Youth encouraged to find voice

A Samoan man is behind a platform designed to empower youth and give them a voice. Seumanutafa Alesana McCarthy, hails from the villages of Falealupo and Fa'atoia.

The Auckland-based Samoan is the founder of the "Pacific lockdown support for teens" Facebook group.

The online platform was created on May 1 and is a Facebook-based discussion forum for youth who are stuck at home during the lockdown and can read the stories of ordinary islanders and be encouraged. 

"It was created out of the lockdown and it was created out of some discussions with some friends who work in the area of social justice," Mr. McCarthy said in an interview. 

"We were having talks about the lockdown and I was challenged by some friends of mine because I brought up things about young people and the teens especially in Australia, America, New Zealand. How so many of our young teens are stuck in homes that are not necessarily safe and don't have support.”

Mr. McCarthy added that being a teen today is about freedom and it is why they care about youth.

"When you're a teen it's all about freedom. We care about the teens, especially here in New Zealand and Australia. Samoa it's a little different, the support is bigger."

Expanding on the challenges that youth face today when stuck at home, Mr. McCarthy said it is important that we don’t think of “nice houses”, but instead picture a young person living uncomfortably due abusive parents or an older abusive sibling.

"We started culturally from going to the people from my age group because I knew if we went straight to the teens there would be some obstacles," he said.

Mr. McCarthy revealed that he chose to work with people who had a passion and are already doing work for youth.

"I tried to make it a safe place for teens to come and listen and be involved, it's still growing, it's still evolving," he added.

When asked if he will develop the social media platform, he said: "It was something that I started and a lot of people from different ministries and agencies are already contacting us and just really humbled because a lot of people are keen to get behind it."

Close to a month since the launching the Facebook forum, Mr. McCarthy said he has received positive feedback from the public.

"I think the content is being really recognised as good so the types of people that we have been able to get on board I think is important, and surprisingly we've been getting a nice interest from the young and old, which is nice because there are not many places that the young are happy to discuss things openly with the older generation," he said. 

"At the end of the day it is for them (youth) to speak up. Each teen group has to find their voice to be able to manage and navigate the communication with the older people. We know the adults want to help and we know that the teens have issues but that connection isn't happening in a healthy way, I guess.”

And Mr. McCarthy is not new to this space, having done volunteer work for a number of youth-focused organisations in Samoa, including the Samoa Victim Support Group.

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