Young people in Vancouver will get the chance to do a community project of their choice, thanks to funding from the Vancouver Foundation through the Youth-Neighbourhood Small Grants pilot project.
The grant gives young people aged 12-24 years $500 to pursue a project that brings people together to build community strength, promote creativity or tackle social isolation. The projects can be anything from a community garden, a bead-making class, to creating care packages for seniors, or an art class.
Emi Tong, a Grade 8 distance-learning student and a youth leader on one of the small grants planning and organizing committees based in Central Vancouver, got involved with the program in June when the program was getting started.
She said that she joined the committee because having a youth-focused program run by youth would help young people in her community.
“With COVID-19 and everything else that’s been going on right now, it’s something for kids to do that can make them feel appreciated,” Tong said. “And it does make a real difference in the community.”
She created a project on Sashiko stitching, a type of Japanese embroidery or stitching and an accompanying video to show the progress she made over the summer.
Jenna Otto-Wray is the community coordinator and outreach manager with The Association of Neighbourhood Houses B.C, the umbrella organization for all neighbourhood houses in B.C. The association runs the small-grants program.
According to Otto-Wray, the Community Action Table, a group of volunteers who work on how to improve the grants program, decided to focus on youth this year because they found that young people were not getting involved.
“[The volunteers] said, at every stage of this pilot, youth need to be there at the table, and they need to shape the program,” she said.
Tong added that she has had a positive experience on the youth planning committees.
“A lot of times what holds people back, especially younger people, is that grants feel very official and something that’s big and scary,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with Youth Neighbourhood Small Grants because we have the chance to make [the process] easier and more accessible.”
Otto-Wray said that for many of the volunteers on the youth committees this is their first time taking on a project.
“They’re just really engaged young people who are excited about this idea. And now they are applying this fall for projects in their neighbourhood, so I think it’s kind of given them the go-ahead and the confidence to apply themselves,” she said.
The planning committees have received about 100 applications to date. The applications for fall 2021 are closed, but the ANHBC is hoping to expand the program across B.C. next spring.