Young people recovering from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires are using photography, art, song, poetry, prose and written text to express how they’d like to make their community better—in anticipation of the #youthvoicewb social media campaign that will launch in late September. The Youth Voices Wood Buffalo campaign and action research project will champion young people’s ideas for making their community better during the post-fire recovery. The campaign is being coordinated by the RbD Lab, and is supported by local youth-serving organizations, and is part of the Youth Voices Rising project.
To support youth in sharing their ideas, Tamara Plush, Robin Cox and Cheryl Heykoop from the RbD Lab worked with local youth workers in July to facilitate three events in the Wood Buffalo region. At the Fort McKay Youth Centre, 20 youth joined in a workshop to learn photography basics and explore their community through the medium. The workshop included an evening exhibit with friends and family that featured photos expressing their views, including the value of preserving nature, the importance of community and connection, and the desire to address challenging social problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. As an example, Alexis photographed a friend photographing her, and described what it means to her: “The photo I have chosen connects to the community because no one can achieve something by themselves. It’s always a thing you do with people in front of you and giving you guidance.”
The photography workshop culminated in small group discussions between the participating youth and a Fort McKay First Nations band councilor about the changes the young people would like to see; with plans to present their ideas to the local Chief and Council.
For the upcoming #youthvoiceswb campaign, the RbD Lab also supported youth in using creative arts to express their views at a Justin Slade Youth Foundation event. Young people at the workshop engaged in discussions and art exploring diverse ideas for a better community, including creating more outlets for LGBTQA youth, improving the lives of people experiencing homelessness, and increasing the number of vegetarian restaurants in town.
At another event supporting the campaign, young people took the stage at the McMurray Gospel Assembly for a talent show night with the theme of making their community better. They performed acts of poetry, song and prose that will be featured on the #youthvoiceswb YouTube channel when the campaign launches. The photography and art from the three events will be posted on #youthvoiceswb Instagram and Facebook accounts.
The campaign will launch Sept 29, 2017, during Alberta Cultural Days, and run during the Wood Buffalo Municipality election to link youth concerns and ideas to local decision makers.