On Jan. 18, Leave Out Violence Everywhere (LOVE), celebrated its 20 years in Nova Scotia.
LOVE, a Halifax-based nonprofit organization, aims to provide support for disadvantaged youth, aged 12 to 18, who are at risk of becoming victims of or participating in violence. The group also provides arts and leadership programs, after school programs, summer camps, 24-hour crisis support and a social worker on site.
Sarah MacLaren, the executive director of LOVE Nova Scotia, says that the organization prioritizes one-on-one work with their youth.
“A lot of what we do is framed around health,” she says. “Mental health, physical health, social indicators of health. A lot of those have to do with having supportive humans, and a positive support network.”
MacLaren says people don’t do well in isolation; when someone is struggling, it is easy to become isolated. “What we’ve built is this space where a kid can walk in, be 100 per cent themselves, and not be judged by their peers or the staff.”
The Nova Scotia chapter has come a long way since it opened 20 years ago.
“When we first opened, we had no office. We were a phone-check and car that my parents gave me,” MacLaren says.
After operating out of various downtown offices — always serving the north end — LOVE moved into their current home on Gottingen Street four years ago. They have three main locations in Nova Scotia: Halifax, Sipekne’katik First Nation and Membertou First Nation.
LOVE was founded in Montreal, in 1993, by Sheila “Twinkle” Rudberg. Rudberg aspired to end the cycle of violence in youth after her husband was murdered by a 14-year-old boy. Since then, LOVE has extended to Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia.
Many people stay involved with the program past age 18. Parker Jackson became involved with LOVE 12 years ago, when he was 16.
“It was just a really good, nonjudgmental place for me to learn how to properly express my emotions,” he says. “I always tell people that LOVE is one of those places that helps figure out what your specific needs are, and they help you overcome any challenges, but they give you the strategies and abilities to help yourself as well.”
For Jackson, the people at LOVE continue to help him navigate Nova Scotia’s healthcare system.
“They really did change my life for the better and I know they’ve changed hundreds and hundreds of youths lives for the better,” he says.
When LOVE started in Halifax, they had 15 youths in their care. This past year, MacLaren estimates that number has grown to 300. Despite this increase, the kind of help LOVE provides remained the same.
“This work is hard, but it is not complex,” MacLaren says. “People need love, people need support, and people need you to be accountable to them. If you do those things over and over again, and don’t withdraw from the relationship, beautiful things happen.
Some days it’s really hard, because the barriers layered on top of our kids are a lot, so rising to that challenge over and over again can be hard. But the formula is human.”