More young people have been volunteering in Powell River over the last few months thanks to a yearlong project called Youth 20/20 Can. The project helps empower youth on Vancouver Island and the upper Sunshine Coast to gain leadership skills and give back to their communities through volunteerism.
“Through Youth 20/20 Can, we have held over 40 planning sessions,” said Dale Lawson, executive director of Powell River and District United Way. “The steering committee members have also participated in 27 different local events, with many more planned before the end of the project in March.”
Planning sessions for the youth steering committee take place at the Volunteer Powell River office, 4750 Joyce Avenue (above Rona), every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6 to 8 pm. The sessions include free snacks, and any resident between the ages of 15 and 29 is welcome to attend and give input.
“The volunteerism is directed by the people on the committee,” said Jayde Bazinet, a youth engagement worker with Volunteer Powell River. “They discuss the things that are important to them, and then plan how they can make a difference on those issues through volunteering. For example, one of the first issues that came up was the environment, and they organized a clothing swap as well as a beach cleanup in their first few months.”
More than 50 youth are active in the steering committee, supported by staff members Bazinet and Erika Davies. The youth have organized events on their own, as well as partnered with other groups in Powell River.
“Another issue they care deeply about is LGBTQ+ rights,” said Bazinet. “To impact that in our community, they decided to work together with Powell River Pride Society during Pride Week and after. Having these partnerships also promotes mentoring and intergenerational activism.”
Not all the projects have been as visible as Pride Week or the beach cleanup, but their impact is still powerful.
“One of our members said, ‘I believe that our community would be a better place if we had more interaction between people of different ages,’ so now we have a dinner at the Cranberry Seniors Centre at the end of every month,” said Bazinet. “Another member has started an anime focus group, like a book club for people who enjoy anime. The member does all the planning, organizing and leadership of the club, which gives them practical skills that will be useful throughout life.”
Youth 20/20 Can, a yearlong project funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps program, runs until March 31, 2020. It is a collaborative project between Volunteer Powell River and five other volunteer organizations across Vancouver Island. The goal of the program is to provide strategies to youth to encourage them to develop volunteerism and leadership skills and to increase their civic and community engagement.
For more information on what the youth steering committee is working on, go to instagram.com/volunteerpowellriver, or contact Volunteer Powell River at 604.485.2132.