|I should've mic dropped - next time.|
150 plus young leaders, proudly representing 49 different countries from the regions of Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia and Asia. So many personalities and values but we all share the same common love and common goal – the YMCA and empowering young people, we are ONE MOVEMENT.
Our time in Portugal lasted 10 days in total, but those 10 days went by too fast, well I say 10 days, my time was extended to 13 days but more about that later oh, and the culture night that will come later too. The days involved stories, experiences, culture, sessions and interactive workshops. On Day 2, I myself presented a workshop on the theme of Young People and Civic Engagement which aligns with one of World YMCAs key areas of advocacy along with Health, Employment and Environment.
I arrived in Lisbon a day earlier and took in some sights with another Change Agent from Czech Republic. The next day we travelled to our hosts in Setubal. YMCA Camp Alambre, a beautiful fit-for-purpose camp that was surrounded by the naturally beautiful Portuguese scenery and local vineyards that have produced award winning wines – what more would I need.
|The Camp at YMCA Alambre|
It was so uplifting to see familiar faces from previous Change Agent training in France, but more importantly the excitement of meeting and making new friends and networks was even more enriching. We were seen to our rooms and through prior information, I knew I was to share a bungalow with 5 other Change Agents from England. However, what some of us didn’t know is that they were to practice for the BBC Proms every night and on Day 2 they were dubbed by Joe as ‘the Sn-Orchestra’ - which still makes me giggle. Nevertheless, it was great to share a bungalow with some of the funniest people I have ever met.
After the formal opening ceremonies and greetings, we dived straight into sessions around YMCA Research, the expectations of the gathering in addition to looking ahead to Word Council in Chaing Mai next year.
|Opening statements from Johan Eltvik, Secretary General, World YMCA|
Environmental Immersions and Social Action was the main theme on the Monday. We were split up into different groups and split up around Setubal. As a total, we gave 19 days of volunteering and took part in cleaning up areas in the national park, renovation of Santa Margarita Chapel, restoration of the “Patience Fountain”, recuperation of a hiking pathway and where I was stationed, the rehabilitation of the oceanographic museum.
|Alli - Painting in Setubal|
After our volunteering, we had free-time, and what a way to spend it, on the luscious golden beaches of the Setubal region. The heat of the sun was melting, but if you were crazy enough you could easily cool down in the water which was at an estimate around -50 degrees – Baltic.
|Thanks to Igor; my face tells the picture of the freezing waters|
Health and Employment was the focus of the next day, which took us into some of the social injustices that face young people today. Employment issues that were risen from the previous day steered us nicely into the topic of the next day where we would visit the Portuguese Parliament and meet with MPs of the Portuguese Government. Just like domestic politicians they evaded most of the questions but it was still an experience I will never forget, especially being given the honour to ask my groups question to the parliamentarians.
Thursday was all about the 19th World Council which is held next year – it will also be the graduation of our Change Agent cohort. We also looked at the roles most of us may play next year from facilitating more sessions and workshops, being able to play a part in the opening ceremony and much, much more. I can easily say I am already looking forward to World Council.
Friday and Saturday was the backdrop for Youth Empowerment, we visited the region of Cascais, specifically Estoril. The region is to become the European Capital of Youth In 2018 – Stoke’s turn soon, maybe? The last full day began with more sessions being led around youth empowerment. In the evening, we were treated to locally produced sustainable food that was cooked and presented to us by the different YMCAs from the Setubal region.
The cultural night is by far one of the highlights for me. Every time I have been on international gatherings they never fail to amaze me. This cultural night was the best yet in my opinion. Like I said at the start of this blog, we were representing 49 countries, 49 cultures of food, dress, drink and 49 arts of music and dance. The different foods that burst the palette of your tongue into joy, the drinks we sampled – some you needed to be courageous to even smell never mind taste.
The night started with a fashion show that featured different countries traditional clothes, most countries paraded down the red carpet, Cambodia, Japan, Cameroon, Malaysia and Ghana just to name a few. We were also graced with the presence of Hotu who hails from Easter Island – he showed us a traditional war dance of the Rapa Nui people. It was so captivating to learn the history of his home. Near the latter part of the night we all engaged in something that is turning to be a tradition from Team England, we got everyone in a circle and brought the Hokey Cokey to the people once again and this time it was bigger, better and more chaotic than ever before.
|Hotu (middle) - Easter Island/Rapa Nui|
By now we have all reached home with the learnings and stories we’ve all shared, new friends and new connections that spread across the globe. We are better prepared now more than ever to empower young people within our respected communities. ‘Be The Change’ a term we all know, use and all endeavour to be.
Portugal it has been a pleasure, special thanks to YMCA Alambre Camp for the hospitality, the smiles, the music, the coffees and your service. Also, special appreciations to the staff and volunteers of World YMCA for their knowledge and challenging work over the weeks and months; Romulo, Adi, Karina, Sharnelle, Maricris, Jose, Andrew and Johan, you guys are inspiration to us all.
There are no goodbyes in YMCA – only “see you again soon”. Thailand is our next gathering but the work and the CHANGE has already begun.
|Look how close i got to the cancelled plane :(|
P.S I mentioned 13 days instead of 10. My flight got cancelled, the reason, oh and what a reason it was, it beggars belief. RyanAir couldn’t locate the Pilot – seriously.
Change Agent……. over and out.