The Canadian Council for Refugees’ second Youth Action Gathering was held in Edmonton, August 7-10, 2013. It was attended by approximately 70 youth and youth workers from Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Fredericton. This year the CCR Youth Network had the opportunity to partner with the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights. The focus of the Global Youth Assembly 2013 was Health and Human Rights.
Introduction: health and learning
This youth action gathering we learned a lot not just about theory of health and human rights but also about the practice of building healthy communities, and about what it means to grow as a network and partner with other organizations. We learned about our strengths and our limits, and about what we are willing to negotiate on and what we are not. We were reminded that we may each deal with challenges in a different way, and that our diversity is our strength. So much happens when seventy inspired newcomer youth come together from all regions of the country that it is hard to fit it in to a report but we have tried and here a few highlights of the four day conference.
1) Amazing Workshops
This workshop was truly inspiring. The facilitators articulated very well the barriers that newcomer youth face accessing education. People in the workshop expressed that they learned a lot from the youth and that they were very impressed at how knowledgeable the youth were and how they were able to bring a deep analysis of the situation linking it back to their experiences. The youth also had excellent facilitation skills and were able to engage participants very well. Some youth workers expressed how humbled they were to see the insight that the facilitators brought and the discussions really made them think more about their jobs and their need to be more aware about immigrant youth issues.
Theatre of The Oppressed
This artistic workshop was aimed at bringing out creativity in acting, sharing and tolerating different individuals' points of view and ideas, and above all, the youth used this workshop to share their stories through theatre. The facilitators had a good mastery of the subject matter, and made it very interactive with youth participation. The youth expressed their satisfaction with this workshop, which helped them gain knowledge.
Building Bridges Between Indigenous Youth and Newcomer Youth
This was an engaging conversation where newcomer youth and refugee youth discussed discrimination against indigenous peoples and the responsibility of immigrant youth to learn about the indigenous people where they live. This was an opportunity for indigenous youth and newcomer youth to have an engaging discussion on how to understand the complexity of each other's issues and find points of solidarity.
2) Powerful ignite change talks and keynote speakers
Bana and Rustom
They shared their experiences in refugee camps in Sudan. Their stories brought out a lot of emotions about the marginalization and oppression experienced by refugees in the refugee camps.
In a moving keynote address artist, youth worker and organizer extraordinaire Saa Andrew shared his experiences and his personal insights. His focus was on using the various forms of arts to change the society and community where we live.
This was one of the most sensational workshops. The youth had the opportunity to meet and listen to this refugee from South Sudan. His life experiences, struggles and perseverance inspired the youth to courage, hard work and strength.
3) Working towards a structure
Discussions on accountability, leadership: moving towards a structure
For some time in the last year we have been having discussions about how to create an organizational structure that can serve the network. Creating this kind of structure in a non-hierarchical way with a group that only meets in person once a year is a challenge. We had the privilege to have other groups bring their experiences, particularly the Action Team from the BC lower mainland who have recently gone through a similar process.
Conclusion -fun! And building community
Health is about community, health is about family
Cheesy though it may seem we do often feel like a family in the youth network and it is so important for us to be able to come together. One of the most amazing things about the youth network is the energy: the excitement, the laughing, the singing and of course the dancing.
Even though we are far away, we feel a sense of community because we know that there are more people across Canada who care about our issues and are working really hard to advance refugee and immigrant youth rights. The fact that we know this reminds us that the work that we are doing is valuable in spite of all the barriers that we face. The network for many of us is a source of strength, support and resiliency. To be able to count on each other not only allows us to work together and maintain solidarity with each other.