By Siobhan Laverdiere, Halton Youth Initiative Coordinator, and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset-Builder
The Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) completed its second year at the end of 2020. At this point, we wanted to share with Our Kids Network and the Halton professional community, the valuable knowledge and insight that we, and our colleagues and community partners, have gained. Practical resources, programming ideas, and approaches to engaging youth can all be found on the HYI website. And as HYI leaders, we’re both available for consultations regarding youth programming and engagement. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
As HYI begins its third year, we look forward to even more community connections and partnerships that will play a role in sustaining this important work in the future.
Siobhan and Lily
Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville!
It all started with the slogan Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville! The idea was to elevate youth voice and empower youth to have a positive impact in the neighbourhood of North Oakville.
Since 2017 those youth voices have grown louder and louder to include the Acton, Aldershot and Milton neighbourhoods. Today our 94 (and growing) youth volunteers’ thoughts, opinions, ideas and creativity can be found on the HYI website and across social media channels, HYI blogs, podcasts, YouTube , and associated Instagram pages such as @miltonactionteam@youthaldershot@sevensomebodies@northoakYDC.
Website as a Forum for Youth and a Resource for Professionals
The HYI website is packed with information about the activities of HYI over the past 2 years. It includes so many stories that reveal what youth learned and felt as they expressed their views about tough topics such as mental health, Developmental Relationships, and Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation in blogs and podcasts.
Professionals who work with youth will find the HYI website useful for information on program planning, ideas on youth engagement and leadership, as a practical community development model, and much more.
Info & Links resources on mental health and developmental assets, description of the adult ally role and the 2018 results of the Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville survey
Events archived database of community and youth events from 2017 to present.
Put Developmental Relationships at the Centre of your Work with Youth
HYI’s success with youth engagement is founded on the five elements of the Developmental Relationships (DR) framework: Expressing Care; Challenging Growth; Providing Support; Sharing Power; and Expanding Possibilities. When we center our work on relationships, all the rest seems to fall into place.
As you explore the website, we encourage you to view it through the lens of DR and consider the positive effects of youth working with adults (while the adults demonstrate one or more of the five elements of the DR framework). We believe this approach has made a significant difference in the motivation and enthusiasm of HYI young people to become actively involved in their community (currently virtually). Some even take on leadership roles. If you haven’t already, consider putting Developmental Relationships at the centre of your organization’s work.
“At the Halton Youth Initiative, we are avid participants who empathize and advocate for the empowerment of ourselves as youth and for others in the community. We are inspired by the voices we are bringing to youth around Halton and the happiness we can bring into people’s lives.”
Angela, HYI youth volunteer
Partner Support is the Key to Engaging Youth in the Community
Welcoming caring community partners into the work of HYI has also been pivotal to our success. These agencies and organizations are stakeholders in the community who want to be involved with HYI other than as adult allies. We hope to welcome even more exceptional partners in the future.
Community partners provide support to HYI youth councils by:
building connections between the youth council and their organizations (generating awareness about the youth council and related activities, advocating for youth mentorship opportunities, and increasing youth Developmental Assets).
promoting the initiative in the community.
encouraging and welcoming youth in the community.
participating on subcommittees or workgroups.
providing in-kind resources.
attending meetings as a guest occasionally, as invited by youth members.
The Halton Youth Initiative partners below have made a world of difference to the youth members over the past 2 years. Thank you!
By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager
“The 21st Century will belong to our children and our children’s children. It is their dreams and aspirations, shaped by the circumstances into which they are born and which surround them as they grow up, that will give this century its final definition. Those who are under 18 today constitute more than a third of the world’s population and are already profoundly affecting our lives by their decisions and actions. For their sake as well as our own, we must do everything possible to reduce the suffering that weighs them down, open up their opportunities for success and ensure them a culture of respect.”
Senator Pearson’s words resonate even more deeply today than they did 13 years ago. The children and youth of Halton are sharing the pandemic experience with the children of the world. Reducing their suffering and threats, creating opportunities for them, helping them build resilience, and most of all, creating a culture of support and respect are paramount. There has never been a better time to advance the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights than on this year’s National Child Day, Friday, November 20.
The Canadian version of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child was created in 2018
Why are National Child Day and a Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights important?
The more children know and understand their rights, the more empowered they become. National Child Day is the perfect time to open the conversation and teach children about their rights. It’s an opportunity to explore the UN Convention for a global perspective and look at the Canadian charter for a national and local view.
A national day to celebrate children reminds us to reflect on and question how we are treating and interacting with children and youth. As adults, we must acknowledge that it is our duty to listen and to act when children express their needs, thoughts, and opinions.
In 2020, we recognize that the world, our countries, and our communities have changed forever. With everything that children have to deal with today, the Canadian Children’s Charter can be another resource to help us understand the challenges they face and create a sense of security and safety for them.
What can you do to take part in National Child Day 2020?
Become familiar with the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights and the nine calls to action that specifically address the “gap between the promises made to children, and the harsh realities that millions of Canadian children face each day due to poverty, abuse, discrimination, along with threats to physical and emotional health.”
Know the Canadian laws and policies that protect the rights and safety of children (in addition to the UNCRC, which was ratified in Canada in 1991.)
Optional Protocols 1 and 2 (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography)
A Canada Fit for Children: a National Plan of Action
Children: the Silenced Citizens, a Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights
House of Commons All-Party Resolution to End Child Poverty by the Year 2000
Study the research on the status of children in Canada and in Halton. Learn about the inequities and challenges that children in Canada and Halton face today.
Join the online National Child Day 2020 campaign. Use your social media networks and the hashtag #SeenAndHeard to spread the word.
Attend the National Child Day interactive digital event – for children and adults alike – on November 20 at 1 p.m. ET. This year, children and youth from across the country will discuss what it means to be #SeenAndHeard. You’ll also hear from youth activists, Canada’s leading voices for children’s rights, government and industry leaders, and more.
Visit the Halton Youth Initiative website and see how groups of young people are making a difference in Halton by working with adult allies to elevate youth voice, empowering themselves and having a positive impact in the communities of North Oakville, Acton, Aldershot and Milton.
Read the Children First Canada National Child Day blogs to find voices of youth, fast facts about National Child Day, and how partnerships can help support children’s rights.
Now more than ever, the importance of our collective work supporting Halton’s children, youth, and families cannot be underestimated. On National Child Day and every day, we thank you.
Introduction by Vanessa Box-Jones, Our Kids Network Milton Community Hub Coordinator.
Shiuli Khanna is a grade 12 student in Milton, Ontario. She is an aspiring young artist and community volunteer who is passionate about engaging and supporting people and her community. Her work has been displayed in the Milton Art Centre gallery space.
Young Milton Artist Mixes Compassion and Creativity to Make a Difference
By Shiuli Khanna, visual artist, a grade 12 student, and community youth volunteer
I moved to Milton in grade 7 after spending a few years in Toronto. At the time, I was a scared 12 year-old kid who didn’t want to move from the big city to a “small town”, but the five amazing years that I’ve lived in Milton have definitely helped me become the passionate, creative person that I am today.
I’ve designed posters for the Milton Youth Advisory Task Force advertising, for the Milton Youth Awards, and my work has been on display in the gallery at the First Ontario Art Centre Milton. I’ve also been a member of the Milton Youth Task Force (MYTF) for 4 years. We work to impact our community and be informed, connected and empowered community leaders. After one of our MYTF meetings, Vanessa Box-Jones, the Our Kids Network Milton Community Hub coordinator and an adult ally who works with our group, told me about an amazing opportunity to paint a mural for the Hub. I rarely turn down an opportunity to create art, so of course, I said yes!
Inspiration for the OKN Hub Mural
My inspiration for this artwork was all the wonderful people I’ve met in Milton. This town has become my home and I really wanted to portray its diversity and multicultural aspects in my mural. In fact, most of the pictures I have painted are either based on photos in my gallery or events I’ve seen. Whether it’s handing out flowers for the International Women’s Day March; walking around Milton during the coldest night of the year to raise funds for the homeless; or even just holding the door open for someone – simple acts go a long way, and I love picturing them in my art. I remember getting caught in the rain while waiting for the bus, luckily I had an umbrella. Someone else who was also waiting for the bus wasn’t as lucky so I offered to share my umbrella. I felt really good knowing that I made a difference in some way.
Making a Difference by Getting Involved
Milton has a variety of opportunities to get involved in: the annual Milton Fall Fair; the Railway Museum; and farmers’ markets to support our local farmers; and many other seasonal events in downtown Milton. So to the people who may think there’s nothing to do in this “small town” (as I was once believed); I say get involved in our wonderful community and get to know more people!
You can join community groups such as the Milton Youth Task Force, where youth have the chance to share their voices and advocate for the youth of Milton. You can also put a smile on someone’s face by volunteering at the Milton District Hospital. I volunteer in palliative care, and being able to make someone smile can make your entire day. You could start a band and participate in the Battle of the Bands event, or perform in the Milton Fair. Youth have the opportunity to show their many talents during Milton Culture Days events with music, intricate henna (mehendi) designs and more. You could join the Fine Arts Society of Milton and have your artwork showcased in the First Ontario Arts Centre Milton gallery!
Artistic Expression and Future Plans
Art is everywhere and I love making it whether I’m painting, sketching, or just doodling. When I can’t convey my feelings and emotions through words, I turn to art because it allows me to express myself freely without being judged. I’ll be graduating in a year and my aspiration is to attend medical school. Medicine is an incredibly stressful field, so I’m glad that I have art as an outlet when times get difficult. Though I can’t say for sure how art will fit into my future, it will always be a part of who I am. And I know that if I had never come to Milton, I’d be a very different person for sure.
This blog has been edited for accuracy (paragraphs 7 & 8) and republished.
Introduction by Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous Lead
Raven Sutherland is Plains Cree and Saulteaux from Lake St. Martin First Nation in Manitoba, currently living in Ontario. Upon learning that Raven is a competitive jingle dress dancer, I invited her to write a blog on this entrancing cultural art form to help OKN celebrate National Indigenous History Month. She has been dancing for more than 10 of her 20 years at seasonal and competitive powwows.
As a recent graduate from the Conestoga College Advertising and Marketing Communications Program, Raven plans to integrate inclusivity, emotion, and empowerment into her work.
The Jingle Dress Dance: Self-expression and Healing
By Raven Sutherland, Jingle Dress Dancer
The jingle dress dance comes from the Ojibwe people in Ontario and is known to be a healing dance. As Indigenous people, we believe in the healing of this medicine.
I was called to the jingle dress dance at a very young age and have now been a jingle dancer for over 10 years. For me, dancing means healing, love, and the honour of carrying on such an important gift given to us by the Creator. In learning the dance, I was taught that you dance for the ones who can’t; for the ones whose culture was stolen; and for the ones who are sick. Jingle dancing is a very meaningful art form that dancers put all of themselves into. It is a part of my identity and a huge part of reclaiming my culture, because I am an intergenerational survivor of the Sixties Scoop.
What I love about the regalia we wear for powwow dancing, is how different they all are. That’s because our regalia is a form of self-expression and represents who you are as a person. Some designs, colours and feathers are passed down from generation to generation. Others are created by dancers to express themselves.
My regalia focuses on the colour purple because I have always been drawn to that colour. I want my regalia to be bright, colourful and something I feel beautiful and proud wearing. My mom and I design all of my outfits together and I often have a vision of what I want it to look like before I come to her with an idea. Creating regalia can be healing for many people and brings families together.
Modern day jingle cones and lids are sewn onto dresses by Indigenous dancers. The jingles sound like rain and they carry the prayers up to the creator. Traditionally, there are supposed to be 365 jingles on a dress; one for every day of the year. While you sew your dress, you should be thinking good thoughts and prayers.
Petitioners can give the jingle dancers tobacco to pray for them, or for something specific. A particular song and dance will be dedicated to the person who gives the tobacco.
One common question I hear is “Can I attend a powwow if I’m not native?” The answer is yes, of course! We welcome everyone from all walks of life to come and experience our culture. There are plenty of “powpow 101” resources online. Do some research before you attend or if you’re unfamiliar with the dances. A word about powwow etiquette: please never touch or pull on a dancer’s regalia or take a picture without their permission. Each dancer has a personal and spiritual connection to their regalia that must be respected.
So come and join us at powwow, have an open mind, and enjoy our traditional food, song, drumming and dances. It is an amazing experience and an educational opportunity for you and your children.
By Siobhan Laverdiere, Halton Youth Initiative Project Coordinator and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset Builder
The goal of the Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) is to elevate youth voice and empower youth to have a positive impact in the communities of North Oakville, Acton, Aldershot and Milton. The project is youth-led, with young people identifying local issues and strategies for possible solutions. Activities are grounded in an asset-building approach and focuses on relationship building. Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the initiative brings youth and adults together to form developmental relationships in the four communities.
Youth Tackle Self-isolation: Using Technology to Cross Borders and Connect
By the time the Region of Halton instated COVID-19 pandemic emergency measures in early April, HYI youth groups had already begun to move the project to the virtual world. This important transition provided an unexpected opportunity for the four youth tables in North Oakville, Acton, Aldershot, and Milton to become borderless and to begin to connect with and get to know each other. Expanding their personal online communities to the other Halton HYI communities and beyond was a natural step for most of them.
Still Reaching Goals in the Virtual World
Core HYI goals:
Youth know more about local resources.
People and organizations know more about topics that matter to youth.
Youth work with community agencies to develop/promote positive youth hang-out space.
The four youth groups quickly found that they could continue their work virtually. They reorganized themselves into three online communities, each taking on one or two of the HYI core goals.
Communications Crew focuses on creating informative and engaging content for social media, the HYI website (blogs and vlogs) and traditional media.
Community Builders are developing campaigns that support or acknowledge specific groups of people in Halton during COVID-19, for example supporting seniors and acknowledging grocery store clerks.
Creative Spaces group is developing virtual activities for HYI youth and other youth in Halton. They are also promoting opportunities in the community for youth participation.
Weekly ZOOM meetings facilitate discussions and planning, and the youth use Google Classroom and Google Drive to share and edit content they have developed for their projects. They have posted blogs, images and other information on social media, and written letters to the editors of local media for National Volunteer Week, National Youth Week and about addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. They are coordinating virtual card games with seniors, recording DIY tutorials face masks, and hosting Kahoot! quiz championships for Halton youth.
The Town of Halton Hills and Positive Space Network have requested specific content from our teams for their own youth engagement activities.
Most youth are feeling stressed, anxious, and bored during the pandemic. An empowering COVID-19 Virtual Response Team game was the answer to helping attend to these negative emotions.
Each week, youth and adult allies come together online to talk about one dimension of the Developmental Relationships framework. They participate in activities that connect with a weekly theme and compete for points and fun prizes.
For example, youth were asked to reflect on the Developmental Relationship dimension of Challenging Growth as it relates to their virtual participation.
How has changing everything onto a virtual platform in general challenged your personal growth?
“It’s helped me become more independent and create my own schedule.” “I’m taking the initiative to ask others for help.” “A lot of self-regulation…” Self-motivation… “to focus on school work as there’s no strictness.”
Virtual Safe Space can Help Build Confidence and Boost In-person Participation in Future
The young people are responding positively to the three newly-formed groups and are growing through the virtual experience. Some who may not have high participation at in-person meetings are more confident and join in more within the virtual environment. The groups are learning the etiquette and protocols of meeting online as a group, such as one person speaking at a time and intentional listening. Skills that can support interpersonal in-person interactions later on.
We continue to find ways to foster connections between team members, they are also trying to find innovative ways to create safe spaces online for some young people to make it more comfortable to participate. This may lead to increased confidence and self-esteem later with in-person group meetings and interactions.
Halton Community Partners Share Ideas and Information on Supporting Youth
More ideas and strategies on supporting and working with youth during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Oakville YMCA, Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre, Oakville Public Library, Nelson Youth Centres, Milton Public Library, Canadian Gap Year Association. Download the PDF.
By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Project Manager
It was Valentine’s Day and I was 11 years old. The day began the same way most days did – get up, get ready for school and then breakfast in my mom’s kitchen.
I had no expectations of Valentine’s Day. In fact growing up in an immigrant family, chocolate hearts and “I love you” cards were considered frivolous and expensive, when there were real things to worry about like food, safety, and trying to belong. Valentine’s Day was one of the most difficult school days for me because it highlighted the fact that, as newcomer students at school, my siblings and I were “outside the inner circle”. This was proven, during the exchange of Valentine’s Day cards, by the lack of candy-grams and cards that we received .
But on this particular Valentine’s Day, something was different.
As I sat down for breakfast, I saw with delight that my mom, who was usually very preoccupied with the work of the day, had turned our every-day, plain, round pancakes into beautiful, heart-shaped ones. My brothers, sisters and I laughed with glee as my mom smiled and said, “Happy VALENTINO Day!”
I’m not sure if we were laughing at the pancakes, the word “Valentino” or the fact that somehow we felt like we had just broken through that impenetrable inner circle. Her caring and creative gesture gave me hope that everything was going to be just fine.
The rest of that day paled in comparison, but as I think back to it this Valentine’s Day, I wonder about all those kids on the “outside of the inner circle” and how one small act of caring, by pretty-well anyone, could make the same huge difference to their day.
You get the idea! Low cost/no cost options are often the most meaningful. Celebrate the relationships in your life this Valentine’s Day by making someone else’s day brighter. And if you’re up for a challenge, talk to the kids in your life about inclusion, empathy, compassion and the importance of relationships in their life.