Members of Youth 20/20 Can Nanaimo, a volunteer group for youths between 15-30, pick up garbage at Sway’ A’ Lana Lagoon beach on Aug. 21. (Photo submitted)

Year-long volunteer program aims to empower Vancouver Island youths

Federally funded Youth 20/20 Can involves young people aged 15-30

A volunteer program aimed at empowering young people is underway in five Vancouver Island communities, including Nanaimo.

Youth 20/20 Can is a federally funded year-long program in which young people between the ages of 15-30 get together regularly get together to create volunteer events and projects within their local community. Participants not only meet new people and make new friends, but attend free training and learning events and gain employment skills, all while giving back to their community in a caring, inclusive, and compassionate manner, according to Youth 20/20 Can’s website.

The program, which began in March and will end March 2020, is running in Nanaimo, Victoria, the Cowichan Valley, Campbell River, Courtenay and Powell River.

Gwen Vonarx, a Youth 20/20 Can Nanaimo engagement worker, said the program is empowering, fun and a great opportunity for young people to give back in the community.

“It teaches them leadership skills and it is giving them opportunities to figure out what they are interested in and follow their passions,” she said.

There are 25 participants in the Nanaimo program, according to Vonarx, who said the group has already been involved in a number of community events and activities including a recent beach cleanup at Maffeo Sutton Park.

Vonarx, one of two people responsible for leading the Nanaimo program, said the program is entirely youth-led and that participants get to determine what type of volunteer work they would like to do.

“They share their passions and we turn those into projects,” Vonarx said. “We have planning meetings and brainstorming session where the youth all come together and come up with ideas that they want to do.”

Vonarx said the group will be volunteering at a number of upcoming events including Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 29 and That 50s’ Barbershop’s annual Fresh Start back-to-school event Aug. 31.

“We are also working on a fundraiser for the B.C. SPCA,” she said. “By volunteering in the community, it helps youth gain confidence and it gives them experience they can put on a resumé.”

Although the program is already underway, Vonarx said youths in Nanaimo can still join.

“It is a really fun program. We have a lot of fun together,” she said.

For more information about Youth 20/20 Can, please visit or 
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