YMCA Winter 2020 | Page 15

Kergen, 22 on how the Y’s young people are spearheading innovation in COVID-19 The Melbourne CBD had an anxious busyness to it on the afternoon of Thursday 19 March, which my memory had been underlaid with the sound of an upset beehive. The words ‘COVID-19’ had whispered into the media and accounts of people having confirmed cases were staining the newspapers. No lockdown had been announced yet, but our collective consciousness all knew something big was coming. I got the call that I and most of our team in Youth and Disability Services had been stood down as I was walking my bike up Elizabeth Street from a youth conference in the afternoon. Life needed to change fast. My next week was spent working out how to use Zoom meetings, adapting to online university classes and plotting out my finances without work. I didn’t realise it at the time, but in retrospect I was at serious risk of mental, physical and moral exhaustion adapting to the changes. Fortunately, there were some brilliant minds busy at work building a new framework for social engagement at the Y. Honestly, I don’t think I would be in a strong enough position to keep getting out of bed each day without them. The online initiatives, which are hosted in a private Facebook group with 800 young Y volunteers, were developed by our dedicated Volunteer Development team. Over the weeks, everything from morning breakfast clubs to cooking classes, makeup tutorials to Mario Kart games, Auslan classes to resume coaching, began to spring up online. Our volunteer community, brought together initially to support young people, was leading the charge in innovating ways to support each other. What I saw was an innovation wave that our volunteers weren’t just riding but making. Amidst all of this, confirmation that this year’s YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament, a program I run alongside 17 other politically savvy young people, was continuing. It became my role to not only run this program but to innovate this Kergen Angel at a YMCA youth event p program in a way not seen in its 34-year history. Oddly enough, when you get 18 young people with a range of interests from engineering to international relations with a joint passion for empowerment, they make things work. Together, we are in the middle of redesigning our training program to be delivered and facilitated online, totally geared towards maximising engagement. In blue-sky meetings, everything from the postal service to virtual backgrounds were considered for hitting key program outcomes. In the middle of all of this, I see the true power of inspired and risk-taking young people, not bound by money, come to the aid of the community. It’s my privilege to see the spearhead of social change come to fruition at the Y, and I know that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. I AM SEEING THE TRUE POWER OF INSPIRED YOUNG PEOPLE. FEATURE ARTICLE WINTER 2020 YMCA HEALTHY LIVING MAGAZINE 15