YCI in Edmonton >> Global Youth Assembly 2007

Woo hoo!! Hello from Western Canada! This is Laura writing – Rebecca and I are here in Edmonton with Butterfly 208 winner Lisa. We are participating in the 1st annual Global Youth Assembly. What a great city! We are having an excellent time. The GYA has been four days packed (I mean it – packed) full of speakers, workshops, music, culture and lots of energy.

We were able to deliver a workshop on Wednesday afternoon called “Kick-starting your Career in International Development: International Volunteer Work, Opportunities and Challenges.” We had an awesome turnout at our workshop and had a really fun time talking to people from all over Canada about the benefits of international volunteering. It seems that there is so much interest form people across Canada to travel abroad, make a difference, and contribute to a global community.

If you’ve ever been to a conference like the GYA, you’ll know that there is a certain type of energy and excitement when a group of people like this spend time together finding inspiration. We heard speakers like Kim Phuc (“the girl in the picture”) who was badly burned with napalm in Vietnam, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Its Dr. Rubin now) who was falsely sentenced to life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. These speakers were inspiring, funny and uplifting as they shared their life stories with us. We found, however, that the most inspiring speakers were youth – just like us – who were actively changing their world.

I’d never heard of Sol Guy before, but apparently I should have. Sol used to work in the music industry and was supposed to be the next best producer… until he took a life-changing trip with War Child to Sierra Leone. Sol was impacted by this trip and decided to take off with a friend and travel the world in search of stories of youth who were leading real change in their communities. You wouldn’t believe the examples of youth he was able to find. From the mountain city of Macchu Picchu to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, to the City of God in Rio de Janeiro, or to the Amazon rainforest – Sol found young people making a difference. Turns out CTV and MTV were impressed with the footage he took, and signed up to make 8 episodes of the show titled “4Real” starting this fall. Sol was a great speaker and really rocked the house with his experiences – I can’t wait to hear more from him in the fall. Check out the website for more info (www.4real.com).

A big take-home message for me from this assembly has got to be about the power of hip-hop. I learned that Hip-Hop isn’t just a type of music, it isn’t even a movement, hip-hop is an existence. It is a way of looking at the world and a powerful method for responding to it. This is not the hip-hop of bling, drugs and cheap women. It is a real grassroots battle for change that’s happening worldwide right now.

We watched a (very cool) documentary called “Favela Rising” one night which showed a group of guys from a slum outside Rio de Jenerio. These guys saw that all their friends, brother and neighbours were turning to the drug trade as their only outlet and only way to make a living. They created a program called Afro Reggae which brought music, dance and drumming into the community. Afro Reggae sparked some serious change in behaviour from youth in the slum. It was inspiring.

We also heard from a guy named Stephen LeaFloor (aka. Buddha… he sorta looked like a Buddha – a really tough thugged out Buddha if you can imagine) Buddha has a group of youth who have started this program to bring hip-hop to the artic. Yeah – the artic. They go up to these fly-in communities and lead week long workshops on b-boying and MCing. They’ve found that after the youth from these communities tap into the message of hip-hop to persevere, battle and use your voice, there’s been a dramatic drop in suicide rates and drug abuse. Honestly I’ve never seen anything quite like it – a bunch of Inuit youth using traditional drums to breakdance to! Very powerful stuff.

The Assembly is coming to a close now, back to Toronto we go. It was a well spent 4 days in Edmonton. Really there were so many cool experiences I just don’t have time to tell you about. If you are interested to see more of what we did check out the assembly website at: www.youthassembly.ca.

Laura Gourley, Volunteer Program Administrator.