Launch of the Teen Esteem Project
Penticton, British Columbia, Monday, September 30, 2013
It is a pleasure to join you here for the launch of the Teen Esteem Project and to celebrate the release of your report.
Let me begin by thanking all those involved. Both the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan/Similkameen and the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen are building stronger communities. That you are doing so together underscores the importance and the effectiveness of collaboration.
You are to be commended on your efforts to use your resources to their fullest potential to benefit the region’s at-risk youth.
That is part of being a smart and caring nation: recognizing that there is a problem and discovering solutions.
Recently, as you may have heard, Canada placed 6th in a survey on global happiness sponsored by the United Nations.
Yet, while we are generally happy, there are pitfalls associated with being near the top of the mountain.
In his new book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell points out that those who are unhappy are more so in happier countries. This is due to the fact that they see the success and happiness of so many others and look more harshly on their own lives.
He writes that: “…we form our impressions not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally—by comparing ourselves to people “in the same boat as ourselves.” Our sense of how deprived we are is relative.”
Although Canada ranks as a “happy” country, that can have the effect of magnifying the problems that some of us face. That makes our responsibility to those in need, to those suffering, even greater.
What, then, can we do?
Let’s look once again at the happiness report.
Several factors used in the final calculation include several we would typically expect to see: life expectancy, freedom, GDP per capita.
But there are also two key factors that relate directly to the level of “caring” in a country:
(1) the generosity of fellow citizens; and
(2) having someone to rely on in times of trouble.
This means that part of Canada’s success is directly tied to how compassionate we are as people.
And we are compassionate. All of you here have proven that time and again.
And you are once again applying that level of care to the teens in your community.
The report you released today tells all. Some teens feel marginalized. They feel overlooked in favour of seniors and children. There are few resources and activities aimed at teens, and even fewer affordable ones. Teens quickly lose hope because their needs and their problems are not addressed.
Today, we have an opportunity to change that.
With the release of this report, it becomes clear what the problems are. What’s more, you have suggested several ways in which you can address these issues, and do so together with partners in the community.
And there is one partner that cannot be left out: the affected teens themselves. I applaud the move to include teens in the research. By talking directly to them—instead of just organizations and experts in the field—you learned what truly motivates them.
You now have a very large task ahead of you. You must follow up this report with tangible actions, to show the teens of this community that you are serious and willing to do something to help them through the tough years.
Furthermore, you must involve the teens themselves in the solutions, showing them that they can contribute to their own empowerment and to the community at large.
Today’s release and the discussion we just had are excellent first steps.
Remember, people are happiest when they feel that they have someone to rely on. Let that be you, and let the young people of this community know that they are not alone, that their concerns are being taken with the utmost seriousness.
look forward to hearing about your progress.