11/30/2012 01:41 EST | Updated 01/30/2013 05:12 EST

20 years on, Montreal-founded LOVE is still spreading

For thousands of young people, it's been a path to peace and understanding that was borne in confusion and senseless violence.

On a crisp fall night in downtown Montreal 30 years ago, Twinkle Rudberg and her husband set out for a dinner with friends.

Daniel Rudberg stopped the car near City Councillors Street when he saw a violent confrontation between a young teen and an older woman. The woman was thrown to the ground. The suspect took off.

Rudberg and two other men followed.

As the other men stopped at a hotel to call for help, Rudberg cornered the teen. He was stabbed twice in the neck and once in the chest.

Only a few minutes after the incident started, Daniel Rudberg was dead.

Three decades later, the legacy of that night lives on in the more than 600 youth who, every year, find a way off their own paths of violence though the organization Twinkle Rudberg built from the depths of that tragedy.

Instead of focusing the blame on the 14-year-old American boy who was eventually charged in the death of her husband, Twinkle Rudberg turned her attention toward addressing the forces that lured him into a life of drugs and petty crimes and thrust him into that bloody night on a downtown street.

"It was that incident that made her realize that kids needed a voice, a place to express themselves, and to deal with their issues of violence," said Olivier Tsai, executive director of LOVE Montreal.

LOVE, or Leave Out ViolencE, started in the mid-1990s with a group of 15 kids in the Dawson College photography department.

It's now expanded exponentially in Montreal and spread to other cities in Canada and abroad.

The program uses media-based projects to help at risk or violent youth develop empathy and self-esteem. The aim: to reduce youth violence by addressing the issues at its core.

"We do so by bringing together victims and perpetrators of violence and working together to open up communication and dialogue," said Tsai.

Those projects are based in photography, videography and journalism and teach kids vital skills like critical thinking and social awareness.

The organization runs leadership and outreach programs centred on awareness and violence prevention.

LOVE also runs an in-school program that encourages students to come up with creative ways to talk and convey messages about non-violence with their classmates.

Finding a voice

Rhea Giuliana joined LOVE while she was a Dawson student after a friend encouraged her to check it out. After struggling with her parents divorce as a young child, changing schools and never feeling like she fit it, Giuliana said she had a hard time expressing her feelings and often bottled everything up.

She immediately connected journaling, one of the activities encouraged by LOVE, and said it's had a significant impact on how she interacts with other people. It's a skill, she says, that she carried with her after she finished her work with the program.

"It's a great way to voice my opinion in a way that wasn't really harmful or hurtful," she said.

"It was a form of letting out my anger without having to cause violence to everyone – just writing on the page. A pen and a paper is a really powerful thing."