Lights! Camera! Good Health!

[attach]5845[/attach]A group of 20 Toronto youth are demonstrating — one video at a time — that today’s kids care about their wellbeing.

The group, Y-Eco, has been busy creating videos highlighting the effects of tobacco, misuse of alcohol and drugs, and how to lead a healthy life.

“We received funding from Toronto Public Health to spearhead this project,” said Lidia Ferreira, executive director of Future Watch, which founded Y-Eco.

“The aim was to provide a space in which youth who care about the environment can actively get involved in their communities.”

The program’s coordinators wanted to create a space where youth could be educated about environmental and other issues and use their creative talents to help make a difference through film.

“(We) give the participants little lectures on their topics,” said Hassan Abdi, youth leader of Y-Eco. “Then we let them make the videos any way they wanted. So what you see is what they came up with.”

On the day where they discussed tobacco at Y-Eco, one group created a funny rap video about the effects tobacco has on the environment as well as the health of individuals who smoke it, while another came up with short scripts that illustrated the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Over the five weeks of the program, participants learned the ins and outs of filmmaking, acting, singing as well as learning about the consequences of smoking and abusing illicit substances.

They also really enjoyed themselves.

“It was fun because (while filming) we got to crash into walls and act funny,” said Rory Ferreira, 12, the youngest participant. “I was in the healthy living group, and I played the unhealthy person, so I would walk all wobbly, pretending to be drunk and sad, while the healthy people made fun of me and had good lives. That was my favourite part.”

Y-Eco volunteer Adrian Lima says he was there to work on the technical aspect.

“I would help out with the cameras, or if they needed help figuring out the best way to tell a story,” he said.

From the group’s efforts five short videos were created, and are currently being closed captioned in the different languages the participants speak, which include Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin.

“We have kids from all walks of life and all different ethnic backgrounds,” said Ferreira. “So we’re adding subtitles for all the videos in the languages that the kids speak at home.”

This is all in an effort to provide culturally appropriate health education. The next step is to showcase the final product at different schools and venues throughout the city.

“So far we are going to show the videos at the Greenbarns … at the end of May,” said Ferreira.

Abdi is busy making plans to screen the videos at his school, Hudson College, and aims to do the same at all the participants’ schools.