DARE program aims to help students make better decisions

June 15, 2014

I think educating young people (and older people as well) about how important it is to not get hooked on drugs is an extremely good idea.  When my son and I moved to Salt Spring Island in the late 1990s, there was talk about drug pushers approaching the students in the Middle School to sell drugs for them. I think many people were relieved when the local RCMP made the decision to start teaching the DARE program on the island. As far as I know, the RCMP still runs the DARE program. Here is an article I wrote about it:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

December 1, 1999

DARE program aims to help students make better decisions

by Tanya Lester

Encouraging positive self-esteem and assertiveness can prevent young people from taking drugs, according to local RCMP Constable Jeff West who is beginning to teach the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) course this week.

The first 17-session course will be taught in teacher Elly Parker’s Grade 6 class at Salt Spring Island Middle School (SIMS).

The sessions get a what is behind taking illicit drugs. For example, one topic is about how the media influences young people in the use of drugs and violence.

Another is on building self-esteem which “helps students understand that self-image results from positive and negative feelings and experiences.” 

“You’re shooting at helping kids make better decisions,” said West, who took the two-week DARE training course in Port Alberni.

Locally it is financially supported by the Salt Spring Rotary Club. 

West said he will be dressed in uniform while teaching the course so students will recognize him and not be afraid to approach him if they see him on duty elsewhere.

“I know if I’m having a problem I feel comfortable enough to talk to Constable West,” is the result the RCMP officer envisions.

West said the course emphasizes cooperative learning in small groups and lots of role playing with all classroom students involved. There is a course workbook and students will receive a DARE T-shirt at a graduation event to which parents will be invited to attend.

West said Parker’s class is part of the French immersion program but he will be conducting the course in English.

SIMS students were selected to be the first to take the course because young people from across the island attend there, said West.

The RCMP wanted to impact a cross-section of Salt Spring’s children.

In addition, West will be giving talks to Fernwood School students from the kindergarten to Grade 4 level.

West expects the program to expand to the point that he will be giving a fall and spring session at one of Salt Spring’s schools each year. Another goal is to have more local RCMP officers trained to teach DARE.

West is well qualified to facilitate the course, having been a physical education teacher before he became an RCMP officer.

Prior to relocating here, he worked extensively with drug and alcohol problems in Surrey.

West said approximately 29 RCMP officers trained with him in late September. Most were from the Vancouver island-Gulf Islands region but officers from other parts of Canada also attended. Support money for the two-week training period came from MacMillian Bloedel.

Five Edmonton police officers taught the training course…




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The start of STREETS

June 14, 2014

I have written about this before but it is worth writing about again and again: as a writer, I will always be proud of the fact that I was involved in the creation of West Central Streets . Here is how it happened and why I am proud that I had something to do with its existence:

West Central STREETS

September/October 2005

The start of STREETS

by Tanya Lester

West Central Streets is a wonderful example of how the process of communication can empower and connect the people living in a community.

I am very proud to have been a so-called midwife as its birth ten years ago. In fact as someone who spent many years as a Winnipeg writer, feminist and social activist living at 394 Simcoe St., I believe this community newspaper is one of the best tools for social change that I have ever been associated with. Time and time again, it has served as a catalyst to bring people, who might fear and even hate each other, closer together in an inner-city environment that often appears to be very ‘rough around the edges’.

My memory of how it began was when I received a phone call from Erika Wiebe. She asked if I wanted to meet concerning the possibility of a newspaper for the West Central area. The meeting happened in the St. Matthews – Maryland Community Center basement. There were only three of us. Tammy, who worked for the center, was the third.

I came up with the idea that the newspaper should be called STREETS. I talked about how it would be impossible to cover all of the area’s concerns in a bi-monthly newspaper. But we could zoom in on one street each issue that in some ways might represent what would be happenings in every part of the West Central area.

Money is always a dilemma when it comes to producing a newspaper for and of the people. Wealthy advertisers are not usually interested in supporting something geared towards economically poor — the the most part, people who do not have the money to buy the products in the advertisements.

Like the good community worker that she is, Erika had that all sorted out. She knew a wealthy philanthropist. His money has been the paper’s main source of funding right from the beginning. Not one to boast about his contributions, for a long time Bill Loewen did not want his name mentioned anywhere as a financial supporter.

I want to hasten to add that it is not as costly as one might think to put out this kind of publication. For instance, Erika did some research and found out that it was much less expensive to have paper printed by the Brandon Sun than in Winnipeg.

The other thing that really made West Central STREETS take off very quickly is that it was begun by a very small group. I remember rumbles from every left-leaning organization in the city when they got wind that we were starting a community newspaper. Everyone wanted to be on the board.

From my long years of activist experience, I knew that numbers would ‘bog down’ the process because the more people you get on a board, the more difficult it is to move forward. “We need to get the newspaper up and running and them all of these group representatives and everyone else in the community can be a part of it by writing articles,” I remember saying.

And I think EVERYONE has contributed to West Central STREETS. Yes!! We did it!!!




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June 13, 2014

Over the years, I have written a number of columns. None of them have lasted very long. Writing a column or editorial, I think, can be one of the most challenging writing forms. Maybe it has something to do with reporters being trained to be objective or, at least, objective as possible and then we turn around and write in the subjective voice for a column or editorial.

When I was the short lived editor of Borderland  Reporter (before the publisher took off with the huge printer in the back of his pickup truck one night leaving his bills and staff behind in a cloud of exhaust fumes), I faced the challenge of finding stories to write in a southern Saskatchewan area even less populated than the Gravelbourg area that I had just left. In the following editorial, I appealed to the people regarding story ideas. I cannot remember if any were forthcoming because the advertising manager and I soon had our attentions diverted to scrambling to collect money for advertisements the newspapers had already run. With our boss gone awol, we needed the money to give each of us a final pay cheque.

In this editorial, I provide an inside look into what it is like to be a reporter with its long hours, the stress involved in wanting to cover everything or finding there is sometimes almost nothing to cover:

Borderland Reporter

March 9, 1983


by Tanya Lester

Last week the end of my column contained what we in the newspaper business call a typographical error. Its a nice phrase which simply means there was a spelling mistake.

Rather than “requesting community contracts” in this column I will be requesting “community contacts” or asking you to give me a call when something comes up that you think is newsworthy.

This week I would particularly like to discuss covering weekend events. I want to start more of a sports page or community events page for the newspaper but I can anticipate running into a few difficulties doing this. 

The big difficulty lies in the fact that most sports events take place on the weekends. The weekends are supposedly my days off from work and often I will be out of town at a rural reporters’ association meeting, for example, which I believe is related to my job anyway because it helps me to be a better journalist. Or sometimes I just want to take some time off to relax. 

I am sure that you can understand I am entitled to some days off. This week, for example, I spent a lot more time on the newspaper than the 40 hours for which I am paid.

I spent about 10 hours laying out last week’s paper on Monday. For this week, I have written about 14 stories. For each story I took about one hour to interview the person and approximately two hours to write the article. That makes 42 hours alone. Plus, there was travelling time, taking photographs, developing film, answering the phone, talking with people about story ideas, and sitting through two fairly lengthy evening meetings this week. So I probably worked about 60 to 70 hours last week, but who’s counting?

However, I do want to include weekend events in the newspaper because they are of interest to the community. I think we might be able to work out a few compromises so I will be able to do this.

If you could given me a call during the week. Maybe by Wednesday or Thursday, to let me know that any event you are involved in over the weekend is taking place I will try to schedule going out to cover the event around my free weekend time.

If you call me on the weekend concerning the event, chances are I will not have time to go out and take photographs of it because you have not given me time to schedule for it.

This week I knew about two curling bonspiels a couple of days in advance do I was able to give them a bit of coverage. But I found out about the carnival on the weekend and I just could not find enough time to get out to it as I already had several stories, for which I had already interviewed the people, to write on both Saturday and Sunday.

But just because I either do not have time to cover an event on the weekend or if I am out of time, does not mean details on the event will not get into the newspaper. People have already come into the office with photographs they took of weekend events, that I could not cover, and details on them. If you would like to do this, I will do my best to make sure the information and/or pictures are printed in the paper.

Also, because I am already working a lot of overtime I will not be able to let people read the articles, for which I have interviewed them, before the stories are published in the newspaper.

Instead, I would like to encourage you to write a “Letter to the Editor” if you have any criticisms of the stories I write. Of course, if I should receive any letters telling me I did a good job on an article I won’t throw those in the garbage either.

But seriously now. I think letters to the editor are an interesting aspect of a newspaper and I welcome letters of any nature providing that they are not in poor taste (i.e. obscene).

I am also looking for people I can interview for human interest stories. For example, some of the human interest stories which I wrote in Gravelbourg included a man who repaired saddles, two artists, a man who raised canaries, a quilt maker, an arrowhead collector, a woman who has kept scrapbooks of newspaper articles since the early 1900’s, and the list goes on and on and on.

This week I wrote stories on Lorraine Korbo, who is an artist, and Linda Balysky, the special education teach at Coronach School. Both these stories could fall within the human interest or feature article category as the general story I have prepared on the Kinsmen would.

Marj, one of my co-workers here, has already given me a lot of human interest story ideas and other I have met in my travels over the week have done the same. Over the next couple of weeks I particularly need such story ideas for the Fife Lake and Big Beaver areas but I will continually need story ideas of this sort for the entire Borderland Reporter readership area.

Next week: Can a newspaper survive on stories alone?




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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased directly from the author or you can read its first few pages and/or buy it on amazon.com


People at work: Funeral director

June 7, 2014

I think I mentioned earlier in this blog that when I worked as a reporter for The Gravelbourg Gazette in the 1980s, my job was to fill the newspaper with articles during a time when their were many more of them than the advertisements and flyers that over shadow in their numbers stories in the print media today.

My editor did not really care what I wrote as long as I produced the copy. I always enjoy writing and wanted to make my stories as interesting as possible. In Gravelbourg and the surrounding area, finding hard news stories was sometimes a struggle but their were always profiles of people that I could write. I am sure anyone that I did not profile in the Gravelbourg area felt a bit miffed when I left after several months. 

I did, however, start to run out of people who were willing to have their stories told. That is when I approached the funeral director. I remember him as being quite reserved. Journalists seldom write about this profession probably because, in predominant North American society, we often steer clear of anything which details death and dying except for the sensational side of things (ie murders, mass car accidents, etc.)  Amazingly, the interviewer (me) and the interviewee (Dick Lemieux) managed to steer clear of the forbidden subject in this piece as well:

The Gravelbourg Gazette

December 7, 1982

People at work: Funeral director

by Tanya Lester

In Saskatchewan, it used to be the tradition that the hardware or furniture store owner also ran the funeral home.

The Gazette asked Dick Lemieux, who still owns such an operation in Ponteix, why this was so. “I guess caskets were made of or handled by the furniture stores,” Mr. Lemieux said.

Lemieux’s Hardward Limited, a Home Hardware franchise, was originally purchased by Mr. Lemieux’s father in 1948. “I think when my Dad bought this stories, he had about $14,000 worth of stock,” Mr. Lemieux said. His father sold such items as coal pails which with the coming of electricity have now become obsolete.

But although, Mr. Lemieux now has $180,000 worth of stock on hand, he said there is no more than when his father owned the store. Prices have gone up!

Mr. Lemieux tries to buy most of his furniture from Western Canadian firms because freight rates for hauling furniture from the East are high. His most busy time of year is in November and December with Christmas approaching.

Mr. Lemieux’s business has not felt the recession as much as some businesses in other provinces. “I think Saskatchewan is pretty lucky,” he said. “We don’t depend on industry so much.” With the partial closure of small towns in the area, Ponteix, as a whole, has become a larger service center.




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Exploring the culture of death

June 6, 2014

My fear for death has decreased over the years in direct proportion to the ever increasing glimpses of the afterlife that I experience when I do mediumship readings as a psychic and anytime (which is basically all the time, lately) my spirit guides assist me in doing psychic readings of any kind. I get glimpses of this place in which spirits, that used to be in bodies on earth, live in beautiful white light and float around to connect with a variety of other spirits. Seems heavenly to me. 

I have also learned from societies in which death is a celebration and dying is not a lonely experience. For example, in one Buddhist religion, everyone begins chanting in support of someone who is dying and this chanting continues long after the person has died. I imagine this must be a great comfort to the dying person: that support, through chanting, will follow her or him into the afterlife.

Other ideas around death and dying are explored in the following article that I wrote after interviewing  Dr. Marilyn Walker:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

January 25, 2006

Exploring the culture of death

by Tanya Lester

Although Dr. Marilyn Walker believes death is the door into the afterlife, she does not have the definitive answer as to the nature of that spiritual culture.

Se compares each cultural interpretation to one aspect of a crystal through which shines a facet of the overall experience.

In a “Death and Dying from an Anthropological Perspective” course, the Mount Allison University professor will draw on her studies in countries as diverse from each other as Thailand and Siberia…

Throughout its four evening duration, Walker will facilitate participant discussion about death and dying. Her techniques will include storytelling about witnessing death and making lists of the most comforting words to use when consoling someone who is experiencing this loss.

“We don’t get tutored very well (in white North American culture) in how to talk with the grieving,” Walker said.

Canadian film footage that features people who are dying will be used.

“This is a way to bring the dead into the classrooms on their own terms,” she said.

One of Walker’s early experiences as a medical anthropologist in Thailand opened her eyes to cultural differences towards death when she was invited to a funeral. Each guest was expected to contribute a huge multi-coloured floral wreath (in sharp contrast to the sombre black of North American services). She said the event was a festive celebration of the person’s life and open to as many people as the family could invite.

People made memorial books in honour of the deceased, said Walker.

She pointed out that the presence of an altar brings the spiritual rite into the Thai home. Tiny delicate cakes will be offered to ghosts because it is believed these will fit into their tiny mouths.

In the south-east Asian Hmong culture, a type of ladder next to the altar provides spirits with a way to occasionally leave for a holiday.

Walker said that perhaps our Western fear of death is connected with our fear of being alone and belief that being by ourselves is a negative thing. This is not the case in many other cultures.

What she does see is a strong connection between how we live and how we die in most cultures. If we live a good life, death is a good experience. She has also observed that forgiveness is very important. 

“It’s not over for the dead and it is not over for the living,” Walker said.

For example, before her brother died, he told her that he was going to miss her — the implication being that he realized he was going to continue his existence in some other form and place.

In many indigenous societies, said Walker, the shaman is the intermediary between the living and the dead. If a spirit cannot “let go” of someone she or he loved in life, the shaman can facilitate the release.

The dying can be teachers to the living. Walker said her brother had created films on the subject of birth and had thought this was the most “amazing transition”. When, he was dying, however, he concluded that death was more incredible.

Walker hopes the course will assist people in preparing for dying and death. She expects emotions, including joy, to surface during the course…




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Tea Leaf Reading

June 2, 2014

I started out as a tea leaf reader and I still love doing tea leaf readings but over the years I have added tarot card readings to my divination offerings as well as psychic channel and mediumship.

This is an article I wrote about being a tea leaf reader for a Nanaimo-based new age or metaphysical magazine called EagleEyeOne:

Tea Leaf Reading

by Tanya Lester

Next time you drink a cup of loose leaf tea, take a look at the exquisite leaf patterns that remain in the bottom of the cup. For many, they serve as a magnet which ignites the desire to further explore the pictorial meanings they contain.

The art of tea leaf reading probably started in China and India where tea drinking originated. The East Indian gypsies or Romas transported this ancient form of fortune telling to Europe. People pf British descent still recall gypsies knocking on the door during afternoon tea. They would read the family’s cups.

Tea leaf reading is among several modalities in which a psychic ponders the remnants of a drink after the liquid have been imbibed. In Scandinavian countries , coffee grounds are read as that is the social drink of preference. Eastern Europeans interpret the “cloud” residue in the tiny expresso coffee cups. At the time when wine had dregs, these, too, were read.

In many Canadian cities tea leaf reading has been offered for decades in tea rooms and coffee houses and Tarot card readings have now joined this tradition. Since each psychic has his or her unique way of going about the process, I’ll illustrate with “my” way of reading.

I ask my client to drink the tea before turning the cup upside down onto the saucer where it is then rotated three times clockwise. This is done using the non-dominate hand because it is linked to the intuitive part of the brain. Then I suggest that the client concentrate on something for which she or he wants spiritual guidance. This process ensures that the client’s energy is ‘in’ the cup.

I read by focusing on each leaf in the cup. Every one presents a picture to me directly related to the client’s future. The picture establishes itself in my mind’s eye (Third Eye) like a frozen image on a movie screen. Then, the picture begins to move and tells me a visual story. I translate this story into words for my client. The entire pattern of the leaves provide me with an overall theme that will prevail in the individual’s life during the following year.

Tea leaf reading is one of the tools that triggers my psychic abilities. It begins a channelling process. It is one that I inherited from my Lebanese great-grandmother and grandmother. Like any psychic process, practice makes perfect. The client receives affirmation and clarity about his or her future in a relaxed atmosphere.




For the earlier articles in this blog, please go to http://www.writingsmall.wordpress.com

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To read the first few pages or to purchase Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester, please go to amazon.com or buy directly from me, the author. If in the Okanagan Valley area, you can purchase a copy of this book at Dare to Dream, located on Harvey Ave. behind Arby’s.



Happy Friday the 13th! Enjoy!

June 1, 2014

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I am a bit of a media magnet. I think it has something to do with leading an interesting life. It has always been important to me to live life to the brim: to follow my bliss and to work towards making a positive difference on Planet Earth and the rest of the Cosmos. It also has something to do with being in the right place at the right time. 

I was included, along with a photograph, in the following article because a journalist in Kamloops, BC decided to write a story about Friday the 13 th and called Mystic Dreams, a metaphysical shop where I happened to be doing tea leaf readings:

Kamloops News

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Friday the 13th! Enjoy!

by Jason Hewlett

Machete wielding maniacs in hocky masks and age-old superstition have given Friday the 13th a bad rap.

At least that’s what people told The Daily News on Thursday as everyone from coffee shop customers to the RCMP said they aren’t scared to venture outside on the most superstitious of days.

“It’s self fullfilling,” Peter Louwerse said of the reputation today’s date has earned.

Louwerse, who enjoyed a coffee with family in the downtown on Thursday, believes people have been raised to believe Friday the 13th is a bad-luck day.

He said movies and the media have gone a long way to re-enforce that notion by keeping the ominous date at the forefront of popular culture.

Thirteen has long been considered an unlucky number. He said the 13th floor isn’t even acknowledged in many buildings.

“It’s amazing how people capitalize on that,” he said, adding he doesn’t believe the day generates bad luck.

Nor does the city’s police department. RCMP Sgt. Scott Wilson said officers might respond to an unusual number of calls today, but not because it’s Friday the 13th.

Wilson said police are traditionally busier in the summer and on the weekend. Put the two together, and it can be a hectic day whether it’s the 13th of the month or not. 

“If it’s a hot summer Friday night, the number of calls will go up,” said Wilson who isn’t superstitious.

Friday the 13th ominous past doesn’t have a defined starting point, said Tanya Lester, a tea-leaf reader from Salt Spring Island in Kamloops to do readings at Mystic Dreams on Tranquille Road.

She said Christianity attempted to degrade all things pagan by promoting 13 as an unlucky number. Three is a number linked to divination, which is practised by witches. Christians consider witchcraft a pagan religion.

“Three is a part of 13,” she said.

At one time Friday was a sacred day for Roman Catholics. When that day fell on the 13th is was thought unlucky because something evil could happen, said Lester

“If there are special days in religion, then it’s like the devil wants to get you on those days,” she said. “I know it doesn’t connect up logically.”

Kamloops resident Dian Manahan said she has never had anything happen to her on Friday the 13th.

“I try not to even think about it,” she said. Like Louwerse, she thinks the day is all hype.




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This is blog of the many articles published by and about me over several decades as a freelance writer and a tealeafreader/tarot reader/psychic.