By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HAGERSVILLE—Lions Quest Canada has been providing leadership skills and promoting connectedness for our young population for over 30 years in Haldimand. Even a global pandemic won’t deter them from continuing to spread their message, as evidenced by a well-attended virtual workshop last week, hosted by Executive Director Joanne McQuiggan. The event was sponsored by the Hagersville Lions Club.
“Youth are our present as well as our future. Especially during this pandemic when mental health is at risk, it is important for young people to be connected – formally or informally – in families, neighbourhoods, and communities,” said McQuiggan.
McQuiggan first became involved in the national charity as a young person when the program first arrived in Canada. She has spent over 30 years working for them. Since its inception, Lions Quest Canada has impacted over three million young people in every province and territory across the country.
This workshop focused on how to empower young people, with a look at how the relationships that shaped our own childhoods can give us the tools needed to help build up important assets in the next generation.
“We all have an impact on children and youth, whether we intend to or not. By being deliberate and intentional with our actions we can ensure that it is a positive impact; most importantly we need to do it. Even the simplest things can have exponential results,” explained McQuiggan.
Attendees learned about 40 core developmental assets that are essential in developing happy, well-adjusted youth. These included setting boundaries and expectations, constructive time management, a commitment to learning, developing a positive self-identity, a commitment to learning new skills, and learning social competencies.
They discussed how a child’s hopes and dreams can be nurtured through a safe, supportive family environment in a secure, peaceful environment.
Another core part of the seminar was about shifting focus away from fixing problems towards promoting strengths.
“When we focus on fixing problems, we pay attention to fixing problems…. Research on successful, thriving adults indicates that the consistent characteristic was a nurturing, caring, adult when they were growing up,” said McQuiggan.
“I often share the dollar store example – the store posts a sign that says ‘only two students in the store at a time’. This sign sends a negative message to young people and certainly doesn’t show they are valued,” continued McQuiggan. “The real issue is limited staff and risk of theft – so they change the sign to read ‘leave all backpacks at the front of the store’ – same outcome, but not stigmatizing youth as shoplifters. When we move toward young people, rather than away from them, they feel supported and valued.”
McQuiggan expanded on the simple things families can do together to help promote positive traits: “Family time together contributes to many assets – dinner time, game nights, etc. Volunteering together builds both personal and social responsibility,” she said. “Young people can build our assets too. For those young people who we are close to – taking time to listen, letting them take risks. For those in the broader community – a smile, creating opportunities, using their name, asking appropriate questions.”
McQuiggan summed up her seminar with a set of actions for encouraging youth empowerment: express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities.
Lions Quest offers regular workshops that are either community specific or open to anyone across the country to participate. They also run programs for the school system focused on social and emotional learning. For more information and resources, visit their website at lionsquest.ca.