Kaif on art, youth participation and creativity during lockdown Youth participation is essential in decision making, community and day-to-day living. It is no surprise that young people are our future. However, young people today are struggling more than ever. Social media, mental health, climate change and homelessness are some of the biggest issues we face on a daily basis. One way youth participation can be incorporated into creating change, is through art. “Art is a universal language that does not require a verbal dialogue. It has the unique ability to connect people from all cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences.” Young people see the world through a unique lens and have incredible talents. Through art, we are able to express ourselves in a manner that we may not get an opportunity to in other areas of life. ‘Beacon of hope’ by Kaif ul Wara (22) & Abeer Fatima (17) 'Beacon of Hope' was created in collaboration with my younger sister (Abeer, 17). After 2020 being such a difficult and dark year, me and my family (like many others) looked forward to 2021 to bring light in our lives- the lights represent hope, the desire to keep going and positivity for the future. I have turned to art to get through difficult times. I tend to use poetry as my main form of expression - to present my ideas, and bring a meaningful change in my community. Poetry is not only something I enjoy doing, it’s a coping mechanism for me and a therapy to better manage my anxiety and get through lockdowns. ‘Anxiety’ is an original spoken word by Kaif ul Wara and featured in the Visual Art Competition hosted by Youth Projects’ Youth Advisory Group in 2020. Through poetry, I’ve been able to express my opinion on issues I am passionate about, make new friends, educate others and contribute to the broader community. If there is anything I have learnt during the pandemic, it is the fact that there are very few artistic opportunities, resources and mentoring that is available for young people. To empower and promote positive images of young people through art, it is essential that young people have access to resources (even as simple as art supplies and materials), afforded opportunities to actively participate in publications, exhibitions or art competitions, mentoring (a person or a place to turn to, who can help us realise our ideas when we are stuck), and most importantly - someone who is willing to take a chance on us. Kaif ul Wara is an active member of our Youth Advisory Group, was a finalist in the 2020 Youth Week Storytelling Competition and the YAG Choice Award Winner in the 2021 Visual Art Competition. Youth Projects is committed to giving young people a platform to use their voice. If you’re a young person who wants to get involved, check out our Youth Advisory Group.