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A Few Reflections on International Youth Day

Today, we celebrate International Youth Day. It’s a day to celebrate the incredible potential of young people and the positive change they have made, are making, and will make, for the future of our planet.

In reading about the celebration on the United Nations website and the theme chosen for this year (Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health), a few themes came to mind that we thought would be worth reflecting on related to the young people that call Covenant House Vancouver their home.

The quotes below are all taken from the United Nations Webpage for International Youth Day.

Youth Impacts during the Pandemic

“The economic impact of Covid-19 is set to make the job market more challenging for youth. The ILO reports that in the first quarter of 2020, about 5.4% of global working hours, that is equivalent to 155 million full-time jobs, were lost relative to the fourth quarter of 2019.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected young people in a variety of different ways. And it’s true that one of these is the increasing challenge to find and maintain employment. This in turn, can have a trickle-down effect on other aspects of a young person’s life – their ability to secure housing or education, the healthy structure or routine of day-to-day life, their overall sense of purpose and fulfillment, etc.

Here at Covenant House Vancouver, we’re thankful that we’re in a position to take all these challenges in stride with our normal operations. We’ve always adopted a Continuum of Care model to our programs and services. In short, we’re more than just a bed, a meal, and a fresh set of clothes. Our Youth Workers, Social Workers, and Registered Clinical Counsellors take a holistic approach to supporting youth, so that they have someone to support them in all aspects of their lives.

Youth Leadership during the Pandemic

“Covid-19 affects all segments of the population, with young people playing a key role in the management of this outbreak and the recovery following the outbreak.”

This is so true! When the first lock-down came to our city, we formed a Covid Response Team to help our organization navigate the reality we found ourselves in and to keep youth, staff, and volunteers safe throughout it all. The young people at CHV played a key role in offering ideas and providing feedback to help establish the policies that would keep all of us safe. We truly could not have done it without them.

On top of that, when times got tough, it was often the young people who inspired the staff and helped us to feel hopeful through their own actions and words.

Youth Innovation for Health

“The theme of International Youth Day 2021, ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’, highlights the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people… Youth [need] to make informed decisions on food choices through increasing global education on the healthiest and most sustainable options for both individuals and the environment.”

As Covenant House works with youth to help them move from “surviving” to “thriving”, we adopt a strength-based approach. This means that we celebrate each individual’s unique strengths and help them to foster these innate talents. But we also ensure the fundamentals of independent living are also cultivated. Because without the necessary life skills to take care of immediate needs, no one can really devote much time and energy to their longer term goals and dreams. So, this passage above from the UN website hints at our Life Skills program; particularly when it comes to making informed decisions about food, but also in relation to that deeper sense of empowerment youth have when advocating for important societal causes.