By Heidi Zemach for SCN-
The young people who attended this year’s Carnival at the Alaska Railroad cruise ship terminal April 11th had a good chance to win one of the many free raffle prizes offered that included 10 high-quality bicycles with helmets, some Razor scooters, fishing poles, a soccer net set, zipline tickets, and more. They also got a chance to win typical carnival game-prizes such as stuffed animals, soccer balls, and home-made cakes.
But the greatest prize of all, and the point of the whole carnival, was the practical information they learned along the way to keep them safe from things like bullying, sexual abuse, date-rape, cyber-crimes.
The carnival was hosted by SeaView Community Services Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse program, as community outreach to help prevent abuse and save lives. Activities included piling as many rubber chickens on ones’ head as possible, doing interesting science experiments, popping balloons, fishing for rubber ducks, a cake walk and a dunk tank.
In order to participate in the raffle, each child was required to engage in a variety of age-appropriate learning activities. Small children were taught to check first with a parent or guardian before going anywhere, accepting anything, or getting into a car; to tell someone “No” if they try to touch or hurt them; that it’s okay to stand up for themselves; and to tell a trusted adult if anything makes them feel sad, scared or confused. Middle school students or older teens were taught the potential dangers of sexting, of corresponding with strangers on the internet, cyber-bullying, and date-rape. They were given practical tips on how to react to, or prevent those things, and how to recognize the difference between a loving, healthy relationship, and one that is abusive and potentially violent. One booth was dedicated to suicide prevention. There was also useful information for parents on monitoring their childs’ internet activities, there was an ID kit to keep their children’s photo and other useful information handy in case they should lose them.
A mother collected signatures for Parent Café in a Box, where local parents and children get together in one-another’s homes and hold conversations designed to help strengthen their family and interpersonal relationships. Fifth Avenue Fitness, the new gym, had a booth and its staffer Solomon D’Amico promoted a new women’s self-defense class he is starting.
This is the third year of the carnival, and it was the largest and most effective one yet, thanks to the raffle, and the participation of many local businesses, nonprofits and churches in the community, which donated prizes, volunteers, food, and activities, said SeaView DVSA program organizer Dawn McDevitt. The funds raised will fund future educational carnivals in Seward. An upcoming Poker Run, meanwhile, is a fundraiser to support the domestic violence program at SeaView, and its activities helping people in emergencies.
Domestic Violence and sexual abuse is a problem in Seward, and in every community across Alaska, said McDevitt. In just the first three months of this year, the DVSA program provided 29 emergency shelter nights to victims and their children. The program provided over 80 shelter nights last year. The local program has volunteers, but only one paid staff member, and there is no local sheltered for battered women. Rather, victims who request emergency assistance are protected in safe places within the community for a while, or given rides to shelters in Homer or Anchorage.