Teen writing contest focuses on life during the pandemic

Two foundations that support youth are holding a contest in the hopes of learning about the life experiences of many teens across Canada

Teenagers are being encouraged to submit an essay about life during COVID-19 and the 10 best will be published by the Creative Arts Foundation of Canada (CAFC) in a book called The Quarantine Diaries.

Each year, the foundation chooses a theme for its annual project called Tell Your Story, a collection of essays that is published in a book, where students can use what is happening in their personal lives. The non-profit organization raises money and helps promote creativity among youth in Canada, through projects like creative arts research, making and publishing educational books as well as documentaries on multiculturalism. For example, last year it published a book called Rose in Montreal by Roselyne Du, a 12-year-old girl who shares her first-hand experiences of Montreal’s multicultural society.

In collaboration with the Chamandy Foundation, which raises money to help improve the lives of kids across Canada, the CAFC has organized a writing competition for teens 12 to 17.  The essays must be no more than 500 words and should detail a student’s struggles, fears and worries during this pandemic as well as how it changed their daily lives and impacted their concerns for the future. Essays can be submitted in English or in French, and the contest is also open to students with special needs.

The deadline is July 31st and submissions can be sent to essaytest@cafccanada.org. The winners will be chosen on August 15 and will be notified by email and their names posted on the CAFC website. (Winners can choose to be anonymous or have their names published). They will get a $50 gift card, certificate of participation and free art & writing workshops. Editors and illustrators at the CAFC will help edit the essays and publish graphics.

For Gefei Zhang, chairperson at the CAFC, the goal of the annual contest is to get students who may be having issues at home to express themselves in words. But when the pandemic broke in Quebec, that all changed. “We decided it would be a good idea to get the kids to discuss their quarantine experiences and tells us their own stories,” Zhang said. “It’s part of history and we want them to remember this period, what they were thinking and what they were hoping for.”

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