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Reimagining Youth Work. The Power of Creative Outreach. 

Melbourne, Australia faced some of the toughest Covid restrictions in the entire world. For significant chunks of the pandemic, schools were shut down and people were confined to their homes for up to 23 hours a day. During this time, Australia experienced a spike in young people reporting that they were struggling with their mental health, along with higher suicide percentages. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that in January 2021 22% of Australians reported that their mental health was ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ than in March 2020. 

Content creator, business owner and motivational speaker, Rich Cannon aka Rich In Spirit, while residing in Melbourne at the time, was a volunteer for a youth program run by a local church. In 2021, as the restrictions were gradually reduced, Rich noticed that the mental toll of the pandemic still continued to have a profound effect on the wellbeing of the young people he was working with. Despite the city being relatively open, he describes that many of the youth he was dealing with had become ‘disconnected and disheartened.’ 

“It’s important to bridge the disconnection and discouragement young people are facing today, by leveraging their individual passions and interests,” Rich tells us. He went on to explain that he believes youth programs today aren’t engaging with teenagers on the level of personal interest and a sense of purpose and vision; which is why he believes youth programs are experiencing a huge drop in attendance. Rich recently wrote on his website “we believe young people today are not suffering from a lack of motivation or a lack of moral direction; at the core root of the problem, young people are suffering from a lack of vision.” 

He is particularly passionate about teenagers who are transitioning into young adults (ages 17-20). “At a time where young people are exposed to the most things, at a time their identity is formed and at a time that they need to make critical life decisions; there is a huge deficit in programs and resources specifically tailored to this age bracket. And the programs that do exist, don’t address the real life struggles and problems that many young people are facing” Rich tells us. 

In late 2021, Rich decided to start the Young Visionaries Initiative aka YVI, which is a creative outreach program. He subleased a co-working space that was vacant during the weekends, and began using the space to host workshops for young people. Rather than a typical classroom setting, the workshops were hugely practical, and the objective of the workshops were to produce tangible, lasting, and purposeful results. Rich tells us that he believes the program was successful, because they were able to connect with young people over their personal sense of mission. The program was tailored to the goals, interests, and passions of the individual; rather than trying to conform them to a set program. 

One of the attendees, Isaiah Moe, aged 20; was able to start two businesses within the first month of attending YVI. Another member, Victor Akowe, aged 20, was able to fulfill his goal of becoming a model and is now signed to Australia’s top model agencies. Whether it was building a model portfolio, setting up a studio shoot, building a website, teaching business tax, or just supplying young people with the confidence and self-belief to go after their goal; Young Visionaries has been successful in helping many young people in Melbourne change their mindset, get motivated, and pursue their dreams. The program has also been successful in bringing together creative people from the city and cultivating a culture of collaboration. 

Young Visionaries is completely free to the public, and as of now, is personally financed by Rich and his team of volunteers. Rich currently resides near Toronto, Ontario, and is working with the Salvation Army Canada to try and replicate a similar program in Canada. He owns Humble Kings Entertainment which is a record label, clothing brand, events company, and media platform, which he regularly utilizes to create employment opportunities for members of YVI. Recently, he has also begun motivational speaking at youth groups and high schools around the world; and has a handful of other businesses that he operates remotely. 

You can read his book, Pressure Into Diamonds, which is available on Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon; which he published during the pandemic to motivate young people to leverage difficult situations, rather than be a victim of them. He is hugely passionate about helping young people find confidence, direction, and vision for their lives. He says that he hopes to see more young leaders who are able to use their creativity and innovative skills to uplift their communities. Rich hopes to be able to scale Young Visionaries and one day have them in inner-city neighborhoods around the entire world.

For more information :

Young Visionaries Websitehttps://youngvisionariesworld.square.site/
Personal Youtube Pagehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnld4SCPlVtamQeuWIEHUNw

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