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Uplifting Women’s Voices through Empower Hours

Q&A’s with Julia Buckley

Where are you from? What place do you currently call home and why?
I am from Goulds, Newfoundland which is a farming community within St. John’s, Newfoundland. I love being within driving distance of the water so Newfoundland will always be home.

What community/communities are you part of ?
Everyone is part of many communities — school, work, city, province etc. My involvement in different communities throughout my life has helped shaped the person I am today and my values. My parents have always been active volunteers within our community which is why community involvement has always been such a big part of my life. My earliest memories of volunteering took place at my local church. This included helping at fundraisers, the food bank, Christmas carolling etc.

While growing up I was also heavily involved in my school community. I was a member of the volleyball team, band, jazz band etc. I continued to be involved at Memorial University of Newfoundland as an executive member of le cercle français, which is the French society. Being involved as a student allowed me to make friendships and it made student life much more enjoyable.

My love for the French language and culture led to me becoming a part of the local francophone community in St. John’s. I became an active volunteer and served on the board of directors for l’Association Francophone Communautaire de Saint-Jean for two years. My involvement in this community allowed me to maintain my second language skills while participating in a lot of fun community activities including community BBQs, cooking classes, concerts etc. It also gave me insight on the challenges minority communities face daily.

Currently I am a member of the Go Getters. This program is a young adult leadership program which focuses on volunteerism, advocacy and civic engagement. Within a one-year timeframe, young adults become more involved within their communities by doing volunteer placements, attending educational sessions and planning passion projects etc.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
I am passionate about many things including the French language, volunteering, physical activity etc. However, my biggest passion is women empowerment. I want to help empower women in their lives, their relationships, at their workplaces and in their own bodies. Women empowerment is a broad concept and can include conversations surrounding body image, the gender wage gap, domestic abuse, motherhood etc. I imagine a world where women are given equal opportunities and feel empowered to use their voices. My mother has been a wonderful role model for me and I am so thankful that her influence has led me to find my passion.

How did the idea for this project come to you?
When I joined the Go Getters, I learned that we would be able to create our own passion projects. I knew right away that I wanted to create a project related to women empowerment. I brainstormed different ideas and finally planned a project called Empower Hours. I picked this name because I wanted people to leave the event feeling more empowered than when they arrived. This event was hosted by Danielle Arbour who is a parasport athlete and it included two keynote speakers. The first speaker Heidi Dowden, owner of The Arch Method spoke about confidence and how she uses dance to empower others. The second speaker, Olivia Chafe-Guest, owner of Ukiyo Salon spoke about following your dreams and motherhood. I love me campaign NL led a reflective activity about the importance of self talk and Lindsey Hynes, owner of Get Your Freak on Fitness led a a dance activity. Photos were taken was Insight Photography and musical entrainment was provided by Sarfest. There was also 7 resource booths which included different groups within the community who offer services to women and other genders.

What was your motivation behind this project?
My motivation for this event was to spark a conversation about women empowerment. I wanted to ensure that everyone was invited to be a part of this conversation which is why the event was open to all genders and all ages. I believe that everyone needs to be included in this conversation if we want to empower women to use their voices and we want others to be willing to listen.

My intention was to make this event inclusive to everyone. The logo features different body types including small, large, black, white, abled bodied and disabled bodied. I also wanted to ensure that this event was as accessible. The venue was the St. John’s Farmer’s Market which is accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility devices. In addition, it has gender neutral washrooms. It is also on a bus route making it easily accessible to those who depend on public transportation. Finally, this event was FREE of charge for the public. I am pleased that this event was very accessible, however I do acknowledge that there are ways it could be improved.

Empower Hours logo

I also wanted to reach different people in different ways and show that empowerment is not limited. This is why I had two speakers, two activities and several resource booths. People have different backgrounds, interests and goals. Some may feel empowered by hearing another person’s story, while others may feel empowered by dancing and moving their bodies. I also wanted to empower people through bringing awareness to services available to them within their own communities. By having community organizations set up booths at the event, it made their services visible and also allowed people to network.

Finally, I wanted to support as many local businesses as possible which is why all door prizes were purchased from local women owned businesses including Bellie Beth, Kat Clifton, Yellowrose and Blue Bay Boutiquee. The logo was designed by Jenna Wade of Jenna Wade Art.

How did your community react to your project? Have they been encouraged to get involved in any other ways?
Over 100 people attended this event. The feedback was all very positive and people described feeling “empowered” and “energized” afterwards. Several people expressed an interest in seeing this event take place again in the future. I was overwhelmed with the support from my community, friends and family. Even people who did not attend helped support the event by sharing it on social media and spreading the word to others. The success of this event shows that the community is ready and willing to have this conversation surrounding women empowerment. While the majority of the attendees were women, I was happy to see that other genders also attended. If I were to plan an event like this in the future, my goal would be to have more representation from other genders.

In retrospect, what was the impact of your project?
I believe that my event did have the impact which was intended. It sparked a conversation regarding women’s empowerment within our community and left people feeling empowered. People were able to see empowerment in many different ways — speakers, music, dance etc. In addition, people were able to learn about the different resources within our community that they may not have been aware of before.

How has the project impacted you in your everyday life?
I have had several opportunities to plan and organize events and activities with previous jobs and volunteer opportunities. However, I have never planned an event on this large scale. Go Getters and Rising Youth provided the tools and support I needed to ensure that this project would be a success. This event allowed me to make connections within the community, especially with the community groups and organizations. These are connections I would not have made otherwise.

Were there some bumps along the road or things you may do differently in the future?
With any project there will be always be bumps along the way and you have to be able to pivot and adapt quickly. The biggest challenge for this project was Covid. A major outbreak around the Christmas season meant that the date of the project had to be postponed. I also had to ensure that all Covid restrictions were followed including vaccine passports, hand sanitizers, masks etc. All attendees respected the Covid restrictions which were in place.

What would you say to a youth who is thinking about doing a #RisingYouth project?
I would say go for it!! This is a wonderful opportunity for you to make a difference in your community and Rising Youth is able to support you along the way. My advice would be to delegate tasks. Do not be afraid to ask people for their support and help. My event went very smoothly because I had my fellow Go Getters volunteering. They helped welcome people, give out snack bags, set up tables etc. This allowed me to enjoy the event and speak with attendees. Another piece of advice is to keep in mind that no project is too big or too small. Even a small action small can have a big impact.



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