Through the Youth in Action program, up to 30 young people in Sooke and on the West Shore have the opportunity to receive a $500 grant to put towards an initiative they think will make a positive change in their community.
“It can be a small but significant change,” says Cindy Andrew, director of community partnerships with the Healthy Schools, Healthy People Network. “It can be any idea that helps to build community.”
The program is run by the United Way of Southern Vancouver Island and the Healthy Schools, Healthy People Network, which consists of over 30 member organizations ranging from government bodies like the Ministry of Child and Family Development and local municipalities to organizations like the Greater Victoria Public Library and the YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island.
Andrew says the network was created with the recognition that “no one system can achieve this lovely vision of kids flourishing.” She notes that with the West Shore rapidly growing, communities can no longer afford to operate in an isolated manner.
Through its ongoing work, Andrew says the network is committed to better engaging with and listening to the voices of youth. With that in mind, she says the United Way has contributed $15,000 towards the Youth In Action program with the intention of it running for a minimum of two years.
“We recognized that we need to listen to and support youth and I think with the United Way coming forward it allows us to celebrate that,” Andrew says. “And these conversations among youth can be sparked at the dinner table, at a club and with whomever is connecting with young people. It’s a community thing.”
What can youth put the money towards?
Andrew says the possibilities are endless for youth who want to make a difference. The $500 grant can go towards something like a mental health fair or a social media campaign to raise funds for a cause. Youth can use the money to spark conversations about food security and build a little free pantry or library at the end of their driveway.
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She notes a conversation she had with two kids who were skateboarding near her home. Andrew asked if they were excited about the possibility of a new skatepark on the West Shore.
“And immediately they said, ‘When is that getting built already?’” Andrew says. “I said, ‘Don’t underestimate the power of your voices. Currently the land is there, some dollars have been given but we need more. For $500 you can put together a pretty nice social media campaign with posters or a great video.’”
Those who are aged 11 to 16 years old are eligible to apply through a simple application process. Andrew says she and folks at the United Way are available to talk through ideas, too.
The hope, Andrew says, is that they’re able to give away all 30 grants and inspire organizations and communities to fund more youth-led projects.
How to apply
To apply for a Youth In Action grant, applicants have to explain what kind of project the money will go towards. A strong project includes an explanation of why the project is needed, opportunities for youth to grow their skills and knowledge and the potential to make an impact on the community.
Application forms and more information can be found here and the deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 3.