Our friends at United Way of Chatham-Kent hosted a Workshop in a Box dialogue session with a number of youth in the community using the Ministry of Children and Youth Services toolkit: http://youthconnect.ca/YPF They were kind enough to share their experiences with us in the following prose...

-Roger Mak, Ontario Youth Matter Campaign Liaison

On Saturday June 5th
The United Way of Chatham-Kent hosted an opportunity for youth
Ages 12-25
To collide.
To come together under an intention toward open
Supported expression
Aiming to create change
And provide conversation to a government that is looking to empower youth
Through policy that will give youth structure upon which to stand
And upon which to continue to speak.
As facilitators of the event
We provided challenging
Spaces for the youth to use in order to find room to develop their voice.
And to form their ideas.
We turned to ART - 
That blurry intersection between grand social theories
Abstract conceptualism
And physical creations – 
And interactive art installations to give
To the weight of the kids’ words.
We decided, in one exercise, to take them hitchhiking.
We grabbed a old bedsheet, gave the group some markers
And chatted about what it meant to be risky.
What does it mean to be safe?
Hitchhiking can certainly be considered risky behaviour
So as we happily hopscotch into our hypothetical hitchhike
We asked the group what types of thinking
What ways of thinking
Is it best to bring with us?
What do we need to pack before we head on a risky journey?

We decided, in another exercise, to make a garden.
Giving each student 2 printed hands
We encouraged them to write on one hand the 5 things they liked most about
On the other hand, the five things they would like to change.
We attached the hands to sticks, and planted our own self-efficacy garden.
We encouraged the group to see how if both are watered, both grow.
We choose which parts of ourselves to water

And thus, we choose how our gardens grow.
We decided, in another exercise, to draw a tree.
Taking the topic of identity formation as our frame
We encouraged the group to use their answers to form a tree.
From roots
To trunk
To branches
To blossoms
To new growth on the ground beside and below
The youth that day grew a tree
Giving themselves the oxygen
The space
The soapbox
From which to speak.
Things are changing in Chatham-Kent.
This group of youth is a prime reason why.
This was their chance to
Share their voice with other like minds.
We can not wait to show you what else they can do.
On behalf of the organizing team that day,
Mark Reinhart