Some 50,000 children have journeyed through the Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village since its roll out in 2009.
The interactive village travels to area schools where students learn to live and play safely through hands-on displays covering potential dangers ranging from electricity and fire to traffic.
But times are changing, and with that change comes the evolution of this mobile teaching tool that benefits students in Orillia, Rama, Severn, and Ramara.
“When I started this way back, there was just one program,” said Gerry Dwyer, a retired OPP officer and founding member. “Now, we are at a point where we can expand the programs and address the needs of our community as we grow.”
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Rapid and unceasing advances in technology are driving much of that change, as authorities attempt to keep pace with the darker corners of social media.
The program was recently expanded to include information on the dangers of ‘sexting’ — sending sexually explicit photos or messages by mobile phone.
“Sexting is happening,” said Sandy Cobbe, a founding member and co-ordinator of the safety village. “More and more kids have their cellphones at an early age.”
To that end, the Child Advocacy Centre of Simcoe-Muskoka is spearheading a component on the dangers of sexting for Grade 8 students, in partnership with police.
In a similar vein, Telus has jumped on board with a program focusing on cyber bullying and its long-lasting impacts.
“It teaches them that the pictures that you post, the words you put on there are never gone,” Cobbe said. “When you go for that job interview in a year or two years or three years, employers are now searching social media and they are seeing what you posted.”
The safety village caters to students in Grades 1 through 8, with programs running the gamut from stranger danger to prescription drugs and bus safety.
Participating partners include fire departments, paramedics, police, the Orillia Power Corporation, and Hydro One.
In addition to the support provided by the Kiwanis Club of Orillia, funding has come from a variety of sources, including corporate donations.
“It’s been a true community effort.” said Dwyer.
Kiwanis Children’s Safety Village Donate Two Vintage OPP Kids Vehicles to the OPP Museum located at OPP Headquarters in Orillia. Date: TBA