RRU's YCDR project launches in High River

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High River, Alberta will become the second Canadian city to join Royal Road University researcher, Dr. Robin Cox's Youth Creating Disaster Recovery project (YCDR). High River YCDR will creatively engage flood-affected youth in that small community, using video, photography, and digital animation to help them tell and share their stories. The project goal is to support the sustained engagement of High River youth as citizens and active contributors to the community's resilience in the post-2011 flood environment.

Last year, High River was one of many communities in Southern Alberta devastated by the widespread, historic floods. Since then, the community has been rebuilding and recovering. Now, teens in High River will have a chance to tell their stories of the flood and their perspectives on the recovery process and resilience. The Hearts and Minds of High River Schools is sponsoring some workshop events in partnership  with YCDR and Antyx, a Calgary-based organization that works with youth on community art projects to help create safer and more inclusive communities. "Antyx is a great partner for YCDR" says Cox. They use various creative mediums for engaging and working with youth including, visual arts, theatre, photography, music and art mash-ups.

The partnership was created after Hearts and Minds program co-ordinator, Fawna Bews saw the work of Cox, professor and head of the Disaster and Emergency Management program at Royal Roads. "We have been so impressed with the support for this project from all sectors of High River," Cox says. "It is clear that there is lots of community interest in finding ways of engaging youth and creativing opportunities for them to have a voice. We feel strongly that youth have important things to say about what youth need following a disaster, and how youth can and do contribute to the recovery of their families and their communities."

"Antyx has the experience to make it fun but meaningful and most of their projects are around getting youth to get engaged and make it a better world,” Bews says. She says she gets people in the community asking her daily about how the youth are doing and she would love to be able to share their stories, with the teen’s permission. Cox adds, "We are hoping that High River youth will also let us share their creative stories on the YCDR website alongside the creative outputs of youth from Slave Lake and Joplin, Missouri. The point of this website is to help other youth and adults understand what might be helpful to support youth impacted by disasters and also to let others know of the inspiring and creative ways youth contribute to the resilience of their communities. Ultimately it's about youth helping youth." 

“There is a big passion at that age and a lot of ideas of what is right – it is powerful,” said Bews. This will be the first event with the new partnership but Bews said she is looking forward to what the future will bring. A one-day workshop Introducing the project to interested youth grades 10-12 will be held on Saturday, June 14 followed by a four-day, animation workshop July 2-5.

"It is going to be a lot of fun and we know that the video stories they produce will be amazing and powerful,"  Cox says.

The workshops in High River are only the start of YCDR's work in Southern Alberta. The Canadian Red Cross has now joined as a partner and will be supporting YCDR's work in other communities beginning with a similar YCDR-Antyx initiative in the Bowness neighbourhood of Calgary -- another community hit hard by the floods.

The YCDR research project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and led by Cox in collaboration with her colleague and co-Investigator, Dr. Lori Peek from Colorado State Univeristy. A team of talented and creative students is also working on the project including Doctorate of Social Sciences student (about to graduate this June), Dr. Cheryl Heykoop, Masters of Environmental Education and Communication student Sarah Michaud, and CSU Doctoral student Jennifer Tobin-Gurley. The project was designed to empower disaster-affected youth and give them a space to voice their perspectives and insights in order to help other youth and to contribute to a youth-centered theory of disaster recovery that integrates an understanding of the social, economic, political, spiritual, and personal factors that influence disaster vulnerability and resilience among youth. YCDR has already worked with youth affected by the Slave Lake Alberta wildfire 2011 and youth affected by the devastating 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri and in addition to the Southern Alberta communities will be working with youth in Colorado who live in communities affected by the 2013 floods there.

For more information on the event in High River contact Fawna Bews from Hearts and Minds High River Schools at 403-471-1307 or at bewsf@fsd38.ab.ca.

For more information about YCDR contact Robin at robin.cox@royalroads.ca.