Pictured above: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor and Council pose with (center) Brina Cardinal, Mariam Arain and Dr. Tamara Plush from the RbD Lab at RRU for the launch of the Youth Vision and Voice in Wood Buffalo report November 27, 2018.
Youth in the Wood Buffalo region have innovative ideas for rebuilding the region back even better after the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster (aka the Fort McMurray wildfire). In the Youth Vision & Voice in Wood Buffalo report produced by the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at RRU, youth aged 14-24 share their experiences, concerns, and visions for creating vibrant, resilient communities. Read and download the report at https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/.
The youth ideas cover areas important to them such as transportation, health and wellbeing, volunteerism, activities, and education. The report also promotes key community actions that can support youth, such as engaging them in activities that reduce their risk to future disasters, strengthening youth-adult partnership opportunities, and ensuring activities are inclusive for Wood Buffalo’s diverse youth population across the region.
Mariam Arain, age 15, from Fort McMurray and Brina Cardinal, age 17, from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation in Janvier launched Youth Vision and Voice at the Regional Municipality Wood Buffalo Council meeting November 27 in Fort McMurray. Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott responded to the youth presentation with recognition and encouragement: “Thank you for being community champions and champions of this region. I couldn’t be more impressed. I am a huge advocate of getting youth involved in this community and making their voices heard. What you are saying perfectly aligns with what I see for getting youth involved in the future.” The RbD Lab produced the report as part of the Canadian Red Cross funded project Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo.
The report findings are based on interviews with youth, and a social media campaign youth named “#YouthVoicesWB,” which ran Sept-Oct 2017 and involved multiple social profits, schools, and youth centres across the Wood Buffalo region. The campaign asked youth to answer one question: “What would you do to make your community better?” More than 350 youth responded through photography, poetry, original songs, painting, sticky notes, and other creative means. The youth interviews and social media campaign not only revealed key priority areas for youth in the region, it also provided insight into how adults can better connect youth to decision-making, and why youth engagement is vital for Wood Buffalo’s post-disaster future.
The process of sharing their voice also proved empowering for Wood Buffalo youth and inspired creative paths to move ideas forward. For example, Aishwarya Gurumurthy, a 19-year-old youth from Fort McMurray, worked with the RbD Lab on the project as a Research Assistant, and also created a collage on transportation in answer to the campaign question. She described her experience as collaborative and powerful:
“Seeing that I have taken a step in the right direction and working towards the goal of making a concrete change in the community helped me with my recovery. These experiences made me feel more connected, and my bond with the community grew stronger,” Aishwarya said. “I felt more valuable after having my voice heard, and being recognized for my views, beliefs, and opinions. It is the sense of satisfaction that I have contributed to making my community better that helped me in the wildfire recovery and rebuilding process.”
To read or download the report, visit: https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/
For questions: Dr. Tamara Plush, firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Robin Cox, email@example.com.