoming obstacles. This piece was created using molding clay, water and clay tools for shaping and detailing. I hoped to represent an individual who is facing numerous barriers, as with many people who are facing sexual exploitation. The idea with the sides of the clay looking almost like mountains was to show the barriers we all have, and the large tear shaped structure in the middle represents the person, and the reason behind representing them as a tear is purposeful. Where there is exploitation, there is often pain. Where there is success, there is happiness. Often we as humans reflect pain and happiness with tears, tears of joy or tears of sorrow. It is interesting to me that our representation of opposite emotions is sometimes the same. Each mountain or barrier that is shown depicts that very paradox once again. In order to feel love we have to understand hate, and hateful things. In order to understand strength we must feel weakness or vulnerability. To understand hope we must feel despair. TO feel powerful we must feel powerless sometimes. Last, to understand faith we must feel helpless as well. I write the words on the outside of the mountains to representing having to overcome barriers and obstacles to feel the rewarding things found on the outside. The important thing to realize is the size of the tear shape as it is large for a reason. No matter how large or overpowering our barriers may be, we as individuals, no matter the size of our pain are always bigger and stronger than our obstacles, which is why we have the power to overcome them and acknowledge that our failures alongside our success make us who we are, and we need both sides of emotions to understand our times of failure and our times of success.

This was a glimpse of the hard work that our workshop facilitators prepare for before delivering it to thousands of youth across BC. In particular, YAEP will be delivered to different groups and schools in Vancouver this year. Thank you everyone who read this – we really hope you enjoyed the showcase of our “behind the scenes” projects.  Please comment and share your thoughts on the pieces that our team have created.

Hey guys! Today we will be continuing part two of our Youth Art Engagement Project segment. Yesterday Emily and Ian’s art statements demonstrated to us their creative expressions of the sexual exploitation of children and youth. Today, we will be showing you artists statements from Jaedyn and Megha so please enjoy!

The following projects and artist statements are pieces that were created by each facilitator and the Program Coordinator that reflect a personal response to the sexual exploitation of children and youth throughout our communities.

Title: Question Marks the Spot, by Jaedyn Starr

Medium/materials: Sculpture,  hands and earth, specifically modeling clay on pink and red construction paper

I wanted to acknowledge the voices in sexual exploitation that do not get heard. The people who do not have a voice because they may no longer actually have a voice as a result of sexual exploitation. They may have been murdered or abused to the point that they no longer have the strength to break the silence and speak. This piece is to recognize these truths and that many voices will never be heard and perhaps never even speak. The lips with the line through them symbolizes this silence.

The question mark is to acknowledge that we cannot speak for someone else’s experience. We cannot fully understand someone else, let alone speak for someone else if we have not been in their shows. The lips and inner question mark are surrounded by a wall, composed of many barriers. These barriers contribute to the silencing and work together to divide us. The person who appears on the outside is upside down and cannot see as their lips cover their face. They are all talk and no see. This person is upside down because they cannot really see what is going on within the barriers and do not know that they are upside down because they cannot hear the silence, the voices that cannot speak. This person has a voice but is beside a question mark to symbolize all of the unknown that they are surrounded by. They use silence, voice and knowledge in this piece to demonstrate the information asymmetry within sexual exploitation.

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Title: Hot Mess, by Meghan Toal

Medium/materials: Acrylic, spray paint and collage on canvas

Recently I have been thinking a lot about what it means to bring a boy into the world and the way that this related to the maintenance of oppressive systems in our culture, particularly in regard to the role of men of privilege as oppressors in these systems. When I learned I was having a boy a few months ago I felt a shameful sense of relief. When through this work I am constantly faced with the negative outcomes of the oppressive gender binary on young women– those being low self-worth, hyper sexualisation and increased representation as victims of violence etc.– I felt eased by the potential that my child would not necessarily be inherently faced with these barriers and challenges. This, however, was a fleeting feeling that was quickly replaced with an epiphany wherein I realized the overwhelming responsibility of raising boys within the same oppressive gender system that stigmatizes women.

We constantly are addressing the demand created by predominantly men as being foundational to sexual exploitation and the sex industry. We discuss demand as the result of the way we, as a culture, socialize our children in particularly gendered ways and normalize unproductive dynamics between men and women. How do we combat the forces of mass media and hegemonic cultural understandings of gendered roles as a parent or educator in order to provide a child and opportunity to be anything or anyone they choose? It is an overwhelming prospect when real change will only begin when we start to socialize our oppressors differently and take responsibility for the pathologies that we produce. It is time for a social movement where young men and boys unlearn and are untaught the toxic gendered social habits that lead to not only women’s oppression but also their own.

This piece represents this struggle. I began by starting with a yellow base, a colour most commonly understood to be gender neutral. We all start as yellow; however, as we grow in the world this becomes complicated by our cultural understandings of men and women, wherein we enter the ‘hot mess’ that is gender identity. The black dot in the middle represents my child, and contains my fingerprint. As we grow the blue begins to swirl out from the black dot representing a prescribed gendered identity on a baby boy that can lead to oppressive behavior. The colour swirl represents my challenge as a parent to combat this assumption and expectations of a specific gender performance as a means of offering my son the opportunity for more and to be more. The colour swirls from blue to green to orange and finally to bright pink—a colour typically understood to represent the most feminine qualities. The overlay of collage represents the possible negative outcomes for our children if we fail in this re-socialization: a continuation of the individuals struggle to meet physical and social gendered expectations that lead to not only a disconnected identity but also violence and oppressive behavior where all parties, male and female, continue to invest in their own oppression.


Stay tuned tomorrow for our third and final segment, featuring artist statements by Andrea and Larissa. Thank you for reading and please tell us know what you think – we love to read your comments!