Since 2002, Voices: Youth in Care Network has been using a radio show called System Kidz as one of its tools to reach out to youth in and from care as well as the larger community. The innovative program is a mix of music, personal stories and guests from community resources. It airs on the University of Winnipeg’s radio station CKUW. I spoke with program coordinator, Marie Christian, about the program’s background and effectiveness. Marie also hosts the show.
DZ: How did System Kidz come about?
MC: It was an initiative of the past Voices coordinator, Amy Zylstra. She approached CKUW with the idea of a radio show for and by youth in/from care. In that first year, Voices won the Standard Radio Award for Programming and Content Excellence.
DZ:That’s a great accomplishment. What prompted Voices to start the show?
MC: It’s a great way to educate the public on the issues of youth in and from care, while allowing young people the opportunity to share their expertise in a safe way. Some feel comfortable with the anonymity of radio because they can change their name and the name of anyone in their story but they can still share their opinions.
Those listening have the opportunity to hear and respond by emailing or calling in with questions or comments so it’s a great way to get feedback as well.
DZ: What do you know about your listeners and how many are listening?
MC: I don’t really know who or how many are listening, but over the last two years System Kidz has raised more and more funds for CKUW during its Fundrive fundraiser (up from less than $100 to about $600 last year), so that tells me we have some community support. And since we’ve opened the lines to callers we’ve received at least one caller per show.
DZ: What does radio offer that other vehicles of communication do not?
MC: For the listener, our show is from 5-6 PM CST, when a lot of people are driving home or walking home, so they can listen as they travel (you can’t do that with television…or at least you probably shouldn’t!).
For our youth guests, they can take advantage of the safe environment we create with System Kidz. If they want to pre-record instead of air live they can. This allows them to listen to what they said and re-phrase an opinion or take out a name.
For Voices, I am glad and appreciative of this free resource. CKUW has offered training to me as well as the youth who’ve worked with me, they help me with the technology and have allowed me to explore a medium that’s always fascinated me.
The best thing is that radio is something virtually everyone within frequency range can access, so we can reach our youth peers as well as the general public all at once.
DZ: How long does it take for you to produce the show?
MC: Live shows require at least one hour of prep, one hour on-air, and then half an hour to make sure it was recorded and archived correctly. Interviews that are pre-recorded take about an hour to interview and at least two hours to produce (add music, edit-out sneezes, etc).
DZ: What does the future hold for the show?
MC: This year has seen a few changes:
I’ve introduced the opportunity for youth to sign-up as monthly co-hosts and our first co-host has made this idea work so well!
We started a book-of-the-month discussion and theme-of-the-month discussion. I love discovering local talent, especially youth-in-care talent to fill our hour with music, poetry, stories, anything they want to share.
We have a myspace page, where we include any youth in/from care (who have self-identified) whose art/music/story/etc we share on the air.
We’re also thinking about taking System Kidz on the road to rural and Northern communities to ensure all Voices members have the opportunity to be heard. And there’s also been talk about helping youth across Canada initiate their own radio programs, so that is really exciting.
System Kidz airs live Tuesday evenings 5-6 PM CST on CKUW 95.9 FM. You can listen online at CKUW and find archived shows there as well. Get in on the discussion! Call (204) 774-6877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. October’s theme is Mentors and Guides: the role of adult support.