By Maree Rodriguez, Young Canadians Roundtable on Health
From April 4th-6th, I had the pleasure of attending the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) Annual General Meeting as well as the 2017 Sandbox Summit. Over two days and two nights, I spent the time thinking, exploring and networking with youth from coast-to-coast across Canada. It is an experience I am proud to be part of and hope to have many more in the future.
To understand my perspective, I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba. While Winnipeg is still a large city, I came into Toronto with a fresh perspective and sense of wonder. It was my first time in Toronto and those two things combined with the fact it was my first time travelling (alone I might add) since I was twelve years old made me incredibly excited to visit this new place. If there are three words that I would use to describe Toronto, it’s tall (buildings), long (roads) and Starbucks (everywhere!).
April 4th was the YCRH’s AGM, a full-day event where we discussed many things including YCRH’s future and current and upcoming projects. A highlight of the day was being able to meet and speak with Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in Ontario. He talked about the importance of youth and letting youth voices be heard. Afterwards, we had our project breakouts, discussing issues around the opioid crisis, youth homelessness and poverty.
I explored downtown Toronto with two friends after the AGM. Everyone and everything moves incredibly fast. Maybe it’s the Starbucks on every corner, or the endless types of transportation from cars to buses to subways. Whether it’s looking at the water by the harbour, or looking up in the middle of Yonge and Dundas, for a first-timer like me, there’s a lot to see. If you ever go to Toronto, make sure to bring a sweater, because you will be out all day and won’t want to miss a thing.
The next day was the 2017 Sandbox Summit. This day was filled with speakers, discussion, ideas and networking. Representatives from various child and youth health organizations were there to share ideas about how we can help children and youth to be healthier, safer and more involved in their communities across Canada. It was great to meet with so many people and listen to each other’s ideas, opinions and perspectives.
My only complaint is that my time there seemed to end the moment it began. I’ve made new connections and most importantly, some amazing friends. It was great to finally see everyone in person since we are usually connected by a teleconference line and social media.
I was incredibly exhausted by the time I got back home. The AGM and Summit along with the exploring were physically and mentally tiring. However, I wouldn’t take any of it back. I hit the ground running and made the most of my stay. Here’s to new friendships and a healthier Canada for all children and youth. Stay tuned to see what the YCRH comes up with next!
About the Author
Maree Rodriguez is a speaker, writer, spoken word poet, and mental health and bullying awareness advocate. She has facilitated health-related workshops to thousands of youth across Winnipeg and currently facilitates No Means No workshops. These workshops cover topics such as power, rights and consent. She enjoys the outdoors, baking, singing in the shower and languages. Currently, Maree is studying psychology at the University of Winnipeg.