It all started with a white sweatshirt.
“My dad announced last fall that he was going to start wearing white hoodies every Friday — it sort of started as a small, one-man campaign,” Corrie Schneider said of her father, Joe Palko.
For as long as she can remember he dad has been a staunch opposer of violence against women.
“That was the framework our family was built on — for women to be respected,” she said.
Schneider was born and raised in Sarnia and now runs One Spark — a charity she launched three years ago to help eliminate financial barriers for women facing violence. She was so inspired by her father’s statement she decided to turn it into a campaign of its own.
“When you’re a daughter, to see your dad taking on that kind of advocacy, it’s really inspiring,” said Schneider. “So I thought — let’s see what we can do with this.”
She enlisted the help of brother Scott Palko, whose team at Sarnia’s CCI Studios helped create the Maverick Campaign, to encourage men and boys to speak out about violence against women and girls, in support of One Spark.
The website, www.beamaverick.org, was launched earlier this month and features a group of nine men — all from Sarnia — who were more than willing to lend their voices to the cause, Schneider said.
“I don’t think we have great channels for men to use their voices together,” she said. “This is just the first phase; we are looking at how we can engage men in an ongoing basis. It’s going to be evolving and changing as we go.
“And for it to come out of Sarnia, is amazing.”
The Maverick or MAV (Men Against Violence) campaign invites men to wear a white hoodie on Fridays, and post photos via social media using hashtags like #BeAMaverick, #onespark and #WhiteHoodieFriday to help start the conversation.
If you don’t have a white hoodie, they can be purchased online with proceeds going to One Spark programs and services that help ensure women impacted by violence have the financial means to live free from abuse.
Schneider started One Spark after working as a consultant with women’s shelters and realizing the burdens faced by those trying to transition back to normal life.
“For many women, we were seeing that leaving the shelter was more difficult and frightening than going in — and that really sat with me,” she said, pointing to issues like housing and integrating back into the workforce. “One Spark grew out of those conversations.”
The charity differs from others, Schneider said, because of the focus on income through entrepreneurship. Women who enter the program are given a laptop computer, trained to write business plans, government reports, accounting, have access to startup subsidies and the cost of registering their business covered.
Based out of Hamilton, One Spark has focus areas in Toronto and Sarnia, Schneider said.
“We’ve done some great work in Sarnia,” she said, adding that she’d like to expand from the current one-on-one training with local women, to more of a group format.
All proceeds from the Maverick Campaign help put women through the program, which costs One Spark about $2,100 per participant.
“What I’d love to see is for men to be the trailblazers, in terms of shifting the dialogue about violence against women,” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal in this.”
For more information about the Maverick Campaign, visit www.beamaverick.org. To learn more about One Spark, visit one-spark.ca.