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Cowichan teenager wins Aboriginal Youth Champion Award

Lizzie Thorne spent three months in Bolivia last year battling violence against women, work that led to her winning a provincial award. - Toni Williams
Lizzie Thorne spent three months in Bolivia last year battling violence against women, work that led to her winning a provincial award.
— image credit: Toni Williams

Winning a provincial Aboriginal Youth Champion Award was huge for Cowichan teenager Lizzie Thorne.

But then, so was her work in Bolivia last year on awareness of violence against women and her current role in youth involvement with Cowichan Tribes. It was this combination in community service that led to the honour from the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres.

"I started crying - I was so happy, everything I was working towards was starting to pay off," Thorne said of receiving the prestigious award.

"I was working so hard on my own goals, it didn't dawn on me that I might be nominated for the award. I didn't even know I was nominated."

The 19-year-old was one of five youth province-wide to receive the distinction during the 2012 Gathering Our Voices Provincial Aboriginal Youth Conference held in Nanaimo in March.

Thorne was part of a contingent of Canada World Youth whose awareness work in South America led to making a video called The Ripple Effect that focused on the issue of violence against women – the reality and misconceptions.

During her six-month stint with CWY Thorne spent three months in the Bolivia. In the southern city of Camiri the group prepared a theatre arts production including monologues and a performance of He Gave Me Flowers all designed to bring awareness of gender violence to the community.

"We worked on the concept that women think violence is O.K. So do men," explained Thorne.

The final piece of the project was making the 10-minute video.

"We asked 'What is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about violence against women?' The most common answer was 'manipulation,'" explained Thorne.

"We educated a community, knowing they'd educate others. We touched many lives," muses Thorne, who's now at VIU preparing to enter the registered nurses degree program.

While in Camiri, the Somena resident worked in a daycare. During the second half of the CWY assignment in Ontario, her work was with an immigrant services youth group and with seniors at a health centre in Kingston.

The Champion award also acknowledged Thorne's community work with Cowichan Tribes' Kwam' Kwum' Tthun Shqwaluwun Youth council (Building Strong Minds).

"Our mandate is to work with elders and youth, getting youth involved with the community," she enthuses.

"We meet once a week and brainstorm ideas concerning youth involvement. We've held youth dances. A mini soccer tournament, mini volleyball tournament," says the council's current vice-president.

"We do it to give back."

"CWY has changed me. I wouldn't have gone without support and donations of the Cowichan Valley, my family and friends," she said.

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