On International Youth Day, 12 August 2022, the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) initiative showcased how young people are working to alleviate the long-lasting impacts of the Covid pandemic, addressing the inequalities that young people face in their communities, and advocating for change through Local Solutions and National Projects. Loris Tarazi, member and volunteer at East Jerusalem YMCA and the YMCA Youth Board Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization, took over the GYM social media channels on the day. She shares her experience of the Day with us, and couches it within a special message to the leaders of today from the leaders of tomorrow.
Happy International Youth Day!
By Loris Tarazi
Shouldn’t we all have acknowledged the importance of youth voices by now? Especially after the 20th YMCA World Council where we were able to reconnect, make new connections, and see and hear about the projects that young people have been delivering, particularly during the pandemic. Once again, we young people have proved to be resilient in a period of our lives where we just wanted to have fun and explore. A massive challenge came up, and we gave ourselves the responsibility to deal with it. We embraced it, we handled it, and we even celebrated it!
We’ve witnessed all kinds of resilience from YMCA youth-led projects and initiatives: from making eco-bricks from plastic waste, to constructing bathrooms in places where water and sewage barely exists, such as the Sumaq Muru project in Peru. Through my role as Youth Board representative, I know first-hand about the “Education on Wheels” National Project led by Albay YMCA in the Philippines. Funded by the Global Youth Mobilization, the project provided access to learning resources for out of school children and youth.
Our senior leaders in the YMCA, National General Secretaries, Presidents, Directors and Supervisors were all young once, and the great majority were young inside the YMCA walls. While they’re always saying they are young at heart, and singing ‘Forever Young’ from the top of their lungs (we love it when they do that, by the way!) maybe they should act on this, and use it to their favour, to connect with the young people of the present. I’m not attacking anyone here, but simply aligning things into young people’s perspective.
I know for sure that humans are alike and we all find similarities as we have our different experiences. That is what helped me connect with friends from Denmark, Gambia, Peru, Lebanon, Russia, Hong Kong and others, when I took over the Global Youth Mobilization’s Instagram account on International Youth Day, 12 August 2022
It was an interesting experience, as it helped me connect with young people not only from the YMCA Movement, but from other youth organizations too. It was intimidating at first, contacting people I have never met and probably – who knows?! – never will. I started with a little history about International Youth Day, and shared photos I took in the beautiful city of Aarhus during the World Council as a background. Those photos of empowered young people sharing and having fun – they didn’t fail me!
It was challenging; to have very little time to capture the attention of the viewers, but also to present information. I followed it with an interactive Q&A, through Instagram stories, where we’ve received questions about their projects. Lots of young people were still asking about the GYM Local Solutions fund (which has now closed), hoping to get funds for their ideas. It was also amazing to see and hear how young people who have benefited from the Local Solutions or National Projects were following the GYM page. Others were interested in joining and being part of the impact, and it was motivating for them to try and keep such initiatives alive. The questions varied, but all had similar context, as they all were curious about another round of funding to see their ideas come to life. Some wanted to know about previous projects, perhaps to get inspired.
I shared with the young people online how each of the ‘Big 6’* have celebrated International Youth Day.
YMCA has shared the different youth-led projects that were a result of the Youth Led Solutions summit. YWCA encouraged young people to join its sustainable project. WOSM celebrated the young people leading projects targeting the SDGs. IFRC celebrated those who are always giving back to their community. The International Award shared a competition to celebrate the creativity of youth, and WAGGGS too marked International Youth Day!
I concluded the social media takeover with a quote from the UN Secretary General: “On this important day, let’s join hands across generations to break down barriers, and work as one to achieve a more equitable, just and inclusive world for all people”.
Through social media, I got to see how young people around the world are sharing their experience and thoughts, and how the whole world is appreciating it. It was insightful to experience it from the GYM Initiative perspective. And my word, I now realise how challenging it can be to create social media content!
Sometimes it helps to put ourselves in others’ shoes to really understand. To the current generation of leaders, I say that it’s time to listen to what us young people have to say. Listen to our words, and watch our behaviours and our reactions. Our generation is overly observant, especially to the people we’re looking up to, so we can be in their places one day. So, when we feel seen and heard we tend to do more to our YMCAs and our community, and if we do more to our YMCA then in a way it’s also a credit to your leadership.
Our generation has been through a lot already and the future is such a mystery for us, that we don’t even know what to expect. And because we’re afraid we won’t be able to react adequately, some of us don’t even want to be resilient anymore. This is where you older leaders come in: you wanted to be in the position you’re in right now maybe because you wanted to change what you didn’t like, or because you saw potential in an idea and decided to give life to it. We young people have ideas too. They may be different, and they may be as dreamy and crazy as yours once were. But your ideas then are the ones that created our present now, and our ideas now will create the future, so give us your experience, and share your knowledge with us so we create a sustainable world, for our future selves and families.
On this International Youth Day, we assure you older leaders that we don’t want to see you as an obstacle, and we don’t want ever to be in your places just because we want to do what you didn’t, or what you didn’t approve of. Make us want to be senior YMCA leaders or any kind of leaders to take forward what you’re doing, add to it, and follow in your footsteps. Lead us, be our incubators, and we promise to exceed your expectations, and help you, so that we’ll be sustainable and prepared for what’s to come.
* the world’s six largest youth empowerment organisations: World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (The Award).