Sarah Labadie learned she had been a victim of child abuse by watching television.
Around age 11 or 12, she was watching an episode of Criminal Minds when she saw her own experience being mirrored on the screen, except in the show someone faced criminal charges for their actions.
“That kind of sparked my realization that what was happening was not normal,” she said. “When you’re a kid you’re always told that adults are always right, so when someone I trusted told me that something was happening was normal, I believed it.” Spurred on by a high school teacher who knew her story and encouraged her to use it for good, Labadie began doing volunteer work in child abuse awareness and prevention in Grade 11.
In August 2020, she had the idea of starting her own non-profit organization, and in June 2021 Holding Hope became incorporated. The organization focuses on growing awareness of child abuse in Saskatchewan through social media and is currently working with summer programs across the province, teaching children about body autonomy and the differences between safe and unsafe touching.
In April, she also had the opportunity to plant 763 pinwheels in front of Regina’s City Hall as part of an awareness campaign for National Child Abuse Prevention month. In recognition of her work in child abuse prevention and awareness, Labadie was recently named the winner of one of 16 Terry Fox Humanitarian Awards, a national scholarship valued at up to $28,000. Winners receive $7,000 per year for up to four years as long as they continue their humanitarian work.
Heading into her second year of an education degree at the University of Regina, Labadie certainly has no plans to slow down in the effort she pours into Holding Hope. “Since starting this organization, I’ve had many people reach out to me sharing their stories or curious about supports and stuff, and that is something we are lacking in Saskatchewan,” she said. “We definitely want to help to create more supports for people and just keep pushing for more awareness overall.”
Generating more community support for the organization is also on her to-do list so Holding Hope can continue to expand its services. She particularly would like to see more child abuse awareness in schools, something she hopes to take with her into her classroom once she is a teacher. It was her own teachers who inspired her to go into education, because they supported her when she needed it most as a child. “All my teachers were crucial in me graduating, in all of my successes,” she said. “They gave me support in so many different ways, and just knowing that I could play that same role that was so vital to me in some other kids life is everything.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Holding Hope can visit the organization’s website at https://www.holdinghopesk.org.