During the summer break from a difficult year in school when many children and youth were isolated and distanced from their friends, young people across the country devoted their spare time to strengthening the bonds of their local communities.
These Bahá’í community building efforts primarily focused on mentoring and supporting adolescents and young adults to develop their capacities to serve their neighbourhoods.
One project in Edmonds, British Columbia, aimed to help adolescent populations to stay connected to a Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment program that is supported by the local Bahá’í community. During the public health lockdown periods, participants were assisted to stay involved in their groups through video conference platforms; those who were unable to join were visited and encouraged by their friends.
By the summertime, it was possible to host small camps that could accommodate groups of 10 youth at a time. During these camps, participants thought about how they could serve their communities. Their projects included learning how to sew masks and distributing them to various community locations, including senior citizens’ homes. They also made cards to share with seniors and painted a mural to raise the spirits of their neighbours.
In Surrey, BC, older youth participated in a six-week long program that helped them to develop a vision of their neighbourhood and their role in its upliftment. Many of these youth completed the program and went on to initiate junior youth empowerment groups with younger peers in the neighbourhood. As one participant observed, “As a community they were so ready for social interaction, and they came at the most ideal time, socializing and having conversations with one another.”
Another initiative in Sudbury, Ontario brought local youth into collaboration with a non-profit organization devoted to beautifying community spaces. Youth “animators,” who lead junior youth empowerment groups, consulted with LiveLoveLouder to develop murals that could adorn the walls of a Neighbourhood Unity Centre where they host their groups. Over the summer, this collaboration produced a series of murals that expressed ideas from the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment program – such as “walking a path of service” – and improved the environment in which the groups met.
When a summer public health lockdown period ended, the adolescents and their animators were able to reconvene their groups in the repainted space. According to two youth, their younger peers “moved from room to room expressing awe and excitement, jumping up and down with such joy on their faces.” When asked what he thought, on responded with a score of “34 out of 10”.