Dear Mr. Haldane,
Your letter last week stated “we are overlooking the needs of the young in this community because they have no voice.” I am writing to assure you that the problem is not that youth have no voice. In fact, saying youth have no voice actually disempowers youth before they ever get a chance to meet you. The actual problem is that their voice isn’t being sought after.
Youth have a whole lot to say about local government. But you must be so passionate about hearing their voice, that you spend your spare time chasing after it. Bringing pizza to their sports games, presenting hot-topics to their classrooms, hanging out at the skate park and learning how to ollie, going to Whiffen Spit on a Friday night and helping them build a fort, without judgement of whatever else they’re doing there.
Youth engagement is like inviting someone you just met to a party – if they’re not invited, they don’t really know if they should show up. So you invite them, but they feel awkward since they don’t know anybody. It’s your job, as the party host, to greet them in the driveway when they text you asking if they’re at the right house, and walk them in, introducing them to people and showing them where the hors d’oeuvres are.
For three years, I have been doing youth community development work with the Sooke Youth Council and Canada World Youth for the Youth Friendly Business Project, Youth Friendly Community Project, and Youth Engagement Project. The information is out there, waiting. If you would like to know what local youth think without engaging them as above, the reports are on the Sooke Youth Council website.