P.E.I. youth join to make a difference

By  Lauren Van Vliet, Youth Speak News
  • March 20, 2008

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - A number of youth in Summerside gathered near the end of February at the local Presbyterian church to celebrate their faith ecumenically at the Make a Difference Rally.

“It didn’t matter what church or clique you were part of, you came as a person and were respected,” said Sara Reeves, a participant from St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church and a Grade 10 student at Three Oaks Senior High School.

Eighty-eight youth and 20 adult leaders represented six different churches in the Summerside area at the gathering.

“I was blown away,” Maurice “Moe” Hashie, the youth ministry co-ordinator for the Summerside Community Church, said about the turnout. “I think there will be more next time.”

The night began with a whole group ice breaker to help the participants, ranging in ages from 12 to 18, get to know each other.

“I think it’s fun to meet new people,” said Emma Gallant, a participant from the Church of the Nazarene and Grade 9 student at Summerside Intermediate School said.

The evening also included performances by worship bands from each of the churches involved, supper and a brainstorming session, which asked participants what they felt the greatest needs of the Summerside youth were. 

The youth were broken up into groups of eight to 10 to brainstorm the greatest needs and pick their top three answers. Every group mentioned it felt one of the greatest needs was to have a safe place to hang out and have youth outreach programs.

“I was surprised. I was expecting the answers to be general, (like) bullying,” Marsha Ratelle, youth ministry co-ordinator at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, said. “They came out with a need that they had (and) it was universal.”

The event was originally planned as a summer event but Ratelle said there wasn’t enough interest from the youth when they tried to have it in the summer. The event was sponsored by the Summerside and Area Christian Council as a way to support the youth.

Everyone involved agreed that this kind of event should happen again.

“On the spiritual side it breaks down barriers that may have been in place… regarding religion and difference of opinion. On the fun side it’s a good way to promote youth group and a great way to reach to kids in the community that don’t know we exist,” Hashie said.

“If we kept getting together to tackle issues we could change the town,” Reeves said.

“Youth have a voice that needs to be heard,” Hashie said.

(Van Vliet, 17, a Grade 12 student at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, P.E.I.)

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