A guest post from Aussie author Karyn Sepulveda on National Youth Week and how you can support the important work being done within our communities, and her new novel Choosing Xaverique.
The youth of today might be our future but do we treat them as such?
I’m 34 but remember clearly being about 15 and sitting on the train with my friends while adults threw us dirty looks just for being there. (Well, maybe just a few adults, and perhaps we were screaming rather than talking, but still.) We looked back at them and thought they had no idea. Adults don’t understand anything, I remember thinking. And, sometimes, we don’t.
Everyone has been a teenager, of course, and some of us may even remember the emotional highs and lows, the fickleness of friendships and shifting allegiances, the unfairness of curfews. But do we truly remember the intensity of our teenage feelings? How it was almost impossible to put events into their proper perspective, to understand that there is always a tomorrow when things will seem brighter? I was a lucky child from an amazing family. There was no such thing as social media then so, when I went home from school for the day, I had a real break from the judging, bitching and gossip. I had somewhere I would always be safe: my home.
In Australia, there are over 10,000 homeless teenagers. Many more live in homes where they are exposed to violence and abuse. These vulnerable teens have nowhere they can feel safe and no one to protect them. Their future is uncertain.
In Choosing Xaverique, my villain, Zlanythe, preys on vulnerable teens, using them to fight his battles for him. My book might be an urban fantasy but this truth – that young people are preyed upon, used and abused, right here in Australia – is all too real and it’s a fact I couldn’t get out of my head long after I finished writing. Our youth deserve support in their journey towards adulthood, to be given every opportunity to succeed in life and create a future rich in meaning. The fact that some of our most vulnerable youth are denied this basic right disturbs me, and it’s something I want to help change.
National Youth Week, an event created by young people for young people, runs around Australia from 8-17 April 2016.
It is an opportunity for young people to have their voices heard, to express their ideas and concerns.
To celebrate this brilliant event, I will be donating copies of my book, along with 20 per cent of profits from sales during Youth Week, to a charity I am extremely passionate about: Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets.
The organisation is making real change in the lives of Australia’s most vulnerable teens. Through their centres, the amazing staff and volunteers of YOTS work to ‘provide safety, support growth and open up options’ for youths who need it most. A centre that just opened in my childhood community of Bankstown employs specialist Muslim youth workers who have been working tirelessly at “beating street-level radical preachers at their own game and severing their insidious influence on vulnerable teens”. When I read this, I thought of my book’s villain, of the power he and those like him lose over vulnerable kids when they find help, support and compassion in social workers, youth specialists and volunteers like those at YOTS. They are making a difference – and they are protecting our future.
As an adult who remembers being a teen vividly, I am grateful for events such as Youth Week and charities like YOTS. I am thankful for the role they play in allowing our youth to play an active part in moulding this country’s future because, let’s face it: sometimes we adults just don’t get it.
Karyn Sepulveda is the author of Choosing Xaverique ($18.95, onsale 6 April).
Karyn comes from a background in teaching and theatre. Teaching drama, and writing and directing Theatre in Education productions. She’s always loved creating stories and characters, so completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. It was here that her journey of writing Choosing Xaverique began. Now, six years later, she is just a little bit thrilled it has finally been published! Karyn is currently working on the sequel to Choosing Xaverique, slated for production later this year.
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