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Supporting youth ... Ward Shearman is enjoying working with Hurunui's young people. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By DAVID HILL

Ward Shearman has had an interesting start to his role as the Hurunui District Council’s youth development officer.

The former soldier was barely two months into his new role when the country went into lockdown.

“It’s been a massive change for the youth across the district,” Ward says.

“Adults think they’ve got it tough, but young people are going through all the usual teenage changes, while staying in their bubble, and then they’ve got their school work.

He says he has been impressed with how the Hurunui Youth Council has adapted, meeting using the video conferencing app Zoom and making use of social media to connect with others.

The youth council has created a dance competition, with participants sending in short videos, while Noah Wilson has begun a cooking show, Disaster Chef, livestreaming on Fridays at 5pm.

“He doesn’t know how to cook, but he gets in there and gives it a go. The first week he made burgers’ and the feedback has been amazing.”

Young people are understandably missing the social connection, he says.

Ward, who says he is“a country boy at heart”, served in the Royal New Zealand Infantry for 21 years, with the last decade in the youth development unit.

He worked with at-risk youth, taking 18 to 24-year-olds for six- week courses, five times a year.

He found the experience rewarding.

“I never thought I would see myself working with youth, but to see the change that you made in just six weeks, that was the light-bulb moment.”

Since the lockdown, Ward has been connecting on Zoom and bouncing ideas around with Waimakariri District Council youth development facilitator Sam Redman, and Sarah Beadmore and Vicki Gulleford, who work with Kaikoura youth.

He hopes it will lead to more regular contact between the three North Canterbury youth councils in the future.

Ward says it is important that young people continue to have a say in decision-making, particularly around addressing climate change and the Covid-19 recovery.

“I know with the youth council they do have a voice with the council.

“They don’t get to make the big decisions, but their voices are heard and they can make a change.

National Youth Week runs from May 9 to 17, with the theme: “We’re talking, areĀ  you listening?”