In July 2013, Volunteer Victoria’s Youth Program hosted the first Community Youth Leadership Summit! Part of the week was reflecting on volunteering, the community, and the Summit in the format of a blog post. Cammy was one of our awesome participants who put her feelings, thoughts, and ideas into a great blog post for us to share with you!
Everyone is unique, it’s a fact well known, and we all have different backgrounds and come from different situations, though at times similar, still unique. When speaking of Canada, a topic that commonly arises is the diversity. Well, the Community Youth Leadership Summit was no different. Walking into the Volunteer Victoria office Monday morning none of us knew each other, our ages ranged greatly, we all came from different schools and parts of town, some not even from the province or country, and we all had different stories. All of us, facilitators included had a unique way of seeing tings and brought separate things to the table.
What made me different? My background. I am a youth in a form of government care and at one point or another, been in most forms of government care there is – whether it be youth agreement or foster care. I represent a large but silent, widely unknown and misunderstood population. It’s an unknown population mostly because those included in it don’t dare tell anyone that they are in care for fear of facing the stigma against us. The stigma and stereotypes created stem from a lack of knowledge in the general public so they believe that these youth are trouble, no good, going nowhere, among other things.
Now what exactly does this have to do with Volunteer Victoria or the Community Youth Leadership Summit? Well, simple. Throughout the week we have been taught many great reasons to volunteer such as: to make a difference; to give back to the community; to gain skills; it’s a passion; or it could be used as a stepping stone into your future, as well as many more. Another reason could be to help reduce negative stigma.
Using volunteering as a method to make an impact on stigma or stereotypes can work in many ways. One of this being that if you happen to encounter a person trying to force the stigma upon you, volunteering and giving back to the community tends to prove otherwise. Another options is to be an advocate. Say you get talking with another volunteer about each other or family history comes up, you might tell them a little bit about your experience in care or explain what it is, and in very little time, that will be one person more who knows a bit of truths about foster children. One less person who may believe the stereotypes and listen to the stigma, and they may go tell another. Before you know it, the domino effect takes place and even more people have knowledge. Ion my experience as a founder of the Victoria Youth in Care Network, telling people who know nothing, even the littlest thing has had a large impact on them. It is a great way to bring awareness to your community at the same time as helping to make the community a better place. This can work for many things, youth in care is only the example I used as I write that I personally have experienced.
Volunteering is a great experience no matter your reasons. You can find opportunities for pretty much anything you may be interested in doing or trying. Another huge reason volunteering is fantastic is you get the change to meet people you may not otherwise have gotten to, you make fantastic friends, and that makes it all the more fun and worth your while.