Youth project
Keenan Smith with several members of the youth group. (Credit: Mendicino County Youth Project video)

In October 2017, a deadly wildfire tore through Redwood Valley, California.

Smith: “The entire community was evacuated. A lot of them of lost homes. I mean, they got hit real hard – so there’s a whole lot of trauma there.”

Keenan Smith of the Mendocino County Youth Project runs a small support group for fifth grade boys who were displaced by the fire.

It provides a safe space for them to process their feelings and stories. Keenan says boys, in particular, sometimes need help opening up.

Smith: “There’s a huge stigma against males really sharing their feelings or being in touch with their emotions so I’m trying to break down that stereotype and make it feel okay for these boys to share how they genuinely feel.”

As wildfires become increasingly severe, more young people are being affected.

So early this year, the boys in Smith’s group decided they wanted to help other young fire survivors. They created a YouTube video in which they talked about what they experienced during the fire and how they coped in the months afterward.

Smith: “It was a really great thing for them to work through and verbalize once more what they’ve gone through.”

So Smith says reaching out to others provided another step in the boys’ own healing process.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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