"It's a big week for community networking in Southwestern Newfoundland," says Beverley Kirby, director of the Community Education Network.

The Stephenville Lions Club will be a hive of activity on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 - much of it broadcast live on Channel 9.

On Thursday there will be concurrent workshops for the Community Youth Network Coalition; Sharing Our Future Community Communications Facilitators, and youth leaders attending the Youth, the Environment and the Economy conference on Friday.

During planning for the 1998 conference it was decided to precede the conference with a training day for youth who would help facilitate the main event.

The original objective was to train youth to help with the community television and virtual components (internet) of the conference. The long range objective was to interest youth in becoming participants in community television in their own communities and using the Internet for issued based communication.

Delegates from Youth Power 9 requested a workshop on facilitating small groups so this happened as an impromptu session at the 1998 event and was incorporated into the structure of the 1999 conference.

In September 2001, Community Youth Network delegates at a Sharing Our Future videotaped panel discussion in Stephenville discussed the importance of theatre as a youth activity.

So the conference organizers, aware of the traditional importance of theatre for raising awareness and focusing on issues, have included popular theatre as a skills workshop for the pre-conference training event.

Workshops are scheduled from 1 pm To 3 pm on Nov. 30 with a practical demonstration of skills during the Long Range Regional Economic Development Board Community Television Forum at 7 p.m.

The youth, or course, will continue to practice their skills during the Youth, the Environment and the Economy conference from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm on Dec. 1. Further Sharing Our Future activities facilitated by local community communication facilitators will provide more opportunities for youth to demonstrate their new skills.

The community television workshop will allow youth to learn the technical skills required to make community television - camera, switching and audio mixing - but the main focus is on the production of a community television forum. During the conference youth will also videotape "streeters".

Webcam photos from the event will be uploaded to a website (ryakuga.org/environment); there will also be a web chat/discussion board for youth to discuss issues with students who remain in their communities during the conference.

During the workshop, youth will write their own web pages focusing on conference themes. They will also use the webcam to "photograph" each participant and upload the page and photo to the conference website.

The youth conference organizers are firmly committed to the principle of the youth not only having a voice but also having as much control as possible over the process of the conference. Youth will facilitate a number of the small group sessions during the conference. During the workshop, they will learn the skills necessary to carry out this role with confidence.

Theatre is used worldwide to raise awareness and create discussion of local issues. In Newfoundland local and topical theatre has a long tradition. Also regional youth themselves have identified theatre as an important youth activity.

During the popular theatre (or theatre for and by the people) workshop, youth will explore their understanding of the issues of the conference. Collectively they will create a performance piece which will be presented during the Zone 9 community television forum and the conference itself.

The workshops will be coordinated by Communities In Schools; Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador; Long Range Regional Economic Development Board; Sharing Our Future; Ryakuga, and the Community Education Network.