Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the British Council’s Global Youth Summit in the United Kingdom. I was lucky enough to be one of the sixty delegates chosen to attend from among almost 2,000 applicants. The Global Youth Summit is an annual event hosted by the Global Changemakers program, sponsored by the British Council. The Global Changemakers program is a British Council-funded global youth network of social entrepreneurs and community activists from 113 countries worldwide. Its mission is to empower youth to catalyse positive social change, something which it achieves through improving participants’ knowledge, insight, and exposure to key economic, political, and social issues globally. During the Global Youth Summit, participants exchange best practices and develop action plans for projects that tackle issues ranging from AIDS/HIV and corruption to education and human rights.

I arrived in London on the 13th of November and was greeted at the hotel by Global Changemakers event manager Louise Cowper. That night, all the delegates gathered for dinner, where we watched a series of short films that documented a number of issues that were currently affecting the world. The sixty delegates were divided into six groups of ten members each, based on their area of activism. These groups were human rights, social entrepreneurship, education, environmentalism, poverty, and youth work. As part of the human rights issue group, I got the chance to work with fellow activists from Brazil, the United States, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Mongolia, Nigeria and Bahrain. At the end of the week, each group was required to present their “GAP” – group action project. A GAP is an initiative/organization created by each issue group and run internationally by its different members in their respective countries. During the course of the week, my group and I spent hours discussing and putting together plans for our GAP, which resulted in the formation of Project Femina, a unique initiative we created that will serve to promote women’s rights and aims to eliminate violence against women. The project is currently active in eight countries spread over four continents.

My human rights issue group and I presenting our group action project.

Besides working on our GAP projects, we participated in a number of different activities throughout the week. The Summit hosted many prominent guest speakers, who spoke about various issues ranging from the future development of the world to projects involving street children in South America. These guest speakers included British comedienne Francesca Martinez, Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young, and Streetwize founder Arnout Raskin.

Francesca Martinez during her stand-up show.

Mel Young talking to us about the Homeless World Cup.

During the week, we participated in numerous sketches and skits, led and guided by our awesome peer facilitators, Ayoub from Morocco, Sara from Colombia, Ini from Venezuela, Jecel from the Philippines, Ninies from Indonesia, Mariam from Armenia, Lavanya from India, Sebastian from Argentina, and Kola from Nigeria. Our peer facilitators were a group of previous Changemakers who acted as our guides and mentors throughout our week in the U.K. Sketch subjects ranged from the dangers of social networking to the environment versus economic development.

Our awesome peer facilitators!

Sketch on democracy and corruption.

We also visited various London-based nonprofit organizations, such as the Fulham Foundation, which aims to increase youth participation in sport and physical activity through a number of local projects, and Pan Arts, a dynamic London-based arts company that uses intercultural performance work to help facilitate self-expression and promote a deeper understanding of our changing cultural identities.

Goodbye messages from the Changemakers on the last day of the Summit.

Of course, this week in London was not all work and no play. I had the opportunity of getting to know many inspiring young individuals from all over the world who are just as interested, motivated and driven in making a change as I am. We had many fun times and sleepless nights, singing Red Hot Chili Peppers songs in the lobby, hanging out in the hotel lounge, talking about our different cultures and getting to know one another.

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All in all, my week in London was truly one to remember. I had the privilege of spending six days with a group of the most intelligent, kind, and inspiring young individuals I have ever met. I learned so much, and I am so blessed to have had the chance to work alongside them and the other people behind the Global Changemakers program.

An awesome cover of The Kooks’ “Naive” by my friends Imi from the U.K. and Stephanie from Australia.

One Response to “My GYS Experience”

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