Chez Hope talks anti-bullying at Park Elementary School

Park Elementary School students had no shortage of ideas on how to use their hands for good Wednesday morning.

Sharon Russo and Mike Madona, the community outreach advocates of Chez Hope for Iberia and St. Martin parishes, respectively, were visiting the school to give children an anti-bullying presentation, called “Hands Are Not for Hurting.”

The presentation was one of three that Chez Hope runs in local schools. “Hands Are Not for Hurting” is presented to students from pre-K through the second or third grade; from about the third grade up to the eighth grade, a presentation called Bully-Free Kids is given; and for high school students, a program on dating violence is given.

“The kids were very interactive, we really had a great response,” said Madona. “These are good programs, and they’re very needed, it’s sad to say.”

“They are at an impressionable age now,” said Russo. “These programs are needed because a lot of these problems, they’re learned behaviors. They are sometimes learning this in the home. So you need to break that cycle. So we focus on the good things that you can do with your hands.”

In their presentation, that included Paul, a character that likes to draw with his hands, and Maddie, who likes to make mud pies with hers.

“What are some ways you like to help with your hands,” Russo asked the class.

Students suggested helping a friend up when they’ve fallen off their bike, sharing a popsicle and shaking hands, among many others. Each suggestion seemed to prompt several more hands to shoot up.

Chez Hope is a family violence crisis center, with an emergency shelter in Franklin.

“It’s not communal living,” said Madona. “The whole family is able to stay together, and we are able to get the kids into schools within 72 hours. There really aren’t many places like that.”

After a round of itsy bitsy spider, students joined the Hands Are Not for Hitting Club, reciting the club’s pledge of allegiance: “I pledge to never use my hands to hurt someone else. I promise to use my hands in good ways that will bring happiness to myself, my family, my friends and the people around me. I will use my hands to create peace in the world.”

Then they used their hands to give themselves a round of applause, and then to wave goodbye to Russo and Madona.