Loris Tarazi on the GYM Board: ‘Without question I would do it all again’

On 1 January 2022, Loris Tarazi, a youth volunteer and Board member at the East Jerusalem YMCA, became the YMCA’s Youth Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) initiative. She joined CEOs and youth representatives from six of the biggest youth organizations, collectively known as the Big Six. As GYM prepares to celebrate the completion of two years of activities, Loris shares what the Board has meant to her. 

Can you describe what it has been like to serve on the Board of the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM)?

Where do I begin?

Group of five young people posing at the WHO headquarters.

Loris (second from right) joins youth GYM board representatives at the headquarters of the World Health Organization.

Although it’s hard to find just one adjective, I would say it’s been productive. I have been busy with papers to read, links to open and meetings to join. But without question I would do it all again. It has opened new doors for me. Serving on the Board played a major role in my overall growth, and I’m happy I can put the experience to good use and share it. 

What lessons have you learned from your role?

I can sum it up in three words: Patience, courage and gratitude.

Patience: I’ve learned that working with others is like a dinner party. It’s easy to get everyone together but a little more effort to seat everyone at the same table. And it’s nearly impossible to encourage all to have the same meal. You must make the best of it, however: Hold the dinner, share a toast at the table and sample the various plates everyone is having.

Courage: Even when you have a question or comment, It is intimidating to speak up in a room full of senior experienced leaders. We – meaning me and the other youth representatives – shared this concern. We learned it never gets less intimidating. But I’ve also learned you develop courage. My confidence has grown, thanks to the support I received initially from my family and later from the leaders at the East Jerusalem YMCA and the World YMCA.

Gratitude: I am forever thankful for having this opportunity to represent the youth of the YMCA, and I’m aware of how much of a privilege it is to represent such a majestic Movement.

What lessons do you think other YMCAs can learn from your experience when it comes to youth representation?

With World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee at the 20th World Council in Aarhus, Denmark.

YMCAs should encourage more conversations with young people, listen to the responses and consider them seriously.

It’s no longer enough to simply give young people a platform. YMCAs must provide a seat at the table for young people in every decision-making process about youth. It might be a bit shaky in the beginning, but that’s okay if perspectives are shared in a safe space. 

You were able to meet your fellow GYM Board members at the first in-person meeting in Geneva this year. What was that like?

What a group! We came from all over the world and spoke different languages. However, we truly connected. We shared the same goal, which was to represent youth at every opportunity. We wanted to elevate the GYM, and especially the Y in the GYM. Nothing was lost in translation: We spoke the same language of youth empowerment and partnership. It was also my first time leaving home after two years of the pandemic, and it was refreshing to see the people I’d met on Zoom in person.

I always come home from a YMCA event motivated and energized as ever to do more, but this year has taught me to do right.

What are you most proud of from your time on the Board?

I’m proud that I provided input in my first meeting, and that it was useful! I had doubts but went for it anyway.

I enjoyed facilitating webinars and events where we had guest speakers. I enjoyed learning about the Accelerator Programme, which takes projects with the most potential for scaling or replicating their impact through a 12-week training programme. I was moved by how determined the participants were and how dedicated they were to making a real change in their communities, and the willingness of the speakers to help and share their knowledge.

I also found the social media takeover in August on International Youth Day to be quite interesting!

Loris was one of 14 young people representing the YMCA at the climate summit COP27 in Egypt.

What do you think should be included in any future GYM programming?

It should include programmes that are directed to young people, led by young people for young people and the community. GYM as well as YMCA Youth-Led Solutions have shown success in empowering youth. The results speak for themselves.

As this year comes to an end, I would like to leave you with inspiration from the Swedish pop group ABBA: ‘Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.’

I look forward to working together toward YMCA Vision 2030. See you in 2023!