Retro van in Sudbury, Ont., part of travelling research project on youth social anger

A research team is travelling around Sudbury, Ont., over the next few weeks collecting interviews from young people about their challenges, hopes and dreams. The trio is with the Travelling University of Montreal Project, and they'll also head to other Canadian cities.

Travelling Project is a University of Ottawa-University of Montreal collaboration

Three women stand in front of the open side door to a colourful retro van.
Krystal Tennessee, Cécile Van de Velde and Julie Richard are travelling around Greater Sudbury, Ont., in a retro van as part of the Travelling University of Montreal Project. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

A group of researchers is driving a retro van around Greater Sudbury, Ont., hearing from youth about their challenges, hopes and dreams.

It's part of the Travelling University of Montreal Project, which is a collaborative study involving the University of Montreal and the University of Ottawa.

The vehicle is a converted 1985 Volkswagen Westphalia that the team calls Mafalda.

"Our colleague Julie actually inherited the name Mafalda, who is a character that the previous owner had been familiar with in cartoon land," said team member Krystal Tennessee.

Other team members are Julie Richard and Cécile Van de Velde.

The van is equipped with a mobile radio studio inside. The researchers use that equipment to interview young people about difficulties they may be facing. They're especially interested in speaking with those who are unemployed or under-employed.

The survey targets people aged 18 to 30. 

Woman wearing headphones sits in front of microphone and recording equipment inside a van.
Tennessee shows the radio recording booth inside the retro van. Researchers use the equipment to record interviews with youth between ages 18 and 30. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Each person being interviewed for the project will sit in the van with an interviewer.

"We chat about the young adult's angers, and hopes and dreams," Tennessee said. 

"Most of the time, we allow participants to chat about their lives and present themselves, and it's more of a narrative personal story that they share."

Tennessee said the purpose of the project is to focus on the voices of young adults who are overlooked in public spaces.

Van de Velde conducted similar interviews in other parts of Canada, as well as Chile, France and Hong Kong.

Van de Velde said some youth are often invisible. Because they aren't out voting, or participating in protests in large numbers, their anger is also invisible, she said.

"What interested the three of us was to collect the invisible revolts," she said. "What are these youth telling us? What are their challenges? And what does it say about our society?"

Tennessee said while they're in Sudbury collecting interviews, the work is still exploratory. 

"We know that there is some anger, but it's not very clear where it's coming from yet," she said.

They conducted the first stage of the study in Saint-Anne des Monts, Que., in the Gaspé Peninsula. After spending about two weeks in Sudbury, the team will travel to Toronto and Montreal. 

"After our discussions with people here, we're maybe re-evaluating and thinking about adding some more cities," Tennessee said.

The team said it doesn't want the study to compare social problems in each city, but rather focus on commonalities with young adults from the various communities.

Three women stand at the back of a colourfully painted van.
The team is using a 1985 Volkswagen Westphalia that they call Mafalda. It will travel around Greater Sudbury for the next few weeks before moving on to Toronto and Montreal. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

With files from Markus Schwabe