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Program in Powell River promotes youth volunteerism

Volunteer Powell River enters third year delivering Youth 20/20 Can
MEAL MAKERS: Youth 20/20 Can participants [from left] Bea Bianca Salvador, Kaylyn Gleave, Jordana Pangburn, Noah Nilsson and Maru Lee preparing frozen meals at Cranberry Seniors Centre.

Three years ago Volunteer Powell River (VPR) was approached by Volunteer Victoria executive director Lisa Mort-Putland to collaborate on a grant application for a youth volunteer program. Youth 20/20 Can connects volunteer centres in Victoria, Cowichan, Nanaimo, the Comox Valley, Campbell River and Powell River.

The project was intended for youth to plan, host, attend and take leadership roles in events and activities for volunteering, learning and community connection.

“I was really excited by the offer, and I am so grateful we have been able to make it happen,” said VPR youth engagement worker Jayde Bazinet. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of Powell River and District United Way.”

What started out as a one-year program is now entering into its third year. With co-worker Erika Davies and new project manager Tammy Siddall, VPR members are excited to continue offering the program and a variety of methods for youth engagement.

More than 40 youth, ages 15 to 29, are currently involved, however, they would love to see that number increase. Events and activities VPR is able to offer are only limited by what the youth want to do, according to Bazinet.

“Whether it is preparing frozen meals for seniors, hosting beach and park cleanups, trivia nights, talent shows, book and film discussion groups, banking, introduction to the trades, first aid, or virtual art nights, we have identified the need for free and inclusive youth programming in our region,” said Bazinet. “What we provide is the opportunity to make a difference, to connect with causes that inspire compassion, to care for one’s peers, and the support needed to achieve at school and in the workplace.”

Weekly Instagram group chat planning sessions happen every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 pm.

“COVID has made it hard for us to do a lot of things out in the community and we very much miss how we used to have our planning sessions in person; we used to have a lot of excellent snacks at our planning sessions,” said Bazinet. “That being said, we’ve been able to do a lot of things at a distance or online, and we frequently deliver supplies right to the doorsteps of our group members. The youth have planned, led and attended many virtual events over the past year.”

Program organizers are also happy to accept youth mentors, and said they would love to hear from anyone with a skill to offer. Youth mentors in the past have taught soap making, mushroom identification and even 3D printing.

“We have partnered with many local groups and organizations over the past few years: Powell River and District United Way, Powell River Pride Society, Brooks Environmental Club, qathet Mycology Network, Powell River Public Library, Cranberry Seniors Citizens Association, to name a few,” added Bazinet. “Of course, we’ve also been collaborating with other volunteer centres on Vancouver Island to host events and opportunities. The way things have changed over the past year has created more opportunity for youth in our region to work and network with youth on Vancouver Island. We’re looking forward to more collaboration on all levels.”

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