Youth Interview: Speaking Up

World Vision Youth are amazing individuals who are constantly pushing themselves further in efforts to becoming more passionate activists for social change. Check out this interview with Jennifer, one of our amazing youth, who is on the road to becoming an amazing speaker!

Why are you passionate about child labour/child trafficking/ child rights?

I am really passionate about bringing awareness to the people in society who are oppressed and vulnerable. I really see children living in poverty and slavery as some of the most vulnerable in society, especially girls. The reality that these kids face every day is unimaginable. Despite their circumstances, I believe that they carry unbelievable potential. I think that given the right tools and the right opportunities, they can rise up and shape the world for the better.

Why NO CHILD FOR SALE?

The “No Child For Sale” campaign has been incredible in helping to equip and motivate me to raise awareness about this issue of child slavery. The videos, graphics, and information that are available online have been incredible resources for me while I’ve been preparing to speak. The work that World Vision has put behind the campaign is amazing, and I felt like the tools that are available would really help to enhance my presentations.

What motivated or inspired the idea to speak at local churches?

Honestly, I didn’t have any plans to start speaking in churches! Initially, it started as a one-time deal at my home church. My pastor expressed interest in holding a ‘No Child for Sale Sunday’, and knew I was passionate about social justice, so he asked if I would be interested in speaking. In preparing to speak, I did a lot of research, and I actually became very passionate about the issue. After that presentation, I was asked to speak to youth leaders at an upcoming youth camp, and then another pastor asked me to speak at his church on a Sunday morning. The opportunities that have opened up have been incredible, and the local churches have helped me to get my message out to so many people.

What have your speaking experiences been like?

My speaking experiences have been amazing! It has been such a gift to be able to share my passions with people from across the province. The presentations have been well received by the audiences, and it has helped to spark some interesting conversations with people who may have never even heard of child slavery before.

How do you prepare? Or is it a heart speech?

I definitely make sure that I am prepared before speaking. I practice several times before speaking, and I usually have an outline of a script with me when I speak. By being as comfortable with the topic as possible, it helps me to be more confident when I speak. I also love using Prezi in my presentations. I find it adds a visual element to the presentation, and helps to keep the audience engaged. However, I try not to limit myself to the script. I try to let my heart and passion for the issues show, and I find that those are the moments that I am able to really connect with the audience.

Do you ever get nervous to stand and speak? How do you move past the fears if any?

I definitely get nervous from time to time. I am a true introvert at heart, so public speaking is something that has never come easily for me. Here are the three best ways that I try to move beyond the nerves, so I can be as comfortable as possible when I speak:
1. Be Prepared. I try to know my topic as well as I can, and I go in knowing exactly what I want to communicate to the audience. If I’m prepared and familiar with my topic, the speech comes across as more coherent and confident.
2. Get Excited. Whenever I am given the opportunity to speak to a group of people, I always see it as a huge blessing. That is my opportunity to show others my passion, and to try to get them passionate as well! I find that just by thinking about how exciting the opportunity is, the nerves go away.
3. Pray. I pray both while I am preparing to speak, and right before I speak. I pray for confidence, and I pray that my message will be well received by the audience. This keeps me focused and grounded, and it helps me to push beyond any fears or doubts I may have.

What has been your best moment so far in all this?

I have had several amazing moments after my presentations while I am talking to people from the audience. I love hearing their feedback, and listening to how inspired, or excited they are to start making a difference. I also get so inspired by people who tell me about things that they are already doing in their daily lives (child sponsorships, buying fair trade, etc.) to make a difference. These are definitely the best moments for me.

What has surprised you the most so far?

It has surprised me how unaware most people are about child slavery. At the same time, it surprises me how receptive people are to the presentation, and how eager most people are to find ways to make a difference.

What encouragement do you have for youth and students who want to follow your example?

I encourage any students who feels passionately about any social justice issue, to start finding opportunities to share that passion. Start by sharing in school, at church, or during community events, and you may be surprised what other opportunities open up after that!

It is also important not to back away from opportunities when they present themselves, no matter how insignificant they may seem. There have been several times that I almost declined speaking engagements, and little did I know how many other doors would open because of that one presentation. Each door that opens will bring new connections and new lessons. You never know where your willingness to seize an opportunity will take you.

What is next for Jennifer Brenton on this journey of justice?

I hope to be able to continue to speak and to keep bringing awareness to child slavery and other social justice issues. I’m currently planning to do some more speaking in the New Year, including speaking at the Imagine Next Gen Leadership Conference here in Newfoundland in April.

I’d also like do some work with World Vision’s Girl Rising campaign. Education for girls is another issue that I am super passionate about, and now that I have some speaking experience, I’d like to be able share this issue with others as well.