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The HYI Experience: An Interview with Joudie

Interview by: Lily Viggano, Project Coordinator, Halton Youth Initiative with Halton Youth Initiative Volunteer Joudie Albaghdadi

December 1, 2022

Joudie participated in a number of teams in the Halton Youth Initiative

Lily: Hi Joudie can you give us an introduction as we get the impact story interview started.

Joudie: My name is Joudie and I’ve been working with HYI for quite a while now and it’s been a wonderful journey and I’m glad to be continuing on as a member of the Halton Youth Voices Council.

Lily: The main question for today is a story from your time at HYI you’d like to share to help adults who work with youth To understand why it’s so important to build positive relationships with youth and how to help make some magic happen in their programs and services!

Joudie: So one of the main stories that I wanted to share about my experience with HYI was specifically when we had our Halton Youth Impact survey . We got together a group from multiple youth organizations and together we came up with a campaign to promote this survey in order to better understand the youth that we have in our community and how they are doing. The survey sought to understand every aspect of youth health and wellbeing - for youth ages 9-18 in Halton. It was to understand how the community and community partners could do better and help to take care of the youth based on their needs. It was such a wonderful experience to be a part of it - to gain responsibility which is such an important skill. Because we were a hand-picked team we had a big responsibility to make sure that they promoted the survey well, that we were creative in reaching out and doing the best we could to provide for our community. That sense of responsibility helped me become more responsible, reliable and trustworthy in this project and different aspects of my life too. It’s so important to hear form youth and find ways to accommodate them - youth are our future. I met alot of incredible, like-minded individuals who care about their community during that experience. That is such an important part of volunteerism - meeting others who also care. It's easy to think its only bad things happening in the world - how can one person make a difference? When it comes to volunteering you see so many people who want to a make a change and do important things for the community - and you can all come together to make that difference. Youth and adults of all ages, organizations and backgrounds came together to work on the survey. I gained a lot of leadership, we established roles and ensured that everyone had their voice heard. It was an incredible workspace - everyone contributed a piece of themselves in the brainstorming, in the content they created. What an amazing collaboration! We got so many people to complete the survey - which was all online. I’m very proud of the team that we worked with.

Lily: An incredible opportunity. Over 2000 youth completed the survey. We are now in the process of mobilizing that data so that the community can apply for funding, update their programs, change their strategy and better serve youth.

Lily: What is it that you would love for adults to know about working with youth volunteers? What role do adults play in creating those positive conditions?

Joudie: The magic comes from allowing people of different backgrounds, experiences and very different people coming together and being allowed to share, talk and discuss. Let it happen freely without too many restrictions. Youth are creative and huge ideas and it needs to be allowed to roam free. Those crazy ideas are what allow us to shine and allow for that magic to happen. In the HYIS experience, since we were able to do what we wanted and although we had some structure, we were able to stay on theme and make those incredible videos and promotions that we made. For adults, what I think they should do to allow that to happen is to bring together people from all walks of life into groups and programs. Adults can help create the connections. Start off by having an icebreaker, get everyone to know each other and feel comfortable around each other. Encourage relationships, and friendships. The brainstorming will happen a lot easier. Adults shouldn’t over power the ideas from youth, let the creativity flow and that youth are getting along. Nudge youth in the right direction and let them be free!

Lily: So letting the kite fly while still holding onto the string. Help youth understand why restrictions are in place and understand the logic behind decision making so that they understand things for the future.

Lily: If you were to look back at your time with HYI what are some of the skills and impacts that this volunteer experience has had on you?

Joudie: This is a great question that is hard to answer. Being able to volunteer had a really big impact on me specifically because my whole dream in life is to be able to help people and in my community and someday in the whole world. My dream is to make a difference. Being able to volunteer and having the opportunity to make a difference, even its just a small way, it was an amazing opportunity to live out my dream of helping others. I feel like I gained alot of experiences, knowledge and skills. I became more responsible, communication skills, leadership skills - I can now lead people, talk to people and manage them. Bringing ideas together as a leader and learning how to be a better speaker. I had alot of anxiety talking to other people but here with HYI and encouraged in a safe space to be myself and be able to talk and use my voice. Volunteering in the HYI helped me learn that I have a voice, I can use it and give out my ideas. It increased my self-worth, my confidence and the ideas of what I want to do in the world. The opportunity to talk with adult allies in the community to discuss mental health and climate change, to connect with Halton Region I wouldn’t have had that without this. In reality, volunteering changed my life, how I view myself and others. It made me a better person and to believe in myself and others. And now I know that I can make a change! It’s changed my life.

Lily: I feel the same way. I went out trying to change the world and I ended up changing myself. When I hear that other people feel the same way and have the same experience I know we are doing something right. I am so proud of you and appreciate every minute you've spent with us. Thank you Joudie for taking the time to chat with me - zooming in from the Netherlands!

Joudie: Thank you for encouraging me and believing in me. Thank you HYI!



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