“Big fish in little ponds”
by Nicole Halloran
They’re here, they’re youthful and they’re talking about what’s happening in their communities.
Dozens of young delegates gathered Thursday afternoon to participate in a Youth Community Cafe prior to the opening of the Georgetown Conference: Rural Redefined.
Steve McQuaid, who works with the Community Foundation of Prince Edward Island, said it was important to hear from the younger delegates before the conference to ensure there is a documented youth voice.
“We’re going to engage the young people right off the bat, and ensure they that understand that their voice is important and that have a unique lens on the issues we’re going to be talking about,” McQuaid said. “We want to document that perspective.”
In small groups, participants discussed the topics that brought them here including sustainable farming, municipal governments, employment, economic development, immigrant integration, and redefining the definition of community.
Each of the delegates from across the Atlantic provinces hopes the conference will be an opportunity to network with individuals who are proactively seeking solutions to the issues their rural communities are faced with.
Stacey Evans, a councillor in Mount Stewart, P.E.I, said she believes the conference will get the conversation started about how rural communities can help themselves.
“What I hope is to build momentum and access a treasure trove of ideas that may already be working in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland that we could easily build upon and modify as a model that we could apply to our community,” Evans said.
Maxime Gauvin, a youth delegate who will sit on the panel for the closing session Saturday, said he hopes to come away with connections that will help him find a solution to the problems he is faced with in his work for his community’s school board.
“You connect, you stay in touch and then things happen,” Gauvin said.
Participants in the group discussions suggested the chance to network with like-minded people was a great opportunity to promote change in rural areas that are often faced with limited resources.
“How do we get to our outcomes with very little and in affordable ways when all you have is people’s energy, ideas and talent?” Sarah O’Toole of Antigonish said.
Melissa MacMaster, a youth delegate from Antigonish, N.S, voiced her concern about holding attendees accountable for their proposals.
“It’s good to come out with great ideas, but when we go back to our communities, how do we implement those ideas?” MacMaster said.
The group discussed ways to maintain accountability, and suggested taking pledges with photos or aligning with mentors after the conference is over.
Youth delegates will be interacting online over the course of the weekend through a forum on the Georgetown Conference’s website, as well as on Twitter using #GYCC.
Nicole Halloran is a fourth year journalism student at Kings College.