The Valley Regional Hospital Foundation’s Youth Leadership Council
By Emily Kathan
When Ruvimbo Chipazi began her studies in psychology at Acadia University, she knew she wanted to get involved. “The community outside the university is so vibrant,” she says, “and I wanted to learn about how organizations work and make a contribution.” Chipazi was living in Botswana before she came to Nova Scotia, but she grew up in Zimbabwe, and her time in international school had already made her more aware of what it’s like to be one of the few persons of colour in the room. Getting involved in student government further distilled her thoughts: “running student elections taught me that representation matters.”
Now president of the VRHF Youth Leadership Council, she notes that “the youth council, like student politics, has been good for taking me out of my comfort zone. You don’t see a lot of minority or international students in more visible leadership positions, but they’re present in the community, and I want to see more people from those groups taking on those leadership roles. You never know what potential people have until you give them the opportunity, and VHRF gave me that opportunity.”
Conceived as a younger version of the VHRF to increase outreach to young people and help with social media and fundraising, the Youth Leadership Council is made up of high school and university students, as well as non-students (members must be under 25). It now boasts over twenty members, and has brought a new energy to VRHF, and to the hospital itself. As well as helping out at the foundation’s many events and fundraisers, the youth council has been organizing its own projects as well. For Hallowe’en, youth council members toured the hospital “reverse trick or treating:” dressed in costume and giving out healthy (and not-so-healthy) treats to patients and staff, and they are focussing in particular on future projects around social media and community engagement.
Chipazi also says that the council provides a wonderful learning opportunity to members in terms of participating in the ins and outs of how the organization operates: “The VHRF don’t just keep us in a box. They encourage us to join their committees and give us the opportunity to see how those function and how things should be run.” Youth council meetings follow the same format as those of the committees, following agendas and taking minutes. “It’s a lot of fun,” Chipazi says, “but it can also be stressful and it’s a huge commitment. I feel like I’ve matured quite a lot from the experience, because I understand that I’m responsible for the council.” She laughs, “I’m learning how to adult.”
“I wanted to be the change that I wanted to see,” Chipazi remarks about her motivation for getting involved. With several new initiatives in the works for the new year, the members of the VHRF Youth Leadership Council seem poised to be just that.