Growing up as a youth has always been a challenge. There is a period where youth become more aware for themselves, their surroundings, of other people and the relationships that bind them all together. It is the period of transition into adulthood and maturity.
Sometimes growing up can be likened to a journey. It involves exploring new terrains and coping with changes. In fact every generation of youth face a set of challenges peculiar to them. These peculiarities were brought about by many factors; local, political environment, social changes, technological advancement and improved standard of living. In this age it means acquiring new life skills like verbal communication, decision making, computer literacy and even eating habits.
But like all journeys, it is a story of progress. It is a story in need of an audience to share its highs and lows, its mountains and valleys, its laughter and tears. Every person is a story in progress. The story of our shaping includes joys and sorrows, benefits and hurts.
SHELTER’s youth community centre, DropZone, offers youth a safe place to tell their stories and hear others’ stories. All of us need attention, more so the young. If they do not get enough attention from friends and adults, they will go to anyone and this may not be for their good. Feeling as if from the shadow of their childish past, youth long to be heard, accepted and recognized. For many, the journey to adulthood can hardly be described as smooth sailing. Others, with help and support from genuine friends and concerned adults, enjoy a more exciting and enjoyable journey.
Although paths differ in general, youth need to realize that they need not embark on their journey alone. We can journey together. Admittedly in societies that value efficiency and at the same time obsessed with instant results, time is a precious and rare commodity. Nevertheless, we need to carve out time for our youth. When we listen to another person’s story, we are actually telling the person that he or she is significant, that he or she deserves our attention – our time. Often shortcuts or easy solutions miss the unmet needs of youth. Our youth need to know that they are not simply a consumer group or merely a potential workforce, but are legitimate individuals in their own right. The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow.
All communities need adults who care about your people, who are patient, encouraging and willing to listen to them. Indeed any civilization that dares neglect their youth neglects them to its own detriment. As such, we need to be compassionate, patient, encouraging for young people to tell us their stories.
Reaching out to youth demands that we listen to their stories. At DropZone, we started the process by ensuring that it is a place where everyone knows your name. Imran, Kumar, Dash, Wei Liang. Come, tell us your name. What is your story? Oh, but wait. Maybe you would like to hear my story first. Yes, it’s fine. Allow me to introduce myself. And let me tell you my story. . .
(UPDATE: DropZone is no longer under SHELTER and has been taken over by leaderonomics)