Photo Credit: Civiconnect

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on life for us all. Young people have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, but little is known about just how this unprecedented year has affected them specifically. Civiconnect is going to change that.

 

Civiconnect, a youth-led non-profit organization based right here in Niagara, is currently conducting a survey regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on youth in the community.

 

“By focusing on addressing barriers to youth civic engagement and youth employment, Civiconnect empowers and inspires youth to become the leaders of tomorrow and to shape the communities they live in,” said Nour Hage, Co-Founder and President of the Board of Civiconnect.

 

The survey, titled “Impacts of COVID-19 on Youth in Niagara and Beyond,” is split into four main areas of focus: impacts on education, impacts on employment, impacts on mental health and impacts on technology and internet access. 

 

“The purpose of the survey is to do a needs assessment as to the myriad of ways COVID-19 has impacted youth in our community,” said Kailene Jackson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Civiconnect. “This is part of a larger effort on our part to amplify youth voices, bring youth issues to the attention of policymakers, and advocate for youth.”

 

Ironically, the survey, which is part of a larger research project regarding the impact of the pandemic, was not originally intended by Civiconnect to be conducted at all.

 

“We did not even originally intend to do the survey, but throughout the research process we noticed a significant gap in age-specific and youth-specific data, so we decided to remedy this problem ourselves,” said Sandra Bedawed, Co-Founder and Board Member of Civiconnect.

 

The survey and the larger research project are both being spearheaded by Civiconnect’s Youth Advisory Committee. The committee is a collection of youth volunteers from across the Niagara Region and beyond, whose focus is on fostering youth engagement, conducting research on issues specific to young people, creating educational content, as well as forming partnerships with key community stakeholders in order to advocate for and advance youth-centred causes.

 

“To be responsive to the needs of young people in our community, Civiconnect launched its very own Youth Advisory Committee,” said Hage. “The committee brings together a diverse group of people with a wide range of interests and passions to collaborate and address the issues most important to them.”

 

When the research project is completed, the survey as well as the final report will be made available to the general public and will also be presented by Civiconnect to key community stakeholders, particularly local governments.

 

“The objective is to have local government review, discuss and vote on motions pertaining to the four main issues in the report,” said Jackson.

 

Currently, the plan is to present the report to Niagara Regional Council in May 2021, as well as to other municipal councils, which currently includes the councils of Lincoln and Wainfleet. 

 

“We have the support of a few regional councillors, as well as [Sandra Easton], the Mayor of the Town of Lincoln,” said Bedawed. “They all have expressed their excitement to hear the findings of the report and have expressed that hearing from youth is an important, but often lacking, part of political discourse.”

 

In addition to presenting the finished report to local governments in the hope of spurring legislative action and positive change for youth, Civiconnect also plans to release the report publicly on their website. Additionally, at the end of the survey, respondents have the option to provide their email in order to be personally sent a copy of the report.

 

For Civiconnect, the hope is that by providing an opportunity for youth to have their voices heard on this important issue, they will be able to tailor their programming efforts down the line to best meet the needs of youth in this area and beyond.

For more information on Civiconnect, you can visit their website by going to https://civiconnect.ca/. Civiconnect is still looking for more survey respondents. For those interested in completing the survey, you can access it by clicking here.