Written by Kerri Murray, Director of Strategy and Innovation, Ever Active Schools
Sometimes it is difficult to describe what we do. When asked by someone new, the conversation usually goes something like this:
“So, what do you do?”
“I work for a charity that does school-based health promotion.”
“Are you a teacher?”
“Are you a nurse?”
Aside from exposing myself as the least interesting conversationalist at the party, you can see that the discussion often begins by describing what we are not. So let’s go with it. I want to introduce you to Ever Active Schools by starting with what we don’t do.
We don’t just do physical activity
I know, I know, it’s in our name. While Ever Active Schools started 21 years ago to build the capacity of health and physical education teachers, we now embrace a multi-dimensional view of health. To be well, we acknowledge that social, spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, occupational, and environmental domains matter just as much as physical well-being. Think of us as ever active in all these areas of wellness.
We don’t work only in schools
Schools are places where well-being can be experienced, practiced, learned about, and modelled. Ever Active Schools takes a settings-based approach to supporting young people where they live, learn, and play. This means we are concerned with the environments they spend time in, including both schools and community spaces. In fact, we have a dedicated arm of our organization, Ever Active Communities, in which our staff lives and works in communities, including Medicine Hat, Enoch Cree Nation and Montreal Lake Cree Nation.
We don’t do downstream and targeted interventions
In public health there is a well-worn story of a river. Standing by the river, one observes that many people have fallen in from somewhere further upstream. The downstream approach is to help people out of the river. Many organizations exist to do this, and the majority of public education and healthcare services are oriented toward helping people in crisis. The upstream approach to the river scenario is to follow the path to see why people are falling in and prevent it from continuing. Ever Active Schools exist to provide young people with knowledge and skills to avoid falling in the river altogether by supporting them before they experience crisis; and we are equipped with life rafts to help people who are already in the river to be well despite the circumstances.
We don’t work alone
You already know that I am not a teacher (nor a nurse), but some of my colleagues are. We are an interdisciplinary team of educators, health professionals, recreation leaders, community builders and professional staff with backgrounds in communications, finance and office management. This variety of expertise provides us the capacity to work at the nexus of health and education. Beyond our team, we work with a wider network of dedicated partners across these sectors, which strengthens our shared mission of healthy children and youth.
We can’t do it without you
As a registered charity, we rely on grants, foundations, partnerships and donations to sustain our operations and deliver our work. Currently, only 1.5% of the dollars we receive are through donations. We have a strategic goal to grow in this area, because donor dollars have lower administrative costs associated with them, give us the freedom to respond to emerging priorities and demonstrate that the public cares about child and youth well-being.
Now that we’ve ruled some things out, allow me to share just a few examples to illustrate how we do work and the impact we can have together:
- A young girl from Enoch Cree Nation sews a ribbon skirt as part of an after-school culture and crafts club through the wellness hub – mamawinitowin miyowâyâwin
- A student from Cappy Smart School teaches their peer a self-regulation technique they recently learned about during a difficult moment at recess
- A whole school participates in a community run/walk/roll event in Fort McMurray that celebrates inclusion of all abilities
- A young person, recently arrived to Canada as a refugee, gets to know their new community by exploring local parks on snowshoe
- An elementary class, clipboards in hand, does traffic observations outside their school at drop-off time to understand how they might help more families choose active modes of transportation for the school journey
With those foundations in place, I’d like to introduce you to Ever Active Schools. We are a national charity doing local work. Our interdisciplinary team works with health and education partners in school and community settings. We help children and youth experience well-being across every dimension of health, however they show up today. We support them with tools and skills to be well, well into the future.
It’s nice to meet you. I hope we will be friends.