Sharon Gaetz on Chilliwack’s Child and Youth Committee Consultation

Exploring some of the people behind the Child and Youth Committee Consultation – now marking its 20th year.

To celebrate the upcoming 20th Anniversary of the Child and Youth Committee Consultation, the Perspectives column is dedicating a series of articles on members of our community who work for the benefit of children and youth. Recently, Eryn Wicker wrote about the distinguished Dan Bibby, of MCFD. I had the opportunity of interviewing Chilliwack Mayor, Sharon Gaetz. She was first invited to participate at the Consultation 19 years ago, and since then has been a part of our community’s work to meet the needs of our youngest members. From the beginning, Sharon was most impressed by the willingness of citizens at the Consultation to work together. The Consultation is a forum that encourages many different groups in our community to work together. Sharon said, “Healthy families talk, and healthy communities talk”, and it is this conversation that is pivotal in informing how we meet current and future needs. Over the evolution the consultation there has been an increase in agencies working together, and women taking a more central role in planning.

She described the positive impact of inclusivity. “I heard voices I never would have heard, an opportunity to see the world through different eyes. It was a respectful dialogue, and then we talked about how we take all these ideas and goodwill and apply them,” she said. The Consultation is more than just an opportunity to talk, but is a jumping off point in developing future services for the betterment of our children and youth.

Sharon pointed to the new library in Sardis, the Arts, and Leisure Centres as examples of our community’s dedication to work together to provide young people with ways to grow in Chilliwack. She is proud of our community for seeking to develop the emotional, physical, and mental capacity of our young people.She grew up in a family and faith community that encouraged giving back, and identifies this as the beginning of her journey in helping others.

Her continued commitment to helping our community continues to be inspired by watching her grandchildren engage with the world and community.  “I look at my grandkids and wonder what the world will look like for them, and I hope the things we put in place today will carry on to the future”. Some of the biggest challenges she sees for families today is managing time and having opportunities for spending time together.

I know from personal experience when working within an organization how easy it can be to become insulated from what other organizations and community groups are doing. The Consultation provides the opportunity for government agencies, the school district, faith communities, and individuals of every age to contribute their knowledge and point of view. For the last few years, the Consultation has included a youth consultation to specifically seek the contribution of our young people. The voices are coming together again on April 26th, hope to see you there!

Marie Amos, M.A., is a clinician at Child and Youth Mental Health of Ministry of Children and Family Development.