To the outside world, Elana Fric and Mohammed Shamji were a couple in love, married for over a decade, children and all, each with a great career. But the truth of their relationship was marred by darkness, the kind that makes people shudder when they look closely. Unfortunately, few could, given that their carefully curated (by Shamji) social media profiles displaying a happy-go-lucky family and couple life.
Category: Armchair Mayor Column Page 3 of 28
Like all parents with school-age children, I received the district heads-up letter about the Momo challenge. By now most have are familiar with the strange, creepy face of the Momo character and the internet storm it has created. My eldest had heard about it, while my youngest had not. I passed on the heads-up. They shrugged. There are just so many wacky things out there, my eldest said.
True. The many things that lurk in the virtual darkness of the internet are not reduced to Momo or another challenge. It’s an ongoing thing. There are controversial videos and memes that are inappropriate for kids but they access anyway because they are there; there is pornography (see Katie Neustaeder’s column from last week); there are violent or troublesome-imagery games parents sometimes approve as OK because ‘so many people are doing it so it must be fine’ – which only confuses things.
We can all agree that whoever created Momo has a sick, twisted mind, but then again, that is the category we can (almost) place so many of today’s online happenings, including the addicting features of apps and games. As we know, children respond scarily well to that and get hooked easily.
The reality is, the internet murkiness and disturbing at times content will not go away. I say this with profound sadness. I grew up without the internet and loved it, and I love it even more now, retrospectively. It had all the magic in it a kid could want.
One of the reasons for it was nature: I was outside a lot. Aside from time spent reading, doing homework, or helping my parents with various chores around the house and garden, time was spent outside, rain or shine, with or without other kids, but to be fair, lots of it with kids because that’s what was considered the norm for children.
The challenges of those days had to do with climbing trees, riding bikes up crazy hills, being delegated to do dares as we were all sitting around a fire on a given late summer evening (when you live near a cemetery and the theme of the night is ghosts, you have to conjure a decent amount of courage to overcome the ‘no way I am doing this.’)
Now mind you, we weren’t instructed by my parents on every aspect of safety but given the occasional advice on what is safe and what not, and why. Nor did they have to sign a waiver if we were at somebody’s house climbing trees and building forts (with real tools, by ourselves) because it was part of the picture: kids did real things, and they did a lot of problem solving through various activities. Running into mischief added its own educational quotient.
What made it so darn good? For one, when you are around your significant adults and do various things alongside them, you learn as you go. They’ll stop you from doing this or that, until you learned the safe way to do it, but they would let you try things that were not deadly so you could make mistakes too. Hence the ongoing challenge of learning things. The best two things about that was that you really strived to learn how to do it right, and then it felt pretty good when you could put your skills to work when the situation called for it.
We went up on the hills near my house and we went to the local swimming pool in the summer. Being out and about and learning so many of those ‘invisible’ like skills by osmosis really, was the best and most valuable gift that I was given.
The times have changed and there was nothing any of us could do to stop the evolution. With the good (and the internet has brought a lot of that, everyone agrees,) came the bad, and this, again, no amount of vigilance from parents or responsible adults can stop.
The one thing we can do, and no one can change that, save for our own decision to not do it, is to spend enough time with our kids and teach about balance and healthy challenges, not by preaching to them but by exposing them to situations where they can experience that. Indoors and out.
If adults take time away from the internet and screens in general and instead dedicate it to spending it together with our kids, there is a chance they will get to experience some of that magic that the ‘no internet’ kids once experienced.
Any time spent together inside or outside, be it hard work that brings in both frustration and a sense of accomplishment, or fun times spent having adventures of all kinds, such as camping, hiking, and exploring any given corner or nature – there is a wealth of goodness and magic there waiting to grow. We have the means to challenge our children in a way that helps them grow confident and able to discern. It’s no perfect solution, but it’s something that no one loses anything by trying; on the contrary.
It’s been said many times: you cannot change the world around you but you can change how you react to it.
Now that’s a challenge worth taking.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, February 25 2019.
I have never been in a situation where I had to be rescued by one of the SAR groups in our province. But like everyone else, I have been hearing and reading a lot of stories about people needing rescuing from all sorts of sticky situations, including the recent one of the snow-biker near Lumby. While unfortunately not all of them have a happy ending, the fact remains: Search and Rescue volunteers are out doing everything they can.
Our local group, Kamloops Search and Rescue KSAR, had 42 calls last year and 72 multi-day searches, amounting to 3500 hours. That’s a lot of time away from home, family, work, or sleep (for some volunteers it is all of them combined.)
I wrote about it before – either arguing for the need to know what we’re heading into when we make plans to be in the great outdoors, no matter the season, and recently about the heartless break-ins at the Nicola Valley Search and Rescue compound.
Lately there has been a string of new stories involving various Search & Rescue groups. Every time a story like that shows in the news, we have to remember two things: that this is a free service by volunteers who put a lot of time and energy into it, both during training (not a one-time thing) and when called out for a mission.
The recent post-budget conversations have been diverse and, to be fair, we have yet to see a calm ending to the budget communications. There is always room for better, to put it kindly. Needs are constantly increasing and they are growing more diverse as the population increases; there is hardly a sector that will say they have enough to cover everything.
But when I read that so far, no money has been set aside for the SAR groups across the province, it made me uncomfortable. Let’s hope it is an oversight that will be corrected as soon as possible. Many people’s lives have been saved by these people and many people’s loved ones have been retrieved from treacherous circumstances where few of us would venture.
The calls have increased dramatically in the last years. From people seeking adventures in the backcountry, to people suffering from dementia who are getting lost, the calls keep coming and they are answered. Selfless is the word.
To be sure, we are not talking about a handful of volunteers doing what they can when they can. According to BCSARA, there are 2500 SAR volunteers in 80 SAR groups across the province, who are completing over 1700 tasks a year. There are prevention programs in place too, in collaboration with Adventure Smart. Since we are at it, please note that there is an Adventure Smart Trip Plan app, available free of charge on iPhones and Android phones.
Neither training nor rescue missions can be done without money. But… funds will run out on March 31st, unless the province reconsiders. Let’s hope they do. Because if these people live with the belief that every life and every call matter, no one should tell them otherwise.
From a practical perspective, the less time is spent fundraising, the more is available for the training and rescue. An important detail about fundraising for these groups as it appears on the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA): ‘Neither the BCSARA, nor the Search and Rescue groups recognized by the province as part of the Public Safety Lifeline solicit funding by telephone.’ Yes, there are some out there who are not afraid of bad karma and occasionally they call and ask for donations to support ‘search and rescue’ groups. SAR group never solicit by phone – please spread the word about this heartless scam.
Let’s hope the provincial government will reconsider and correct the oversight. If not, I believe we should all be ready to help as much as we can to ensure that funds are in place for these services to continue to exist. I cannot imagine a day when a SAR group would be forced to reconsider a mission due to lack of funds. Let’s make sure it never happens.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on February 19, 2019.
Here’s the thing: I never envisioned that students and teachers at a Kamloops school could be the target of a deadly plot. When the explanatory email came from the school district, I read it twice and shook my head. Students had a hard time processing all of it.
Who were those two youths who got so lost from their humanity to lean towards wanting to hurt and even kill people? Peace of mind can only be broken once; afterwards you’re jumpier than usual.
In theory, it sounds nice: make a social media platform where friends and family can stay in touch by sharing life bits and photos; organize get-togethers and spread the word about good things happening. That is what Facebook looked like from a distance back when it started. To be fair, so did other social media platforms.
It took me a while to be convinced to hop onboard with Facebook at the insistence of friends across the world who wanted to stay connected. That was back in 2009. Even so, I was reluctant to share much. I was and still am too enamoured with the real world. Virtual sharing just doesn’t do it.