When it comes to finding out what youth need to thrive Dr. Bonnie Fournier has always relied upon the simplest method of discovery. She asks them, and she listens.
A year ago, the associate professor of nursing embarked on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded project called “What can we learn from rural youth?” The research team includes co-investigator Dr. Tracy Christianson, assistant professor of nursing, Research Co-ordinator Shannon Desbiens, MEd in Counselling (TRU), and Ashcroft and Cache Creek youth co-ordinators Rhea Little and Lenay Weigel. Together they have spent the year listening to youth to better understand what they need in their communities to feel supported and valued, and encouraging them to identify solutions.
“The youth co-ordinators recruited their own participants and met every two weeks to explore ideas about what is important and what matters to them in their rural communities,” Fournier said of the projects that are being undertaken in both Ashcroft/Cache Creek, and in Kimberley. On Friday, Jan. 17, the youth from the Ashcroft/Cache Creek group will present their recommendations to community leaders, which includes incorporating more safe, outdoor gathering spaces for youth.
“They were very clear that the lack of green spaces and lack of places to hang out, especially in Cache Creek, was concerning especially since there was talk of closing the local swimming pool,” said Fournier.
Along with green spaces, youth expressed a desire to clean up their community, which they felt would instill a sense of community pride, said Desbiens.
As part of their presentation, the youth involved in the year-long discovery process will showcase the photos that they have taken of their community, along with a song they wrote together, and an accompanying music video. While Fournier hopes that the efforts will result in tangible outcomes, the main goal of the project is empowering youth, and encouraging them to be brave enough to create change in their communities.
“The voices of youth are often silenced or silent because people don’t tend to value their opinions. For me, this study is about raising the voices of youth so they can decide what they want, what is of concern to them, and creating some sense of confidence and hope that they can do something about their present, and about their future,” she said.