In this week's issue, we introduce you to a Youth Forum participant from 2021 who is very committed to substance use prevention and youth empowerment. See how Sarah’s motivations not only led her to positively impact her community and fellow youth, but to also lead a youth organization in Norway! Read below for an insight on her motivation, passion, and maybe even learn from her approach to life.
Dear Sarah, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Of course! My name is Sarah Fabricius Blom Jul-Rasmussen, and I'm the leader of the Norwegian youth organization, Juvente. Since the age of 13, I've been active in substance prevention and youth empowerment, so that means 9 years under the belt! I love music and gaming, and the big dream is to use my voice through music to empower other youth to believe in themselves and that they too can make a difference.
It is wonderful to be in touch with you again. To start us off, shall we look back to the Youth Forum?
The Youth Forum was a really great experience for me, and I got to learn more about other countries' situations when it comes to substance use prevention. What stuck out the most to me, was how complex substance use prevention is. It’s not necessarily rocket science in that matter, but there is a lot more to consider than you’d think. The International Standards really capture that. You can't have one solution to prevent substance use, but you need all of them. That I find very encouraging because we all can do our part, even if it's seemingly small actions.
On another note, I wouldn’t do the Youth Forum justice if I didn’t mention the friendships and cultural exchanges I made during the Youth Forum. We were bound to the screen because of COVID-19, but that didn’t put a stopper to making new relations across the globe!
You are working for an organization that focuses on drug use prevention. Could you please describe what you do?
Juvente is all about substance use prevention, and we do that through our projects, prevention programs and the free activities our local youth teams create. We work towards creating safe youth environments where substance use is not in focus while giving youth the tools and life skills they need to grow and become more resilient. Being the leader (or as some countries would call the president) of Juvente, I get to use all of my time and energy to work with what I’m passionate about – substance use prevention and youth empowerment! I get to dig deep and make a real impact on my organization and our country’s politics, which is a unique experience for me. There is no real short answer to what I do. However, some of the tasks I do are developing strategies, travelling the country to meet our different local youth teams, visiting schools to teach students about substance use prevention, meeting politicians and much, much, more.
Wow, that does sound like a lot of work on your shoulders! What inspires you the most to do what you do, and to do it with such passion?
There is a lot that inspires me to do what I do, but if I was to point out one thing, then it would be seeing the impact of the small actions I do. There is something genuinely inspiring when meeting new youth across the country. I remember one girl at a high school I was holding an interactive lecture on substances and drug politics. After I had finished the lecture and a round of questions and answers, she came up to me and told me how she had learned new, and various perspectives and consequences of substance use. I could see in her that she really cared, that she was interested in learning more about substance use prevention, and that her ‘Aha-moment’ had impacted her. Seeing youth getting those aha-moments, learning new skills, and learning new things about themselves, their minds, and their bodies is inspiring and encouraging.
What does youth empowerment mean to you?
For me, youth empowerment means everything. I believe youth empowerment is crucial to substance use prevention effectiveness. Substances are often used as a means to self-regulate feelings, and by empowering youth, giving them a voice, and helping them learn the life skills they need, I believe that could be an effective way to prevent a lot of substance use from happening today. We know how important good mental health is for us humans to live healthy lives.
Youth empowerment is also critical for the world’s future. It's easy to think, "Oh, the adults know better. Therefore, we should only listen to the grown-ups", but forget that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. We are the ones who will inherit this world. We are the coming presidents who will run the nations in the years to come. Therefore, we need to have our voices heard; we need empowerment; we need support. The future isn't far away, and the future is today.
Any last words for young minds interested in youth empowerment?
Your voice is strong, your voice matters, your voice is beautiful, and it deserves to be heard. No matter what anyone says, if you have the need to call out to the world – do it. I know it can feel discouraging to be met with empty words and empty promises, but trust me: if you believe you can, you will!
Made possible with the support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta