In the summer of 2016, Lorren Grabarek 12F, with the support of ECG’s Common Good Internship Grant, completed a self-designed internship with RainbowYOUTH in Auckland, New Zealand. RainbowYOUTH is one of the few organizations in New Zealand that support LGBTQ youth, and Lorren contributed to a critical growth year for the group by designing and coordinating the Your Story Matters Project. For RainbowYOUTH’s I’m Local Project website, Lorren traveled to rural and remote areas of the country to meet members of the LGBTQ community and created a Web-based platform for them to tell their stories of survival and resilience to the wider world. Through interviews, Lorren learned that like their peers in the United States, LGBTQ youth in New Zealand often face hostility, bullying, abuse, ostracism, and isolation in their schools, communities, and families. Research has demonstrated that being bullied for being gay is a primary risk factor for suicidality, a leading cause of death among LGBTQ youth. Lorren’s project works to connect young people who may be geographically or socially isolated with stories of hope and potential, as Web-based supports offer a widely accessible source of education, strength, and visibility that helps LGBTQ youth stay alive and thrive.

Lorren was inspired to create the Your Story Matters Project by their own small-town upbringing, interests in social justice and story-sharing, and a personal desire to better understand what it means to “belong.” This crucial resource will serve as a lifeline and connection hub for LGBTQ young people all over New Zealand.

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