Guest Blog: Youth Volunteerism – Barriers and Breakthroughs

A collection of youth and established leaders gathered on April 8, 2019 for Youth Volunteerism: Barriers and Breakthroughs, a Vital Conversation event. The panel was made up of Megan Dewar [left], Asiyah Robinson, Matt Treble, Chris-Ann Lake and Sharmarke Dubow. Moderating the discussion was Bhupinder Dulku.


There were five panelists (three youth with lived experience and two adults with lived experience/field expertise) who spoke at the Youth Volunteerism: Barriers and Breakthroughs Vital Conversation in April, each bringing their unique experiences with them. To introduce themselves, each panel speaker shared a little bit about themselves and one word that they would use to describe qualities/strengths that youth bring to community leadership.

To me, these became five themes of the evening that shaped the Vital Conversation. I have incorporated them now to describe my experience as a volunteer for the Youth Advisory Committee:

  1. Creativity

Part of bringing creativity to the table is the ability to communicate with others and share ideas. As a member of the Youth Advisory Committee, I helped to flush out the details of the Vital Conversation. From popcorn-style in-person brainstorming sessions, to emailing recommendations back and forth, there were plenty of opportunities to make meaningful contributions.

  1. Fearlessness

    Shae-Linn Davies [left] chats during the opening reception at the Youth Volunteerism Vital Conversation.

The evening of the panel discussion, there was time to network and listen to what other people are doing in the community. It takes courage to talk about your passions, especially to people you haven’t met before. This welcoming environment and inquisitive nature of conversation continued into the panel discussion.

  1. Braveness

During the moderated panel, a recurring topic throughout the Vital Conversation was that having a proposition pushes change. From my perspective, youth attended the event because they seek to make the world a better place, whether that be through means of activism, advocacy, or volunteerism. Adults who attended came forward and voiced their concerns about engagement and how to help empower youth. The message: It takes guts to be vulnerable, ask questions, and seek to understand different perspectives in order to take initiative and make a difference.

  1. Values

Planning and attending two Vital Conversations has made me aware of the necessity of community connection and support for youth. I value the support system in my life that has allowed me to go out into the world and take part in activities I believe in, and I recognize not everyone has had this type of experience. My goal for this Vital Conversation was to plant a seed in people’s heads to take part in community leadership and share their passions.

  1. Learning

Two takeaways from this Vital Conversation are from two overly-used acronyms: YOLO and FOMO:

YOLO: You Only Live Once, so take opportunities when they come your way. Be resilient if things don’t go as planned and take active steps to achieve what’s important to you. Find people and activities that resonate with you.

FOMO: If you have the Fear of Missing Out, challenge yourself to take a step back and reflect on how you’re managing your commitments. Let mistakes be learning opportunities that propel you forward. When you have questions or need help, ask.

One of the panelists talked about community members as computer nodes, all connected. With more community conversations, a culture of curiosity, compassion, and a sense of belonging can be developed.

I learned about the Youth Volunteerism Vital Conversation through my work as Youth Get It intern with Coast Capital Savings and as a Vital Youth alumnus with the Victoria Foundation. I hope that others have taken away as much as (or more than) I have, and that the Vital Conversation series continues!

Shae-Linn Davies is a first-year university student and was a member of the Youth Advisory for the Youth Volunteerism: Barriers and Breakthroughs event.

Learn more with the Youth Volunteerism event Summary Report.