Last month, five of our service leaders, Riordan Forsyth, Anna Fretz, April Hall, Nikki van der Wal and Nicole Cook, took part in the National Youth Leadership Council Conference and Peace Jam in Minneapolis.
The conference began with a world forum where the students participated in workshops promoting service and learning from an international perspective. The keynote speaker was Daoud Hari, who has recently published a book about his experiences as a translator for US and European journalists covering the conflict in Darfur after his own village was attacked and burned. Other sessions involved working with youth from around the world to learn about and promote peace through Peace Jam – an organization stemming from the ideas developed by 14 Nobel Peace Laureates.
The highlight of the conference was a keynote session by one of these Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in which he addressed young people on the topics of youth for change and making friends out of our enemies.
“You young people are idealists. You dream dreams,” said Tutu. “Why do we spend billions on instruments of death and destruction when we could use a very small fraction of those budgets of death and ensure that children – our sisters and brothers – children everywhere in the world would have clean water to drink, would have enough food to eat, would have a decent home, would have a good education.”
Tutu’s sense of humour radiated throughout his talk, which was both illuminating and thoughtful.
The sessions concluded with a hands-on service project in northern Minneapolis. The students travelled by local transport to the less advantaged areas of the city to prepare lunches for homeless and impoverished citizens of the Twin Cities area. This work took place outside in -2°C snowy weather with over 2000 people.
Our students were educated and challenged to solve problems, thus inspiring and motivating them to take their confidence and leadership skills into the future.