Teenagers are obnoxious, right? Rude, selfish, little creatures that think they know everything better than everyone. This is what the British right-wing papers would certainly have you believe. While I can’t vouch for UK teenagers (although they seem pretty harmless on the whole to me), I can say that the Argentinian teenagers we met blew this conception out of the water and gave me hope in teenagekind.
Volunteering with Cloudhead
We met said teenagers while volunteering with Cloudhead Art, an amazing arts organisation in Salta
. Cloudhead run various different projects in and around Salta, mostly focusing on teaching media skills to under-served youngsters. We helped with a project in Barrio Solidaridad, a poorer neighbourhood in Salta where many people go without electricity and crime rates are high. Cloudhead is running a project with a group of teenagers there, teaching them skills such as photography and Photoshop. It’s part of a wider Adobe Youth Voices program that aims to help young people voice their opinions.
We helped out towards the beginning of the project, at the brainstorming stage. The group were being encouraged to think about what they wanted to focus on – a photography exhibition, a film, an animation – and what that would be about.
Thinking about yourself and your life
They were asked to complete the following sentences, and then draw their representation of them in a storyboard:
- People say I…
- In my youth I struggled with…
- I wish I could give voice to…
- I create…
- My community is…
- We can change…
This is where the surprises came in. The kids’ answers showed a sensitivity and generosity not typically expected of teens. They were upset about drug problems and violence in their community, but talked of how close-knit and generous that community was. Best of all, they really seemed to believe they could change things – they had hope in the future.
Be the change you want to see in the world
I talked to one 14-year-old girl who wrote “We can change everything, but we have to start with ourselves.” She explained that you can’t change anything unless you first change yourself. This showed a wisdom that I think a lot of people lack – we have grand ideas of how to improve society but struggle most with changing our own behaviours.
The girl’s sentiment was repeated in others’ responses, and together they seemed to have a vision of a world free from injustice, and with strong community values – quite the opposite of a selfish response.
We enjoyed every moment working with the group from Barrio Solidaridad and were inspired by their positive vision. We can’t wait to see what project they’ll come up with.
For the record, these were our responses to the questions:
- People say I am brave.
- In my youth I struggled with trying to fit in.
- I wish I could give voice to the planet.
- My community is the universe.
- We can change our reality.
- People say I when they could say we
- In my youth I struggled with finding my centre
- I wish I could give voice to the trees
- I create so I don’t go insane
- My community is (best just look at the picture he drew!)
- We can change everything except the fact of change itself.
What are yours? Share them in the comments. We’d love to know.