Annie Bourque | Journalist
Following her heart by turning an idea into action to help children with behavioural problems--that's just what Anne-Marie Guertin of Desjardins Foundation did.
Here's her story.
Guertin was deeply moved when she read a story in La Presse about "kangaroo" classes--small groups of 8 elementary or highschool students. There are now 80 of these classes throughout Quebec.
"These young people find it hard to connect with adults. They can be prone to outbursts and can't express their emotions. That really moves me," says Guertin.
Until 2004, children with behavioural problems were simply sent home! That year, child psychiatrist and educational consultant Suzanne Gauthier developed the kangaroo class concept, inspired by a similar approach in Britain.
At work, Guertin talked enthusiastically about the article she'd read. "What if we gave these kids Emotion Game cards?" she suggested to her manager, who instantly agreed.
The idea for the Emotion Game came from Jasmin Roy from Fondation Jasmin Roy, who wanted to develop a fun tool to help parents and kids express their feelings more effectively. "So far, the game--which is available in Quebec and Ontario caisses--has been wildly successful," says Guertin.
Guertin shared her intentions with the kangaroo class founder, who responded very positively right away. "This tool meets a need--I love it," says Gauthier.
On Halloween, Guertin, along with Jasmin Roy, delivered the games to the class of Natacha and Geneviève, who were featured in the La Presse article.
The two suggested that they take out the cards right away to play with the students. In the heat of the moment, one of them suddenly said, "I'm proud of the work I've done and I'm doing better since I've been in this class."
Guertin and Roy were won over by the students and by all the hard work of the teacher and educator. "They help develop self-esteem and confidence." Gradually, the students learn to believe in their abilities and reconnect with those around them.
Gauthier appreciates Guertin's gesture. She continues the conversation by sharing parents' testimonials put out during an activity:
- "I'm a lot less stressed. I don't need to fight with my kid anymore to get him to school."
- "This is the first time in 8 years that I can finally keep a job. My son is doing well at school. I don't need social assistance anymore."
Beyond the game, Guertin realized something important. "We gave cards that will become tools to succeed in life. Kids and parents who feel strong emotions can talk about them and develop a certain empathy. And learning to manage their anger provides the foundation they need later on for learning how to socialize, make friends and most of all, gain respect."
She's proud that Desjardins offers a tool that can be used to improve lives. "We're making things better for young people who will grow up to be adults, full citizens. This engaging gesture makes a difference. One step at a time. Maybe the next generation will help create a better world," she says with modesty.
Photo credit: Anne-Marie Guertin