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In July 2013, a train transporting oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, causing major human, environmental, and economic impacts. A community-based survey of people aged 10-25, conducted in 2017, revealed that many young people suffer in silence and report feeling isolated. These observations led to the conclusion that we must make room for young people, and that opportunities for engagement and participation must be provided within the community.
The Public Health Direction of Estrie aimed to identify strategies to promote health and wellbeing for young people living in and around Lac-Mégantic.
A collective reflection half-day was hosted with sixty key stakeholders (school board, other education institutions, health and social services, community sector, municipal/political sector, parents, youth). Throughout the event, participants were invited to build on and learn from accomplishments and experiential knowledge, and develop a common vision of the solutions to be pursued or implemented. All qualitative data sources (verbal and written data from large- and sub-group activities) were analyzed through a content analysis.
Several themes (i.e. potential solutions) emerged from the analysis: common venue, diversified activities, communication, collaboration, involvement, support for at-risk youth, intergenerational component, etc. Participants agreed on four priorities for action: 1) creating a gathering place, 2) establishing a Youth Committee, 3) supporting adults working with youth, and 4) fostering a better flow of information.
Several positive outcomes of the collective reflection half-day were observed, including the mobilization of the participants who greatly appreciated the event, and many promising ideas launched by stakeholders. A social worker is now fully dedicated to supporting youth wellbeing and engagement in Lac-Mégantic. A Youth Committee has been established and projects by and for youth are being implemented. Bottom-up approaches to identify solutions to complex situations are not only effective but also respectful of the local culture.