You know how people say stuff like, Find out what makes you come alive, or Do what you love and let it kill you?
My answer’s been set for a while: Youth empowerment. Teen programming. Supporting under-served populations of young geniuses.
My work with young creators, especially through social work and after school/summer camp programming, has both kicked me alive and steamrolled the ever-living snot out of me — and I’m still in love. That’s a decent sign, right?
Helping young people believe in their magic has been my north star. And, wonderfully, it’s Peter’s, too. Peter taught youth writing workshops in New York and Michigan; served in the Peace Corp teaching health sciences to teens in Jordan. My teen-gal empowerment work has taken me from Seventeen to Scholastic to Instagram. We’ve both put in joyful years at the San Francisco and New York YMCAs.
And we both want to keep pointing our working lives towards youth service, but we were a lil’ concerned about hitting pause on all that while we travel.
Then we realized: Wayyyyt.
We don’t have to hit pause. We don’t have to do anything.
This year is about doing whatever the hell we want.
So why not use this trip ’round the world as an opportunity to learn about as many communities of young people as possible?
We don’t have a map; we have no idea how we’re going to do it, or what it’ll come to. What we do know is:
- Better, Faster and Stronger is out there. We’ve seen teen programs in the US soar; we’ve seen them crash. We’ve seen the digital and the physical; the well-funded and the total DIY. We just want to be sharper teen-helping tools for wherever we plug into when we get back. We figure there are innovative non-profits crushing it in unimaginably creative ways all over the world. But we don’t know what we don’t know — so we’re gonna go find out. (or See What Else, if you will HAAAGH AMIRITE. …Sorry.)
- Youth workers are the plug. With our nomadic life, not only does it make no sense to try connecting with actual young folks just to pack up and leave them a few days later; it’s also dangerous and disruptive to their lives. That’s some voluntourism-type mess. Our best bet is to talk to the adult/young adult support teams — the directors, the program managers, the workshop leaders — and ask a thousand questions before they shoo us away.
- We’ll bring back something good. At the very least, we’ll come back to the US having learned a ton from like-minded humans serving different populations. We’ll come back better equipped to serve young folks back home in whatever capacity. At the most, we kick-start an American leg of something brilliant we learned about abroad.
Again, we don’t know what we don’t know. But we’re super excited to find out.
Spoiler alert: We’ve already linked up with three incredible youth orgs in New Zealand, and I can’t freakin’ wait to share what we’ve learned. (And I’m calling it #YouthNotes because… I’m tired, but would love to hear your comments on other snazzy name suggestions.)
And on that note: If you know of any incredible organizations or humans supporting under-served youth communities in Asia or Oceania — we’re talking anywhere including New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Samoa, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan — please shoot us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d love to treat someone to tea and pick a brain.