by Leslie Kelly particular to the chief
Cynthia Osterman is definite that her son Benji is happy with the work she is doing in his identify.
Osterman is the founder and board chair of The Benji Undertaking, named for her son Benji Kenworthy who took his personal life at age 15 in 2015. That tragedy prompted Osterman to create the nonprofit with the hopes of serving to different teenagers who could also be contemplating suicide.
“I take into consideration him day by day,” she stated. “He would take lots of delight understanding that his impulse delivered to life one thing to assist others.”
“He had an enormous coronary heart,” she continued. “Since his dying, I’ve had children come as much as me and inform me that Benji was at all times there to pay attention and assist them. This (The Benji Undertaking) is my technique to proceed to like my son by loving different kids.”
Based within the fall of 2017, the mission of
The Benji Undertaking is to show confirmed mindfulness and self-compassion instruments to younger individuals, their households, and the group.
“We’ve gotten loads larger,” she stated. “We first envisioned this as one thing we’d do after faculty with small teams of youngsters. However we at the moment are educating these expertise as part of the curriculum for ninth-graders in three faculty districts.”
The standard program consists of eight weeks of lessons in two hour periods with 25 children in every class.
The nonprofit works with the Port Townsend, Chimacum, and Brinnon faculty districts. Founders are working so as to add the Quilcene faculties quickly.
At the moment, the challenge has three part-time staff who’ve been skilled to show coping expertise within the classroom and about 10 volunteers who assist with workplace wants, fundraising, placing up flyers, and doing mailings.
“Due to the confidentiality and belief with the scholars in our applications, we don’t use volunteers within the classroom,” Osterman stated.
Whereas the pandemic has considerably subsided, COVID remains to be on the minds of teenagers, she stated. Different issues embody local weather change, the political ambiance, racism and hate, and use of social media.
“All the pieces that occurs in our nation impacts our youth,” she stated. “And these kids are nonetheless coping with the isolation they skilled due to the pandemic.”
Use of social media, the bullying and the fixed evaluating of oneself to others on social media, can have an effect on teenagers deeply.
“Youngsters see these pictures of perfection and assume they need to be like that when it’s not sensible,” Osterman stated.
This system teaches “Conscious Self Compassion for Teenagers,” a program developed by a college professor with a background in medication, and a director of youth and parenting applications in California.
The Benji Undertaking additionally has week-long summer season camps for center faculty and highschool college students the place coping expertise will be practiced in social, bodily, and of The outside tenting experiences.
This previous summer season was the primary time the challenge provided a summer season camp for LGBTQ youth.
“It’s a spot the place, for some, it’s the first time they’ve been allowed to be themselves in a secure and relaxed ambiance,” she stated. “It could be the primary time they’ve settled into themselves.”
Different choices by The Benji Undertaking embody workshops for folks and academics that present optimistic methods to cope with challenges with youth.
Within the 5 years that the challenge has existed, it has reached 1,211 college students by the varsity program and summer season camps. That’s particularly vital as a result of extra youth in Jefferson County have thought-about suicide as in comparison with youth throughout the state.
Osterman stated Jefferson County is basically rural, distant, and economically deprived. A scarcity of psychological well being sources exhibits the challenges youth face. A statewide 2018 Wholesome Youth Survey confirmed that Jefferson County teenagers skilled extra melancholy and anxiousness than their friends all through the state. An instance is that 36 p.c of Tenth-graders in Jefferson County stated they’d really made a plan for making an attempt suicide, which is double the statewide common for Tenth-graders.
Instructors have seen conditions the place college students didn’t wish to take part and have been withdrawn and hostile, solely to see these college students begin to work together.
“Considered one of them is now a frontrunner in this system,” she stated. “And he reported that the abilities he discovered have helped him in all contacts he has.”
The Benji Undertaking has simply opened an administrative workplace and is hoping to broaden its applications. Coaching extra instructors within the self-compassion curriculum is on the listing of objectives.
“Every coaching is about $5,000,” she stated. “We began out with a funds of $20,000 and in 5 years, that has grown to $200,000. The extra funding now we have, we are able to prepare extra instructors, and attain extra teenagers.”
Discover out extra at
thebenjiproject.org, or name Osterman at 360-301-3487. E mail cynthia@thebenji