Youth-Led Solutions Summit closing event: looking into the future

World YMCA’s Youth-Led Solutions Initiative is on the point of launching a number of projects worldwide to combat climate change. The deadline for applications is 30 October: proposals will be evaluated; seed money of $1000-$6000 will be allocated for each “Solution” approved; and the work must then be implemented over a three to six month period, and beyond.

On Friday 23 October, after two weeks of consultations and workshops, young environmental activists and leaders gathered online to close YMCA’s first ever Youth-Led Solutions Summit. 

“This project is about multiplication and bringing things to scale” (Patricia Pelton)

World YMCA President Patricia Pelton opened the event by reaffirming the importance of the outcomes: “We are at the start in a number of ways. (..) 600 young people have just spent a fortnight road-testing their initial ideas for climate action. We will take them to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, next year. And we will take them to our YMCA World Council (…) that will set the course for our future in Denmark in 2022.  And next year, with two more Youth-Led Solutions Summits on jobs and mental health, we will be recruiting more young leaders, providing more resources, and driving more change.” 

“The only way to move forward is to build forward” (Jayathma Wickramanayake)

In her keynote speech, the UN Envoy for Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, specifically praised the behaviour of young people: “Young people show tremendous resilience, resourcefulness and leadership, while adapting their activism to respond to the emergent challenges of the pandemic. They show unwavering passion and fearless optimism that a better world is possible”. She reminded the participants that the “clock is ticking, and the countdown to 2030 is not stopping because of the pandemic: we have less than 10 years left to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. 

“We have to look at the climate crisis the same way as we have been acting with Covid-19. It is just as urgent” (Mathilde Emilie Thue)

Tearfund UK Theology and Networks Manager Jo Herbert-James chaired a virtual panel with five young leaders already making an environmental impact.

Anna Luísa Beserra (Brazil), Founder & CEO of Safe Drinking Water For All, was 15 when she created a water cleaning system using solar energy. She spoke about her challenges: “Every time someone doubted me, I tried to understand why, and if it was because of my age or my gender, then I did my best to prove them wrong”.

Bertine Lakjohn (Marshall Islands), an Environmental Studies student, said: “Wherever you start, just start! Even if your idea or project is really small, you can start with it, and then learn to grow with it, and as the initiative grows you can extend it to others”.

Hemant Ya-u-thai (Thailand), a volunteer from Chiang Mai YMCA and English Teacher, shared: “In our school, we teach students how to calculate their environmental footprint. We also organize climate activities with local communities”. He encouraged the participants: “Keep  , and never give up”.

Mathilde Emilie Thue (Norway), a World YMCA Executive Committee Board Member, explained: “I work at a policy level, to get the opportunity to speak up for the current and the future generations”. She also mentioned the importance of being part of a local group or an online community.

Simangele Msweli (South Africa), Co-Founder, South African Youth Biodiversity Network agreed: “Network plays a big role. You need to interact with others. It is important to understand the bigger problem, and reflect on it from a local context, and then you can mobilize people”. 

Concrete solutions

When Solution Teams met during the Youth-Led Solutions Summit, many ideas were discussed among the participants. The process was to target the main local environmental issues and to  bring up a concrete solution.

Ylli Alija, YMCA Kosovo, shared: “One of the biggest environmental problems in Eastern Europe is illegal deforestation”. His group came up with the project to train young people on the environment, to plant trees, and to “digitize the forest”, by  setting up cameras. “We will protect the forest by monitoring it.”

Melody Quintanilla, YMCA Makati in Manilla, said “We are planning to create a plastic recycling facility, where we will collect all types of plastic. And we will turn this plastic into something more usable, like pillows, bean bags… Plastic pollution is a real problem in the Philippines”. 

Next steps

After the formal event ended, World YMCA Programme Executive Adi Davies hosted the ‘Post-show’. “This is the end of the summit, but the beginning of the journey”, he said, as Solutions Teams from around the world rang in to say how their own climate action projects had moved forward in the space of two weeks.

Daniela Bogarin from YMCA Long Beach, California, presented her team’s idea to rescue food that would be otherwise be thrown away (going into landfill, and producing CH4 which is more harmful than CO2): the project is already distributing food packages to needy families. “Thanks, Daniela, for turning ‘food waste reduction’ into a ‘food security solution’” wrote Hannah Barzee in the chatbox.

‘Team Taiwan’ presented its project which is already rescuing mounds of discarded clothes and reusing them in different ways, proudly presenting a YMCA-branded bottle holder cut from an old pair of jeans.

Mike Barron of the Sioux YMCA in South Dakota described how he is overseeing a Solutions Team developing proposals looking at food poverty, waste recycling, and encouraging indigenous Sioux people to go green.

Peter Bamitale Korede from YMCA Lagos, Nigeria presented his team’s waste management project, designed to be practical and also to be awareness-raising.

The group discussed the projects they had heard presented in the open session, like the Kosovo reforestation and Philippines plastic recycling as above.

“Whatever you do, bring others to the table”, said event organiser Mike Bromfield. “That is how we become multipliers of change.”

World YMCA is committing to elevating youth-led solutions. Successfully implemented projects and initiatives will be showcased in future forums and online.

More information