“We all pour into the same pot of empowering young people”
Ooof: what an experience! Looking back on my visit to Geneva on 11-13 May 2022, it seems almost surreal now. Finally, 18 months after the ‘Big 6’ youth organizations joined the World Health Organization and the United Nations Foundation to create the Global Youth Mobilization – we actually met in person!
I was there with my fellow youth representatives on the GYM Board: Andres Jose Estarada of the World Organization of the Scout Movement; Tharindra Arumapperuma of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation; Michelle Chew from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; and Helga Mutasingwa of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Sadly Meti Gemechu of World YWCA couldn’t be with us in person.
Our task? To look at some of the challenges facing the GYM, and to review the proposal for GYM 2.0. The big question: where do we go from here?
We Youth representatives made a joint presentation at a reception at the IFRC, and heard from Dr. Gaudenz Silberschmidt, Director of Health and Multilateral Partnerships at the WHO, Anna Segall, the chair of our GYM board, and Frank Mohrhauer, a Director at the IFRC.
We looked back on 18 months of GYM work, and especially to youth Covid response projects in 80 countries, engaging 200,000 young people and supporting over 800,0000 people.
None of this could have been done alone – by partnering, we multiplied our impact.
I feel our continued collaboration after December 2022 is crucial. The opportunities we have given to young people – giving them the power and the space to lead their own ideas and their own projects – are glorious. I feel the GYM work has been a real change maker in the world of youth work: young leaders have been encouraged to apply, and present their ideas, no matter how small or even irrational. I really hope this concept remains a part of the GYM.
During our “next-steps” discussions, there was a sobering reminder that future planning is a luxury in places facing humanitarian crisis, where in many places laws are imposed, and peace shattered.
My days in Geneva were fast-moving. They began with the shocking news of the assassination of the Aljazeera news reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, while she was wearing her press vest and covering the clashes in Jenin. They ended with me checking out of the hotel watching live coverage of the attack on her funeral at the Catholic Church in Jerusalem. How strange how this world functions!
These few days in Geneva gave me energy. It was great getting to know everyone, especially my peers, the youth representatives. It was inspiring how each one of us -from different backgrounds and representing different organizations – had the same aims. It was also interesting to know more about the work they do individually and as an organization, and how we all face different challenges at times, but very similar ones at other times. Each of them offered me a new perspective.
These few days offered a fresh reminder of why I love being a part of youth empowerment. I will not forget a meeting at the WHO where we Youth members presented our work in the GYM. We made a small body circle with Maria van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at the WHO, and she told us this: “Lead unapologetically!”. It was inspiring for us. This is not just a matter for those in charge now. It should go forward and inspire and impact many others. She told us that it can be challenging at times, and it’s okay to feel helpless at times, but we should remember that our voices are as important as anybody’s, and we should raise them.
Reaching the end of our meetings with a common consensus was no surprise for us: we are all youth organizations, with slightly different approaches, but we all pour into the same pot of empowering young people and giving them a space, and we’ll continue to do so.
I am honored to witness and be a part of this historical collaboration representing my beloved YMCA. I hope it doesn’t just become ‘history’, as there is continuous story to be told, and work to be done. It has started now, and it needs to continue. Here’s to more and more collaboration.
Loris Tarazi is studying computer science at Birzeit University. She is a Board member and a youth volunteer in the East Jerusalem YMCA – Palestine.
She is involved in organizing and supervising summer camps for kids, and leading the youth group in her YMCA, a task which includes organizing and giving capacity building training, leadership mentoring, running social and community events, … and listening to ‘all the teenage dramas’ (which she ‘absolutely doesn’t mind!’).
She leads projects, and guides younger volunteers on leading their own projects. A recent project was funded by the GYM ‘Hope Makers’ project, and involved youth-led solutions on climate change. A second climate change project will follow, again led by younger volunteers. She is currently preparing for a youth-led Model United Nations conference.