Your Legacy is Calling for You
As one of those long afternoons spent at the library studying dragged
on, I received an email from my management professor inviting me to a
conference called "Youth Action Montreal - Local Change, Global Results". My
first thought was to just thank her politely and return to my more pressing
studies. But after reading the conference's tagline for this year "Living Your
Legacy: A Youth Summit on Community Engagement", I couldn't help not clicking
on the link and became interested as I read through the list of keynote
speakers, which included world-renowned Canadian Environmentalist David Suzuki;
the Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean; former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in
Africa Stephen Lewis and Co-founder of Free the Children & Me to We Craig
Kielburger. The website also mentioned it was going to feature successful youth
projects, but I didn't give that much attention at the time. In
addition, after learning that many of my classmates were going, I decided to
tag along and attend the conference.
Image: Canadian Environmentalist, David Suzuki, Flickr.
The keynote speakers delivered one amazing speech after another, the most memorable for me being Suzuki's incredible speech on how the way we see the world influences the way we treat it, Lewis' discussion on the struggle for gender equality and violence against women, and Kielburger's speech, which had a powerful message urging us to stand up and take action to make a difference.
In its call to action, the conference showcased five youth projects. These projects included former Concordia University graduates creating a Volunteer Abroad Program in collaboration with SOS Children's Village where students get involved with projects targeted towards building united, developed and self-sustaining communities in the developing world. Another Concordia graduate founded Youth Fusion, an award-winning organization that creates innovative partnerships between universities and high schools to counter dropout rates. The keynote speakers definitely had an impact on me as they all spoke with urgent, concerned voices, but what I really kept thinking about after going home were the youth projects and their leaders featured throughout the day.
These young youth leaders were truly living their legacy. They were doing something about the problems they saw and the concerns they had. They are responsible members of their respective communities who take action that produces measurable results. Each one of them is proof that 'local action, global results' actually works when facing the challenges of our generation. The conference states in its mission statement that it seeks to inspire, spark and support youth involvement and that it did; I left feeling more inspired than I had in a while.
I want to join our youth leaders, as well as the keynote speakers, in their call to action. It is time my generation's youth starts living out their legacy by taking action locally and in turn, become part of tangible global results. We need to become aware and believe in the benefits of youth action and what a catalyst for positive change it can be.
Anyone can become a catalyst for positive change. Taking action for youth can be anything from founding an organization for a local community in some faraway part of the world to spending an afternoon volunteering with such an organization. The point is to move, do something, help, volunteer, be involved... This may sound a bit redundant and like you've heard it all before, so if you are already informed about projects going on then begin to research what kind of change they were able to create with whatever actions they took. Find out what kind of tangible benefits you can bring to a community and which ones you would like to be a part of.
You never know where your decisions will take you, and I truly believe that if you make a conscious decision to become a more responsible and socially just member of your community, then in one way or another, you will be able to add meaning to your life and the lives of the people in your community.
Youth action needs to become a fundamental part of every society, it is an already integral part of the Canadian society. Youth all around the world have integrated or begun integrating it into their own respective societies. Youth action represents what kind of culture and society the youth have come from. It usually takes place following problems and concerns developing within a society. It also represents the kind of culture and society the youth want for themselves and the one they want to be a part of and prosper from within. When exploring any culture, a good place to start is youth action.
You can tell what kind of generation we are striving to be. We want to own our actions. We want to be positive catalysts for change. We want to become all we can be for others. I believe this has been achieved when looking at all the community engagement projects taking place all over the world. That says a lot about what kind of generation I am proudly part of.
We can never truly know the true impact of our decisions. After the conference, I applied to volunteer opportunities and internships everywhere to become more involved in any way within my community. Within two weeks, I landed an internship with Four Green Steps, a company that encourages and facilitates an eco-friendly lifestyle through their interactive website and their vision of 'there is always a green alternative'. Guess what I'm doing now? I'm translating their green school program to Arabic so that schools in the Middle East can start integrating green elements into their curriculum. Did I ever think I would or even could be part of such an initiative? Not really, but I am. I'm not only part of it; I'm helping it become accredited by ministries and education councils in the Middle East.
So, when will you start living your legacy?