COP26- Carrying the dreams, aspirations and voices of young people from Africa

By Cedric Dzelu

Cedric is a graduated Change Agent of the World YMCA with over 11 years of experience in
youth empowerment, project implementation and management, public speaking, community service,
advocacy and volunteerism. 

I woke up on the morning of November 2, 2021 from the Golden Lion Hotel here in Scotland feeling like this could be the greatest day of my life so far. And yes, it was. It was a day that was packed with everything from a lunch with Michael Bloomberg, to delivering a speech at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on behalf of young people in Africa and the YMCA movement.

When I got out of my hotel – looking dapper in my African wear (as most friends described it) – my first job was to celebrate a friend, Alfred Nii Akrong, a young tailor using fashion to tell the African story and to inspire young people in Accra Ghana. I was wearing his work with the slogan “mmere dani” (twi language) which is translated to “time changes”, and the inspiration behind this piece of work could not have been more fitting. I realized that time truly has changed for me, YMCA have put me on a global stage and I carry with me the dreams, aspirations and voices of young people from Africa, and everywhere, in the events that lie ahead today.

A collection of Mayors from great cities, Chief Executives of leading global organizations and a few young people gathered at the Glasgow city chamber for lunch with Michael R Bloomberg. We met to celebrate the work of global action on climate change and resilience, and to help each other embrace the greater call of doing more for the planet. I was truly honoured to interact with most of these very distinguished guests, making the most of networking and engagement opportunities, and was not short of putting YMCA at the heart of our interactions.

Straight after lunch I dashed to the Glasgow Royal concert hall for my rehearsal for the night, where Bonnie Nelson Schwartz from the Global Climate Uprising Festival and her team complimented my speech, and I knew I was ready for the show. Then came the moment – a packed audience of 1,700 at the Glasgow Royal Concert hall convened for the Vital Signs of the Planet Concert, a night of utilizing the power of music, video, art and powerful speeches to convey the message of the extent to which our planet is under attack by the climate crisis.

My speech was tailored to touch on partnership, celebrating global action to tackle the crisis, and a call to action with respect to climate change. The feedback I received from organizers, YMCA friends and the audience has given me every reason to believe that I did just that, and successfully delivered the message on behalf of YMCA and our young people.

#YMCACOP26 delegation attending the concert

I am looking forward to returning home after my time at COP26 to share my experiences with other young people, and to leverage on the connections I have made in relation to community impact. But the summit goes on, and I would like to share my appreciation for the hard work of YMCA Scotland in making sure we maximize our experience here at COP26, and also to the World YMCA for putting young people front and centre. And finally to my YMCA Ambassador colleagues from all different countries, for being right there in my corner and supporting me, thank you.

Watch Cedric’s speech at the COP26 concert

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