Building some momentum
Young activists in Saskatchewan are getting a boost in the right direction. The Regina Public Research Interest Group and the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation have teamed up for the third year in a row to host a project titled Generating Momentum, a four-day retreat aimed at mobilizing youth to take an active role in the social and political issues that matter to them.
In previous years around 50 young individuals, some students and some not, have made the trip to an isolated location around the province to engage in an intensive series of workshops and seminars that work on educating them about specific issues, or building skills that they can use once the camp is over. The goal is to provide youth with an accelerated journey towards becoming an activist.
“A lot of the time young people don’t have the skills or information they need to become activists,” Said Helena Seiferling, Outreach and Events Coordinator at RPRIG. “Sometimes it takes a lifetime of doing things in your community to learn all of these things. Whereas when you come to a camp like this you get a crash course in all of these things.”
The retreat began three years ago after current SCIC Executive Director Vicki Nelson felt that there was a gap in this kind of training that needed to be filled.
“It came from a need,” said Nelson. “Once you graduate high school and you are in university, you go to class and get all of this critical thinking knowledge, you are passionate about certain issues but have no outlet. So we saw that and wanted to provide an outlet for young people that needed one.”
This year the event is taking place at Cedar Lodge in Dundurn, just outside of Regina. Both organizers at RPIRG and SCIC agree that an isolated location is an important part of the retreat, taking young people away from their normal environments and providing them a new location to accompany their new learning experience.
According to organizers, the retreat breaks down into two main categories: skills training and information training. During information training the participants are educated about specific social and political issues through a series of documentaries, guest speakers, and presentations from experts in the relevant areas. Generating Momentum’s skills training is about putting knowledge to use in the form of non-violent direct action, understanding human rights, how to establish a cooperative, or looking at alternative models for activism.
“A lot of people need to find their issue and find their passion. Even though they might not realize it at the time, I think the skills that they gain at Generating Momentum push them to stay involved.” – Vicki Nelson
“At the end of the camp we hope that the people involved will be able to put all of that knowledge and those skills to work and to make their communities a better place,” Seiferling said.
It would appear that the program has achieved that goal so far.
“We have definitely seen it happen,” Nelson noted. “We have seen a lot of Generating Momentum alumni getting involved in campus politics, serving on the board of directors for various activist groups, or getting involved with SCIC and RPIRG.”
“There have been lots of project that we look at and say ‘oh, I remember those people talking at Generating Momentum, and now they are in this campaign,’” Seiferling added.
“You can see the people around in the city. That is really great and I hope we can see that continue.”
Although both RPIRG and SCIC were modest while talking about the future, and honest about its uncertainty, they both agreed that in an ideal future would lead to Generating Momentum becoming a self-sustaining entity.
“That might mean a Generating Momentum foundation that runs the camp every year, it might mean something else,” Nelson said. “That would be the dream: to have an autonomous organization that can self-perpetuate.”
As for the present, RPIRG and SCIC are focused on one thing: giving young people the tools they need to become active in the community, social, and political issues they care about.
“A lot of people need to find their issue and find their passion,” Nelson continued. “Even though they might not realize it at the time, I think the skills that they gain at Generating Momentum push them to stay involved.”