Gig Blog 2: Family Reunited Inc.

What does it mean to have lived experience?

It means everything.

It means you see the world differently.  It means you’ve seen, considered and formed ideas that are not merely average.

In my experience, newcomer youth have lived experience that affords them the opportunity to see the world differently.  In some ways, more clearly than most; as if the serious, wiser-than-their-years look in their eye is the result of a greater understanding of the world than most young people have.  In some instances, they’ve shouldered burdens that were not theirs to bare. For some, they’ve navigated life experiences beyond their years. Some have been forced into adulthood well before they were ready.

Regardless of their unique experiences of iife, all have shown an incredible resilience and this province is better for having them as our neighbors.

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In New Brunswick, we’re not taught to be entrepreneurs.  We’re taught to follow a pattern because the pattern, for our parents, had worked.  Twelve years of state education, post-secondary degree, career and retirement. The economy as it was accommodated this stability.

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realized how complicated we had made entrepreneurship and how risk-adverse we had become.  There is something to be said for stability, but there is more to say about making great things.

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Entrepreneurship is simple: Find people with problems worth solving, use your skills or educate yourself to the point where you can solve their problem and create value by offering your solution. THAT’S IT! Nothing more, nothing less.

The first time I ran an entrepreneurship workshop was for the Saint John Newcomers Center and the reason was simple; newcomer youth can create and bring value. They don’t need permission, they just need to find great problems and produce great solutions.  Their voice is not only welcome, but crucial if we are to move forward as a province.  In my view, their impact on our culture and our community will be greater than we expect so long as we remind our newest community members that impact is not reserved for those who have been here forever.

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If you want to understand scale-run a workshop for newcomer youth.

“What’s a problem in your lives that needs solving?” I asked in the opening minutes of the workshop.

“We have family still overseas and the process of being reunited with them takes too long and is so complicated.”

I paused.  This was a shy, young Syrian girl in her early teens whose first entrepreneurial instinct is to re-write our messy immigration system with smart tech and an optimism only possible of iGen; a generation who sees the world and it’s system for what they are: big, messy, complicated and not inclusive of everyone’s voice.

We worked through how we would solve the problem using easy tools and by the end of the session the header on our project board read; Family Reunited Inc.’

The best part about the exercise was how well they understood the problem.  They went to bed thinking about the problem. They think about the problem every time they video chat their family members still in the Middle-East and they think about the problem every time another family is reunited at YSJ.

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The second time, the workshop was for 25 incredibly talented members of Imagine NB; a newcomer youth leadership program produced by NBMC and one that must continue to exist!

The energy in the room and the genuine desire to make an impact was something I won’t soon forget.

The scope and understanding of global problems and large scale solutions went far beyond their years.  The desire to impact our community and contribute is not something I often encounter and it impacted me.

Producing work for a community of youth that love where they live, that want to stay & grow and that want to make an impact is something I feel absurdly lucky to be doing.

To all newcomer youth in the region: You can create whatever you want.  You can and must have an impact on our community.  Find problems worth solving and build great solutions.  Make great things and go out into the world knowing that you matter.  We need your voice and we need your impact.

The road ahead is clear for you, my friends.