The Journey: Community, Connection, and Youth

The UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning collaborates with students and community partners to explore community-based issues. bc211 was a community-partner in the Reading Week Program this year, providing 10 UBC students with an opportunity to participate in a Multi-media Youth Engagement Project. The UBC students met with youth (13 to 24 years old) in five community organizations, and on the street. They spoke about issues that are important to youth, and how youth get help when they need it. In addition, four service providers provided their perspectives on effectively supporting youth. We will be sharing these stories, and hope that, through these voices of experience and wisdom, the conversation will continue. 

Vivian Tsang participated as a UBC student volunteer and shares her perspective on the reading week experience and how these stories impacted her.

Being the change_cropWe often undermine the courage it takes for people to share their stories. From the recollection of past events, to shaping thoughts into coherent sentences, a personal story requires deep reflection and openness to vulnerability.

For some, vulnerability is associated with shame, fear, and a struggle for worthiness. However, what I found in the young people I interviewed was, for them, vulnerability is also the birthplace of love and belonging.

In reaching out for help through their communities, these young people consciously decide to become connected. In doing so, they believe themselves to be worthy of identity, value, and of being valued. They become grounded in their purpose and sense of self-worth.

2014-2015 Kristina 727_croppedThe importance of connectedness spans beyond their personal lives. These young people know the importance of sharing their stories– not for themselves, but also to inspire others in situations they were once in to go and seek help. As I interviewed young people who have overcome mental illnesses, I found a deep desire in their voices, a longing for their stories to touch the lives of other individuals. As one mentioned, “Mental illness is stigmatized in our society. More often than not, people around you don’t understand the fear that is associated with it. The fear of speaking up. The fear of asking for help. Even the fear of getting better.”

Through my own experiences, I find we often go about our everyday lives experiencing mere sympathy– a disconnected feeling that discourages us from diving deeper into the lives of those around us. Our own fears— of judgment, of messiness, of breaking societal norms— prevent us from reaching beyond our presumed abilities to help. Connect_20130824_152734_crop2Often, we don’t pay enough attention or take the extra step to invest time in the lives of people who are different from us, people from different backgrounds or ethnicities, people from different walks of life or socioeconomic standing. However, what I’ve learned is that everyone, no matter how young, how old, how poor, or how broken, is on a journey—a  journey filled with decisions that they must ultimately make for themselves. This journey is made so much stronger when others step in to help them see the potential within themselves.


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