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“Manitoba creates website for rural youth”

Published in the Western Producer
August 24, 2006
By Jacklin Andrews, BA, MSW

Someone once said that it takes a whole community to raise a child.
These days, more than the community is involved. We all have federal and provincial government programs dedicated to the well-being of children.

Unfortunately, those children living on the Prairies have a problem. Most of the programs for young people focus on adolescents who live in larger, urban centres. Young people living in the country tend to be left out.

This is a problem that the government of Manitoba has addressed. It is sponsoring a “Youth Corner” website (located at www.ruralsupport.ca/youth) as a part of its general farm stress line.

The website invites all young people who live in the country to make contact with it. The intent is to give rural youth something that is uniquely theirs, something that will address issues and concerns puzzling young people living in the country, and something that is available and accessible to all of them.

I do not think that kids in the country are necessarily different than kids in the city are, but rural young people undoubtedly deal with issues that do not challenge their city cousins. The biggest difference is the familiarity that rural people share with each other. This is both an asset and a potential problem.

Kids in the country often know each other better than their counterparts in the city do, and because of that, they can jump in with assistance when one of them runs into problems at home, or at school, or perhaps even on the ball team.

The familiarity develops because fewer kids live in the country. They attend smaller schools and sit in classes with fewer students. But it is those small numbers that can also cause problems. They mean that the young people at times depend on each other too much, and that precludes the opportunity for each to pursue his or her own peculiar interests.

For example, not all the players on the hockey team may want to be there. But if they do not join the team, chances are that the team will fold, and that would cost them the friendship of those other kids who want to play.

This is huge pressure for a young person. Either he plays hockey, which he does not want to do, or he is at risk of losing friends, which he or she does not want to happen. It is stressful.

One would hope that young people caught in this predicament would feel free to make contact with the Youth Corner and talk their situation through with someone on the line.

I do not think that today’s youth work as hard on the farm as their parents did. But they share in the farm stress. They know that too many sunny days in a row bring fears of another drought, and they carry those fears every bit as much as their parents do.

The problem is that they often do not have anyone to whom they can talk about their fears.

Hopefully they will make contact with the Youth Corner and find someone there with whom they can talk, and develop for themselves a perspective on their concerns.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor, living and working in west-central Saskatchewan who has taught social work for two universities. 
Mail correspondence in care of Western Producer, Box 2500, Saskatoon, Sask., S7K 2CA or email jandrews@producer.com

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Living On the Farm

I would like to take this opportunity to tell everyone about living on the farm from the perspective of my siblings and I.

Mom and Dad have worked hard here, trying to build a future for the three of us. What was once a viable operation on its’ own, must now be supplemented with off-farm jobs. I’ve only been on the farm for 16 years, but in this short time I have already gone through many hardships, which my parents managed to work through. The BSE crisis was especially hard – a three year time period when the five of us didn’t know what would happen to the beef industry and what sort of impact it would have on our farm. Through adversity, we have remained faithful to our farm and have been rewarded with good old country values.

Growing up on a farm has taught my siblings and I many things; the most important being to never give up, even when times get tough. It has also given us all good work ethics, and a commitment to the dreams of the future.

Helping my Dad on the farm has equipped me with new skills and an awareness of my potential. It has given me the confidence to take on new challenges and to strive for my dreams. I am very proud to grow up on a farm because we have a reputation among many of self-sacrifice, and willingness to get our hands dirty.

I have always loved working out in the field or in the cattle yard alongside my Dad. I started this at a very young age. I can think of a time when I was driving the tractor while Mom and Dad were picking rocks, and didn’t know my directions yet. I think Dad finally realized that no matter how loud he yelled I still didn’t know which way East was…they just don’t teach that in Kindergarten. I always envied my older brother who was able to show cattle in 4-H, but I was too young. I couldn’t wait to get the chance to walk my steer around the ring like my big brother did. I started 4-H in the local Beef Club when I was 8 years old and was a member for 7 years.

Although a long time dream of settling here in my home town and taking over the family farm may be out of my reach, I know that the work ethic and values I have taken from here will stay with me in whatever career I choose. I am very grateful to my parents and siblings, the community, and this farm.

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Rural Youth Find a Voice On Violence

By David Hutton, February 2006

Youth feel isolated from adults in their experience of violence, alcohol consumption is one of the biggest triggers of violence among teens, and violence among young females is a pressing issue, says a unique study which discussed violence with youth in rural communities.

“Rural youth in this country really have not had a voice in violence research,” says Judith Kulig, a University of Lethbridge Health Sciences researcher and co-investigator for the project. “Nobody has sought their important perspective on the topic”.

Kulig, along with professors Barry Hall and Ruth Grant-Kalischuk from the University’s of Calgary and Lethbridge respectively, conducted in-depth, open-ended interviews with youth ages 11 to 19 in two small communities in southern Alberta, in the first part of their two-phase study.

While violence is a common topic in urban centres, very little has been done to study violence in rural communities.

“Our statistics around violence tend to be taken from urban populations,” says Kulig. “The studies have been done in urban populations or if they have been done in rural communities, they have been done in the United States”.

In the interviews, rural youth spoke candidly about the meaning of violence in their towns. Their perspectives shed light on the nature and degree of violence in their communities.

Youth defined violence as “a physical act with intent to harm”. In contrast to urban populations, gangs and weapons were not considered an issue among rural youth.

For Kulig, the most surprising theme taken from the interviews was the degree of violence among female students, which, she says, is a pressing issue.

“Violence among female students is much more vicious,” says Kulig. “Whereas male students moved on from fights that occurred on the weekend, female students tend to carry the grudge throughout the week. It’s much more psychological.”

The youth interviewed also spoke of the relationship between the consumption of alcohol and acts of violence saying that it is common for fist fights to occur at parties in part due to intoxication.

One of the biggest problems in such small centres is the inability for youth to find private, confidential sources to confide in when dealing with violence, Kulig says.

Kulig emphasized that there is a difference between youth and adults’ perspectives in rural communities and that, for various reasons, the resources to assist young people who experience violence in rural communities are not accessed.

The research team hopes that this study is the starting point for more research focusing on rural youth and is a step toward implementing better and more effective community programs to help curb violence in small towns.

“Violence isn’t a problem,” says Kulig. “It’s a symptom of the problem. If relevant anti-violence programs are to be effective and credible we have to listen to youth to better understand what the problem is.”

“As much as we as researchers want to see change brought about in the end, it’s really up to the communities themselves to follow up on the suggestions we’ve laid out. So we’re leaving it in their hands.”

The study was funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research through a grant to the University of Calgary and includes partners from the University of Lethbridge and Southern Alberta health and social service agencies

Recommendation Points:

Include youth in the development of programs aimed at reducing violence.

Due to lack of confidentiality in rural communities youth are not accessing local counseling and resources. Youth should be informed about alternative methods of assistance such as on-line information and counseling related to violence.

Violence is a symptom of larger problems that should be addressed by further investigations.

Dr. Kulig can be contacted at kulig@uleth.ca and the original research article can be viewed in the February 2006 issue of the international electronic journal, Rural and Remote Health at http://rrh.deakin.edu.au.

*Permission to reprint this article in its original form was given by: Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention, author David Hutton and the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture

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Responsibilities...

Are you experiencing an increasing amount of responsibility in maintaining the viability of the family farm?

Do both of your parents seek off-farm jobs to help sustain the farm operation? In their absence, are you charged with upholding production, decreasing costs, and maintenance of the family farm?

Excessive farm responsibilities may replace developmental opportunities and the consequences of interrupted development contributes to stress and other associated behaviors. Unlike other youth work settings, youth on farms often play a role in the success (or failure) of the family farm operation. In a recent study, it was suicide and not workplace injury that was identified as the leading cause of on-farm deaths of youth 15-19 years old.

Growing up is stressful enough and farming can provide youth with a positive outlet of relieving stress. Most youth seek some enhanced work experience to aid their development and farming provides a unique outlet. Added benefits include working side-by-side with family members and making a meaningful contribution to the family farm operation.

By having the choice to join in the farm operation and by having an active role in the family farm can help youth achieve self-confidence, master new skills, and overcome stress. At the same time, the response is individual and commitment of youth responsibilities on farms should be monitored and balanced with other developmental and social opportunities. If school work, sports, and your responsibilities in the farming operation are making you feel overwhelmed, speak to someone who will listen or call a counselor at the Youth Corner Counsellor, we can help you to overcome this.

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The Far Reaching Effects of BSE

By Aimie Jordason, 2005

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has greatly affected the Canadian economy since it first appeared. Those working alongside farmers, as well as farmers, were interviewed to get their perspective on why and how BSE has affected them. All sectors of the economy, whether directly or indirectly related to BSE, have been touched by the effects that BSE has had. Brandon has been greatly affected because it is a predominantly farming community. For years, Canada has depended on the United States too much for trade. No one thing by itself will solve this problem. Canada needs to explore new markets, lessen reliance on the United States, open more slaughterhouses, and develop a way to test live animals in order to recover and move on from the BSE crisis. (read the full story here, in PDF format)

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Do you have a story to tell or an article to share? Send them our way (info@ruralsupport.ca). Also check out our youth news page.