Sometimes all it takes to get out of a rut is to hear a voice beyond your own troubled world, one that is not only full of optimism and salvation, but of wisdom as well.
For Kaitlyn Nohr, a Sookie and an active youth worker with a number of youth aide and support programs, this mantra is a way of life — of giving hope to those young minds who’ve become lost in the crude shuffles of society.
And like any job that involves more heart and patience than money and fame, individuals are rewarded for the help they provide, not the profits they bring in. As such, Nohr happens to be this year’s recipient of the Youth Worker Award – for her ongoing with with the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association’s Jump N Start and Youth Leadership programs.
“It’s a really good feeling to provide that kind of basic support to youth who don’t have consistency in their life and to be able to run a simple two-hour-a-week program that they can come in and feel included, and have their voice heard,” Nohr said.
Nohr, who is just finishing off her degree in social work in her last year at UVIC, has been with the youth shelter in Victoria since 2011 and the Jump N Start program for three years. She is also a mental health and addictions support worker for Island Community Mental Health, helping youth find and maintain housing. In addition, she is a crisis support worker and counsellor in a Victoria-based youth emergency centre.
She said she’ll continue to focus on working with youth due to the fragility of one’s transition to adult life.
“I’ve worked with people as young as eight and as old as 80, and I will be sticking within that youth and young adult spectrum, just because I find transition as a bigger thing at that age,” she said, adding that she will definitely be sticking with the at-risk kind of behaviour and kids who might have a little bit of a struggle compared to others.
The 17th Annual Youth Award recognizes over 1,000 young people between the ages of 11 and 29 for their contributions as volunteers and community leaders since the Youth Now Awards began in 1999. Nohr said she was surprised, but also impressed when she found the awards are decided and given out by an actual youth council.
“It was really special cause I got the youth leadership group that myself and my co-worker run, I thought it was very neat,” she said, adding that her program initially started with elementary middle school; the program expanded after a grant from United Way this past year for the high school leadership group.
“It’s just fun to see all these programs for youth expanding and how youth can contribute to it, and how I can support them in contributing to that,” Nohr said.
Still, many challenges lay ahead.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through at any age, and for kids who are kind of still discovering who they are and figuring out where they fit in that can be very difficult to maneuver,” she said. “I think it’s just an ongoing struggle with our health care and our mental health care and our social welfare system.”
Nohr said she’s currently settling in Sooke and getting a feel of the community, adding that she may consider doing some youth work locally in the future; but even that won’t be easy, since the youth she works with are in Victoria.
“You make these really good connections with the kids you work with, so it’s nice to be able to stick around and see them transition,” she said. “There’s some kids I worked with that are in the youth leadership program, so it’s really cool to see them grow and progress, so it hurts to leave.”