Lawrence, what’s your background within the YMCA?
I am a graduate Change Agent and a young emerging leader in the YMCA. As a Change Agent, my learning capacity has increased. Thanks to this program, my skills and knowledge have turned me into a professional youth and community development worker with widespread experience. This contributed towards making me an impactful and resourceful young person in Africa. Additionally, as part of my journey in the YMCA, I recently worked with the Africa Alliance of YMCAs as a Programme Assistant, and I support the Africa Alliance to deliver on programs. Through this role, I have contributed to its youth engagement and development agenda, and to YMCAs in general through capacity building and other efforts related to youth engagement.
How did you feel about being at the 19th YMCA World Council in Chiang Mai in 2018? How did it change your perception of the YMCA movement?
I had a very positive feeling about the World Council in Chiang Mai, as it exposed me to a wide range of professionals and skills that are impacting my life to this day. It was my first global gathering. What I admired the most was the reflections, networking, and capacity-building opportunities. During this World Council, we Africans also had the chance to showcase our work on civic engagement and lead workshops. Young people like me had the opportunity to lead sessions and play cardinal roles in the activities of the World Council. I could see my impact, as most of our time was spent discussing and debating on issues affecting young people across the globe. One take-away for me is that mental health represents a global health issue, as flagged in the ‘One Million Voices’ report. It made me believe that the YMCA as a movement is not just focused on a narrow theme area but is also concerned about the mental health of young people.
What are your expectations as you prepare to join us in Aarhus for the 20th YMCA World Council, in July 2022? Do you have any thoughts and particular workshops you are interested in?
I really look forward to seeing young people involved more in the activities of the World Council. I would love to see side events and more capacity building for young people. There should be working groups where young people can discuss issues that affect them, and as well as an open space for experience sharing and networking. I am particularly interested in attending any session on leadership, civic engagement, and advocacy as well as a session on mental health with emphasis on how young people can take lead in promoting awareness around mental health in their YMCA National Movements.