Vital People: The Starfish Canada is inspiring young people to make a difference


There are plans to transform an empty lot in Quadra Village with a temporary playground into an amazing new green space, thanks to help from The Starfish Canada.

“I think community parks and spaces are so important for people because it’s where you can make new connections, have your kids meet new kids,” explains Kyle Empringham, co-founder of The Starfish Canada. “It’s where you can see community thrive.”

The Starfish Canada is a national charity that works to empower young people and Aryze Developments partnered with them to make youth voices a priority on this project.

“Of course, we want to find ways to get anyone and everyone involved in city-building and making our cities better and more space productive for everyone to partake in, but I think particularity youth voices are often led out of that conversation,” says Melanie Ransome of Aryze Developments.

To give young people a more meaningful voice in decision-making, The Starfish ran an eight-week leadership labs pilot project asking young people what they’d like to see in the space.

“What we know from our decade of change-making with young people is that they can be influential, they can impact decisions and they can have really incredible ideas that are for the better of the entire community,” Empringham says.

The ideas for the park include a garden space, natural playgrounds and even an outdoor amphitheater.

“I was interested because it’s a really rare opportunity to get involved with place-making and project planning and sustainable planning,” says youth participant Taylor Koel.

Koel says a lot of young people want to make a positive change, and don’t know how. But she’s hopeful there will be more opportunities like this.

“Young people are going to be the future leaders to it’s important to have a say now and have that opportunity to get motivated to make change and build confidence you can do these things,” says Koel.

For Empringham, who co-founded The Starfish Canada after being inspired by a university project, giving back is in his blood and he believes it’s our collective duty to make a difference.

“It warms the heart and gives me shivers and goose bumps and all those things in between,” he says. “We’ve been able to do a lot over 12 years of change-making.”

The Starfish is one of 11 non-profits chosen for this year’s Royal Victoria Marathon CHEK Charity Pledge Program.

READ MORE: Vital People: 1000×5 children’s book project set to mark major milestone

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