Posts

Special Engaged Scholar Issue Features RbD Article

A recent publication from the Engaged Scholar Journal shares articles on engaged scholarship and the arts. The Engaged Scholar Journal is an open source journal so all articles are now available online here.

In the journal, you will find the Rbd Lab’s most recent publication; Hey, Hey, Hey—Listen to What I Gotta Say: Songs Elevate Youth Voice in Alberta Wildfire Disaster Recovery which Dr. Tamara Plush and Dr. Robin Cox co-authored about the #YouthVoicesWB campaign in Wood Buffalo, Alberta. The article overviews the power of song for youth in Wood Buffalo who experienced the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire disaster. Youth-Adult Partnerships are discussed as particularly valuable in empowering youth to share their insights in musical reflections.

From Fort McMurray wildfire disater study, RbD Lab project promotes youth ideas on belonging and resilience

On February 21st, more than 50 Wood Buffalo community members and Royal Roads University’s ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Research Innovation Lab members met to present and discuss findings from the “Youth Voices Rising” project on youth, recovery, and resilience in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The research study occurred in response to the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster and was supported by the Canadian Red Cross.

Pamela speaks to community members.

The presentation and discussion covered the background of the two-year project, the youths’ ideas for a better community, a focus on how to strengthen youths’ sense of belonging and resilience, and ways to engage youth in the community as the community rebuilds after a wildfire disaster. The findings are showcased in the “Youth Vision and Voices in Wood Buffalo” report: https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb. View the event video at www.facebook.com/ResiliencebyDesignlab/videos/253510002242119 and www.facebook.com/ResiliencebyDesignlab/videos/1166184303576522

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott opened the presentation by sharing his role in the #YouthVoicesWB social media campaign that was part of the Creative Action Research study. He also shared his commitment to including youth voice in decisions that affect them. Youth community member Pamela (age 17) also shared her experience with the YVR project, highlighting how impactful it was to have hers and others concerns and ideas taken seriously by local community members as well as validated by other youth. As Pamela described, “Before I started working with youth voices, I never really knew the power or importance of my voice or the impact that I could have in my community.”

RbD Lab members Dr. Tamara Plush, Dr. Robin Cox, and Ashley Berard then presented on the #YouthVoicesWB campaign, which asked youth to answer the question: “What would you do to make your community better?” Youth answered this through original art pieces, poetry, photos, songs and more. The youth’s ideas focused on five priority areas, including transportation, health and wellbeing, volunteerism, participation and activities, and education. Tamara summarized the research through the lens of two key concepts: belonging and resilience. “Belonging connects to when youth feel valued for who they are or who they want to be. Belonging also includes the places that youth can go to feel safe, brave, supported and connected while navigating their unique roles and responsibilities in their communities,” she said.

Rbd Lab presenters Robin Cox, Tamara Plush, and Ashley Berard.

The focus on resilience was highlighted by the photography show “We are Resilient: We See the Positive” from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation youth. This was showcased around the room for community members to view, and can be viewed here: (https://resiliencebydesign.com/indigenous-youth-visualize-community-resilience-post-disaster-through-photography/). To highlight the arts methods and creations that made the YVR project so unique and powerful, Willi Whiston and Genoveve Zepeda-Whiston performed their original YouthVoicesWB song, Change.

Following the presentation portion of the day, the community members attending participated in group discussion. They offered ways their organizations could address the youths’ ideas and concern, strengthen youth belonging and resilience in the community, and how youth could aid in leading in the way towards positive change. The inspiring conversation led into presentations from key community leaders, including an overview of regional community resilience planning by Jody Butz, RMWB Regional Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management; a presentation by Cecelia Mutch, Executive Director of United Way; and an update by Guy Choquet, Canadian Red Cross Director of Operations Alberta Fire Recovery on Disaster Risk Reduction efforts in Wood Buffalo.

 

Indigenous Youth Visualize Community Resilience Post-Disaster through Photography

Two years after the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray and the surrounding region in Alberta, youth (age 13-17) from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and First McKay First Nation share their views of community resilience through two photography exhibits supported by the ResilienceByDesign (RbD) Lab at Royal Roads University. The youth exhibits show how Elders, nature, tradition, community connection, friends, and sports positively impact their lives. The two photo exhibits are posted digitally along with a video capturing their experience during the workshop, and additional photos they took that highlight their talents beyond their exhibit photos:

  • CPDFN Workshop Video July 2018; Supported by the Sekweha Youth Centre in Janvier

https://youtu.be/a-me6SL9Kk0

  • Fort McKay First Nation Youth: Through the Eyes of Youth

https://resiliencebydesign.com/fort-mckay-photo-exhibit/

  • Workshop Video August 2018; Supported by the Fort McKay Youth Centre

https://youtu.be/gXDEv_E4P24

During the workshops, community members viewed the youth photos at local exhibits, and shared their views with the youth in how the photos connected and inspired them. One person said they connected Calm showing a vibrant orange Tiger Lily because it was pure and peaceful: “It shows the beauty of nature, that it can outdo computer graphics. Being real can be better than fake.” Another person connected to Life is a Camera with two people photographing each other observing: “It represents truth: how to focus on life and retry if it’s not how you wanted it in the beginning.” In response to Respect that shows a bag on the ground, a young community member said: “These kind of impactful pictures are what make change happen.”

There were personal connections too. In Sky a youth connects a photo of the sky to her Grandmother, with a person observing: “Because I recently lost someone I love too, I understand what it’s like to see them within beautiful things.” Many others connected with a photo of braided sweetgrass, with a person reflecting that “No matter how strong we are individually, if we got more with the same vision or purpose, we are stronger.” Another said the photo shows that the “voice” of people coming together is strong.

Kevin Coueslan, a Sekweha Youth Centre Board Member, told the youth participating in the Janvier workshop that he could see how they used photography to express how they feel internally; and that the photos show that youth are thinking beyond themselves as they see the positive in their community. “That’s a very strong gift to have,” he said. “It’s powerful.” He expressed to them how the photos can open a door for conversations to occur between youth and adults in how to work together. It’s beneficial, he said, to see things from a different, younger perspective.

The youth photos are already being shown nationally with the “We Are Resilient” show featured in August as part of the WeMatter campaign Facebook page: @WeMatterCampaign. Some of the youth said they are also interested to join photography classes at school, participate in future photo programs at the youth centres, and take photos at community events. A few photo panels from a traveling “We Are Resilient” show will also be presented by Sekweha at the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Emergency Management Preparedness Conference.

RbD Lab members Tamara Plush, Robin Cox and Cheryl Heycoop co-facilitated the 2017 PhotoVoice workshops with Fort McKay Youth Centre staff; and Tamara co-facilitated the workshop with the Sekweha Youth Centre staff in Janvier. This year, the youth workers led the two workshops in their communities with support and training by Tamara, who reflected on her experience: “The photography exhibits show the importance of not only seeing the world through the eyes of youth with their unique perspectives, but in listening and having meaningful conversations that can benefit them and the generations to come,” she said. The photos show that “youth voice matters.”

Local community group takes over RbD Lab #YouthVoicesWB brand as Social Media Hub

The ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Lab at Royal Roads University launched the #YouthVoicesWB (https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/) social media campaign Sept. 2017 in northern Alberta to champion youth ideas for a better community after the devastating 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire disaster. The campaign applied creative arts and action research as part of the “Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo” project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross. The research specifically explores how youth voice can be strengthened during and after disaster in recovery response and planning (https://crossroads.royalroads.ca/news/rbd-lab-partners-give-youth-ideas-flight)

The RbD Lab strategically used #YouthVoiceWB as a process to explore, amplify and promote youth voice in the community through creative arts. For instance, the campaign asked youth age 14-24: “What would you do to make your community better?”  Nearly 400 youth responded to the question through song, surveys, sticky notes, photography, poetry, art and more. The RbD Lab team is now analyzing the findings and connecting youth and their ideas to local decision-makers. The researchers also hoped the campaign could ignite ways to sustain youth voice and support their recovery needs in Wood Buffalo beyond the project timeline, and explored possibilities.

 

Hannah, a youth community member, performs her original poem “Shattered Vase” about mental health and wellbeing at Talent Show connected to YouthVoicesWB.

“In the campaign, young people said they wanted own digital space to not only know what’s happening in the community for youth, but as a ‘one-stop-shop’ to find extra support for drug abuse and domestic violence or to respond to suicidal thoughts,” said Dr. Tamara Plush, Lead YVR Researcher at the RbD Lab. “In support, we were fortunate to connect with Some Other Solutions in Fort McMurray to take over #YouthVoicesWB in February; and they are now developing their own strategy of how they will operate it as a Social Media Hub for youth.”

Some Other Solutions share their first YouthVoicesWB Instagram post.

#YouthVoicesWB is currently active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Some Other Solutions (SOS) plans to tie #YouthVoicesWB into their youth programs and mentorships in schools, as well as connect to schools and other youth-serving social profits and organizations in the region. They also have plans to work with youth to build an app for youth events and access to crisis resources.

According to Tamara, the shift of #YouthVoicesWB as a research project to that of a community-based Social Media Hub is both exciting and essential. “We are thrilled the brand will continue with SOS because many youth talked about the need for adult mentorships, health and wellness support, and crisis intervention. These are core areas for SOS, so the transition feels like the natural progression of #YouthVoicesWB in the community.”

Jason King, SOS Executive Director, agrees and laid out the SOS vision for the Social Media Hub. “What I like about #YouthVoicesWB is that it gives opportunity for youth to be heard in our community. Not just in what they see but in what they do,” he said. “We see the vision of #YouthVoicesWB as showcasing the authentic and uncensored voice of youth. We want to capture what people are saying and what place they are speaking from. We want to show that they are leaders and holders of the community.”

To learn more about the role of Some Other Solutions in Wood Buffalo, visit their website at https://someothersolutions.ca; and follow #YouthVoicesWB across all social media platforms to watch how SOS continues to champion Wood Buffalo youth voice.