Former Ashburton Youth Council (AYC) chairperson Alyce Lysaght says it is important for the community to have a say about what happens in the district – even newcomers that have just arrived in town.
She said one of the key things she learned from her involvement with AYC was experiencing how people felt more encouraged to participate in happenings around the district if they knew their voice was being heard. This included attending events they had been surveyed about or having their comments included in submissions to Ashburton District Council.
“What’s really cool about the Youth Council is they focus on the whole community. I believe it’s important to have a range of perspectives. It gives a different outlook. Everyone’s got different experiences and that’s something newcomers bring with them. It’s important for the Council to hear that,” she said.
The Youth Council also has a strong multicultural base. When Alyce was elected as AYC chairperson in 2017, the committee’s membership consisted of Japanese, European, Filipino, Maori and Pakeha youth.
The first major project she led was the groups voluntary involvement at the district’s largest cultural event - Multi Cultural Bite. The team contributed by promoting and managing a stall for the Start with a Smile campaign which focused on encouraging local residents to strike up conversations with newcomers.
During her time as chairperson, Alyce oversaw the development of initiatives to promote Student Volunteer Week and the creation of the highly successful mid-winter Bite Nite festival in Baring Square. She also helped the AYC policy and bylaw subcommittee make submissions on draft Ashburton District Council policies.
Whether it was conducting surveys to gain views, raising funds for different charities, or hosting different events during the year, she said members of AYC were always on the lookout for opportunities to involve the wider community in their activities. She felt it was important for the district’s youth to start volunteering from a young age to gain a variety of skills that would benefit them through life.
“I really think you should just get involved – you get out what you put in. I’ve gained a lot of connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Alyce says. “It’s a great confidence boost when I’m walking down the street and people know me and I know them – you can just spark up a conversation. It certainly helps a lot.”