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Making a world of difference

Sun 21 Nov 2010 In: Community View at Wayback View at NDHA

Seb Stewart Seb Stewart is already taking a Nelson-based queer youth group places – and now he can take it even further thanks to a new grant. The Founding Director of Q-Youth is making incredible progress in the upper South Island and beyond – and now he has secured $80,000 in funding through Vodafone's World of Difference funding. The initiative supports six individuals who dream of making change in the youth sector throughout New Zealand each year. Stewart applied for the funding in August and is incredibly excited it was accepted as it means he can work fulltime for Q-Youth for a year. He is already planning three major projects: the refurbishment of the Q-Youth Drop in Centre and the development of therapeutic and education services. The planned drop-in centre refurbishments "The one that really excites me is the therapeutic side of things, because that's what I've been training in for the last three years and I've been on placement at Nayland College for three years working extensively with queer youth in four out of the six high schools in Nelson." The funding also means Q-Youth can employ a second staff member. It's advertising for a drop-in centre coordinator and Stewart would love people from all over New Zealand to apply. "Nelson is a fabulous place to live and we want to get some really cool applications coming through." Check out the job description here Stewart has been a community development worker for a number of years and before he started Q-Youth and his counselling training he was managing a community artspace in Nelson. Before that he spent seven years in the intriguing occupation of being the Natural Spiritual Director of a Buddhist group. "Community development is definitely my passion; community development and personal development. The whole therapeutic side is about helping young people in their journey." Q-Youth sprung out of a queer-straight alliance at Nayland College, as Stewart says there hasn't been a lot outside the main centres for queer youth. It was when he attended the national youth hui Kaha that he started to think seriously about what he could do to fill that gap. "Because in order to maintain some independence in terms to making decisions it seems necessary to create a community group, rather than have it under a school group model. And that was where the gap was. "I saw the gap and filled it really. Although it was really, really hard for the first two years, being a fulltime student and the director of this agency. It's been a real juggle, so it's wonderful to have the funding." Stewart says life is improving for GLBT youth in the wider area. "We've now got a drop-in centre … we've got a meeting point. There's four queer-straight alliances out of six schools in the Nelson-Tasman region. Marlborough has its own queer group now that Q-Youth helped establish. So it's definitely a lot better now than it was a few years ago. "Services in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and even Dunedin to a large extent have been there and achieved there in bigger cities, that's where all of the gay community congregates. So to be able to develop something in a region like Nelson is a huge achievement and it's really exciting." He wants to extend Q-Youth's services to the West Coast when it gets the chance, saying a couple of young people from Greymouth High School came to the last regional hui. "It's sort of planting seeds I guess, for developing services and groups over there." Maryan Street Lesbian Labour MP Maryan Street is the group's patron and chair and Stewart says she is incredibly passionate about Q-Youth and has been an enormous help. "In terms of supporting me, she has been so important. And also just having a high-impact name, if you like, associated with your organisation when it comes to making a funding application – at every level, you know? The young people are really inspires by her. She comes along and opens our events and talks at our events. She's an incredible woman and we're really, really lucky and grateful to have her as our chair and patron." Stewart's dream is to see Q-Youth continue to flourish, extend its therapeutic services and education services and have a new gorgeous drop-in centre. "The youth participation in Q-Youth is the most exciting aspect of it. We've got wonderful, amazing youth leaders in our community. I just want to see more of the same really. Young people stepping up into those leadership roles and influencing the communities that they move in, the school communities and the communities at large." He says the group welcomes youth from all over New Zealand and says anyone taking a holiday in Nelson is welcome to get involved.     Jacqui Stanford - 21st November 2010

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Sunday, 21st November 2010 - 2:07pm

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