Fort McMurray Talent Showcase Champions Youth Voice

As part of the RbD Lab “Youth Voices Rising” (YVR) project, the District Recording Studio, 91,1 The Bridge and the YouthVoicesWB campaign recently presented a youth talent showcase in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The event included 10 youth performers, a talk by RbD Lab Research Assistants Maike and Aishwarya, a presentation from 3 Things Wood Buffalo, and a visit by the Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle. The event wrapped up the month-long, #YouthVoicesWB social media campaign and action research project that championed young people creatively answering the question: What would you do to make your community better? See the amazing performances—and the Mayor’s and Councillor’s talks—on the Shaw TV YouTube Site: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLARu0rgVPBmwEI5AmSxEpc8FDfkwdqDrU.

Maike, a local Research Assistant, wrote a blog to share her impressions of the fun and inspiring evening:

Pizza, Hipster-Lounge Atmosphere, Talented Youth and Mayor Don Scott

By Maike-Alexandra Schmieding, RbD Lab Research Assistant, Youth Voices Rising

On Nov 10th, at 6.30pm, around 75 youth gathered at the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School to perform their songs, poems and stories. The youth had the chance to perform their art through a cooperation of the YouthVoicesWB campaign, the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge.

I was blown away by the talent and professionalism of the youth performing. Being 16, and sometimes even younger, going on that stage takes courage. And the youth rocked it. The atmosphere was amazing. I felt like I stepped into a hip New York underground lounge. The youth had great messages, too, for making their community better, especially as the area recovers from the 2016 wildfire disaster. For example, Shekinah, age 15, sang a song called “Recovery” with the lyrics: “There’s something about this town that nobody sees. No matter what tries to bring you down, you can’t be beat.  And the fire that burnt down all your hopes and dreams. You came back twice as strong ready to take on anything… If I could do something to make this place any better. I would bring back the people that stuck together. Our hearts stayed strong we’ll carry on forever. It’s all a part of our recovery.”

Wow – what a beautiful message! And what a great venue too. I want to give a special shout out to the people from the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge at this point for their amazing work for setting up the stage, and to the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School for hosting the event!

Besides all the great youth performers, one of my personal highlights of the night was newly elected RMWB Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle joining us and listening to young people. Throughout the whole event (and the YouthVoicesWB social media campaign) we asked youth: “What would you do to make your community better?” The answers ranged from wanting a Costco to needing support with bullying, to problems with local transportation and more. In our talk about the YouthVoicesWB campaign, I specifically mentioned the challenges of transportation for youth on stage. Councillor Jeff Peddle approached us right afterwards and showed me his phone. He had messaged a person responsible for transportation in the Municipality to explore the issue further to help local youth!

Our excitement became even greater when Mayor Don Scott spoke to the youth on stage about the transportation problem. As well, he said one of the most inspirational things I have heard until this day (which must mean something, because I’m a teacher, and we really like saying inspirational things!): “Prove them wrong.” Mr. Scott advised the youth to never let anybody tear them down, and to prove people wrong whenever they said that they cannot do “it”—whatever “it” is.

It was also an exceptionally special moment for us when he announced that he would display the Justin Slade Youth Foundation YouthVoicesWB sticky note wall for youth feedback and the amazing art installation of angel wings from the Art Foundry. (Here I am with the wings at the event.) Don Scott said he plans to put them in his office to show everybody the great ideas youth have for the Wood Buffalo region, and to encourage more input by youth. What a great way for youth voices to be shared with the support of the Mayor.

As a new Research Assistant with the Youth Voices Rising project, I loved to hear everybody’s stories and to connect with all the youth. There are some amazing kids out there, and together, we can take the world. In the words of Mayor Don Scott to the youth: “PROVE THEM WRONG!”

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RbD Lab launches #YouthVoicesWB

The YouthVoicesWB campaign launched September 29 in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta, Calgary. The campaign encourages youth to share their ideas of how to make their community better as a means to strengthen their resilience during the wildfire recovery and rebuilding efforts after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

The campaign is part of the RbD Lab “Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo” action research project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross. The campaign timing aligns with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo general elections so local decision makers can hear ideas from youth, which supports young people to have a stronger role in the conversation and policy decisions affecting them.

“Young people may be reluctant to share their views in a formal setting,” says RbD researcher Dr. Tamara Plush. “Creative art, as seen in the campaign, not only serves as a catalyst for understanding and amplifying youth concerns, but the narratives can evoke powerful emotional reactions which may be the spark needed for action.”

 Youth aged 14 to 24 living in the Wood Buffalo region can participate via the @YouthVoicesWB Facebook, Instagram or YouTube using art, photos, video, song, poetry, theatre, dance or other creative media or by joining the online conversation. Already, youth are engaging with original songs, photography, poetry, talks, art installations, drawings, via sticky note walls, etc. For example, in her song Hey Hey Hey, Hannah recently sang: “I want streets with cafes and places that bind. Music and arts, and curious minds… I want waterfront not development… I want opportunities for you and me; changes that I want to see. Hey hey hey listen to me. I’m not silent. I’m just not being heard… Things can be better here, I’m sure… Things will be better here, I’m sure…”

The campaign highlights the importance of youths’ perspective on disaster recovery and rebuilding and supports ongoing conversations and actions.

“When it affects us, it should involve us,” says Pamela, a 16-year-old campaign participant. “We’re the future generation. We’re going to be here making the decisions next. How are you going to make our world better for us and our children and their children if you don’t give us the opportunity?”

YouthVoicesWB runs until Oct. 27, 2017.

(Article credit to Royal Roads University and the RbD Lab)

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Campaign to spark youth ideas for wildfire recovery

The RbD Lab at Royal Roads University recently launched a two-year, youth-focused research project in Wood Buffalo entitled “Youth Voices Rising.” YVR is designed to amplify and promote young people’s ideas for recovery from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. As an initial outreach to young people age 14-24, the RbD Lab and Meicholas Art Foundation hosted an Ideas Incubator that engaged youth in the design and implementation of a youth-driven social media campaign to be launched in the Fall. The campaign will center on the question “If you had all the power, how would you make life better in your community?”; and the answers young people share through photos, videos and other story mediums will help illuminate youth-centred visions for Wood Buffalo’s recovery and rebuilding. The concerns, ideas and conversations the campaign sparks will form the basis of the project moving forward over the coming year.

The young people and supportive adults at the Ideas Incubator workshop, decided on the YouthVoicesWB campaign name, identified the most relevant social media platforms for Wood Buffalo youth, and brainstormed various creative methods that youth might use as part of the campaign (e.g., video, art, poetry, music, etc.).

The Youth Voice Rising project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross, is designed to work alongside Wood Buffalo youth to explore where youth voices are already being heard, and where they think youth voice could be stronger in recovery planning. “We’ve found after other disasters that young people have often lacked the power and official channels to share their perspectives, concerns and ideas. Because of this, they can remain an underrepresented stakeholder in the recovery process despite strong evidence on the benefits to communities who actively engage youth in decision-making,” Dr. Robin Cox, RbD Lab Director, said. “However, when given opportunities, youth can actively contribute to their own recovery and to the recovery of those people and places around them.”

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Dr. Cox calls for a culture of resilience

Dr. Robin Cox, Director of the RbD Lab, was one of ten featured speakers participating in the Resilient Calgary event, May 16th, sponsored by Mount Royal University’s Centre for Community Disaster Research. Cox’s talk, Engaging Youth to Create a Culture of Resilience, focused on exploring the potential for drawing on the passion, energy, creativity, and intelligence of young people to address the complex problems of escalating disaster risks and climate change. Cox challenged the audience to consider how current decision and policy-making models and processes and structures are inadequate to address the rapidly escalating risks. Both too conservative and too siloed, these structures continue to be reliant on habitual thinking and processes that do not reflect the non-linear and emergent issues of wicked problems. Cox argued for an increased focus on cultivating a culture of resilience based in multi- and trans-disciplinary thinking and flexible, collaborative perspectives. She suggested that creative, innovative and collaborative mindsets are needed to shift the status quo and re-imagine solutions to these complex problems.

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RYSE project launches May 2017

The Resilience Youth in Stressed Environments research project officially launches this month. Principal Investigator, Dr. Michael Ungar, Scientific Director of the Resilience Research Center, Dalhousie University and Dr. Robin Cox, Director of the RbD lab, will be overseeing the research in two Canadian communities – Drayton Valley Alberta, and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The RYSE research project is a multi-sited, five-year, international research project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and developed to study the resilience of young people in the context of oil and gas production, consumption and climate change.

Dr. Sarah Fletcher has been hired as a postdoctoral fellow to work on this first year of the project. She will be supporting and mentoring two Dalhousie doctoral students, Margaret Heffernan and Laura Wright, in the field as they engage in this initial stage of data collection and analysis. Joining them will be Tara Lewis, a Masters student and resident of Drayton Valley, and Katy Hildebrand, an incoming Master of Arts student in the MA of Disaster and Emergency Management at RRU.

The project will be collecting and analysing data over the course of the summer, drawing on the insights and interests of youth using participatory action research and arts-based methods to explore their health, wellbeing and resilience priorities. Youth and community feedback will inform the later stages of the project, which include resilience surveys, environmental mapping and stress biomarker data.

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RbD Lab explores youth resilience

Team members from Royal Roads’ ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Lab recently presented at the 5th Annual Keyano College Arts and Humanities Conference “Coming Through Fire: Rebuilding, Reconciling, Rethinking” in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The RbD Lab’s presentation—Youth Voices Rising & Creative Action Research: Recovery & Resilience in Wood Buffalo—engaged participants through the visual storytelling method of storyboarding. Here, conference participants creatively explored the question, “If you had all the power, how would you make life better in your community?” as a means to support conversations that matter to young people living in the Wood Buffalo region. The participants, most in their early 20’s, highlighted changes they want to see in their community, such as reducing harmful acts of gender discrimination and the need for improved healthcare services during pregnancy.

The storyboards from the conference will contribute to a social media and youth engagement campaign launching in the Wood Buffalo region later in the year as part of the RbD Lab’s research into strengthening youth recovery and resilience after the Fort McMurray wildfires.

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