Corner Brook woman looking to empower youth

Cory Hurley
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Janice Kennedy of Corner Brook recently returned from Prague, Czech Republic where she attended the 2013 YMCA Europe Festival as a global change agent.

CORNER BROOK — Janice Kennedy has the skill and knowledge to empower local youth toward creating global change.

The volunteer with the Humber Community YMCA in Corner Brook recently returned from Prague, Czech Republic. She attended the 2013 YMCA Europe Festival, where 200 international youth delegates gathered to be trained as global change agents.

The change agent program is a worldwide effort co-ordinated by the World Alliance of YMCAs to develop a new generation of globally-minded young adult leaders. Kennedy was one of 24 youth leaders from Canada who participated.

“Hearing about all the great programming happening around the world, I am hoping to be able to take some of that and tailor it to our local context over the next two years,” she said.

Kennedy got involved in the young leaders initiative in Canada in 2012. A youth volunteer with the local YMCA, she went to Toronto, Ont., for a young leaders forum. Later that year, YMCA Canada asked her to sit on a national advisory committee for young leaders.

In true leadership form, she has now gone on to the international level.

Kennedy said the more different YMCAs are across the world, the more they seem to be the same.

Sitting in a work group with a young leader from Egypt, they shared a laugh about how they want people to know their YMCA is about much more than providing a gym or fitness activities. Although that is important, they are all focused on empowering youth — whether it is through recreational programs in places like Canada or citizen-rights groups in Africa.

 “We realize the YMCA is a really great space for youth to come — because there are no barriers for access, financial or whatnot,” Kennedy said. “It transforms you. You are treated as an equal. You are given respect. You do have a voice, which isn’t always the reality in some communities.”

When youth realize those things, or receive those opportunities, she said the community as a whole benefits.

With 200 young leaders returning to work with the national, provincial and local branches of their respective organizations — the hope is for global change starting at a local level.

In January, Kennedy will be participating in the one million voices research project — a survey of youth to help improve the services and programs for them. In June, she will be helping distribute a global petition declaring the importance of empowering youth.

Also as a change agent, Kennedy will be one of the facilitators of the next strategic plan for international movement of the World Alliance of YMCA next summer in Estes Park, Colorado.

She said she also will be working closely with the local Community Youth Network, facilitating at a youth forum the organization is hosting in Corner Brook in September.

“Now that I have the training, the next piece is to make sure we go out and let our youth know what is happening in our community,” she said. “It is also about working with the YMCA to make sure when they are doing programming they have youth in mind.

“As a change agent, it is about lending that youth perspective to issues such as social justice and employment. So that it is not just the adults talking in the room.”

Organizations: YMCA, World Alliance of YMCAs, Community Youth Network

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Canada, Prague Czech Republic Europe Toronto, Ont Egypt Africa

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