Have we got name tags for everyone? Where are the speaker bios? Do we have enough snacks?
These were just some of the hundreds of questions that were asked in the lead up to the National Youth Retreat (NYR). As part of a team of 7 incredible Change Agents and supported by the Office for Young People and Community Impact, the 2nd YMCA National Youth Retreat was held at Merricks Lodge on the Mornington Peninsula, on the 20th - 22nd November 2019, for close to 50 young people.
Working in a team distributed across the country, separated further by different time zones was one of many challenges we encountered, in designing the retreat. Technology wasn't always on our side, our daily roles sometimes took precedence and emails in the communal inbox either got doubled up or missed completely. Occasionally spelling mistakes were found after documents were finalised and consolidating information to send to delegates in a timely manner added additional pressures.
Working in a team that had finally come together, after months of preparation was a feeling of relief as well as pressure, as now we had to deliver the retreat. Despite all our planning there were times when communication fell short, tensions ran high, and emotions were tested. We each kept on brave face as limits were pushed but despite what we individually experienced we pulled it off!
Working in a team of people, we had successfully delivered and facilitated th retreat. We had done it! We had become a collective of passion, drive and empowerment. A group of friends who had created space for young people to discuss matters important to them, voice their opinions and build new networks. We opened channels for access to executives, explored leadership in a variety of ways and made time for a message to be crafted to later be delivered to YMCA Board Members, CEOs and Executives.
I didn't get the chance to engage with as many of the delegates as I would have liked, but when I did, the challenges I'd faced faded into the background. The unconditional support offered by newly formed friendships, the excitement as program ideas were shared and the respect, passion and wisdom of the delegates blew me away. I could feel the yearning for understanding and connection to the organisation, the desire to be at the table for decision making processes and the need for multi channelled communication. This passion proved to me that the NYR was not only needed but desired by the young people of the movement.
The following day, during the YMCA Deliberative Forum, I reflected on a similar experience in September, the National CEO Forum and Design Jam Workshop. As Change Agents we were fortunate enough to be invited along to both of these collaborative events. My mind wandered… imagine if we could have similar forums and workshops specifically designed for all young staff and volunteers to network and collaborate together? A chance to grow personally and professionally with access to similar experiences that we as Change Agents did. By this stage the exhaustion of the past few days had set in, as a moment later I realised young people did have this opportunity. The National Youth Retreat.
The retreat was designed to connect, celebrate and empower young staff and volunteers from across the YMCA. We had given young people the chance to share their ideas in a safe and welcoming environment, to collaborate and connect with staff and volunteers at various levels throughout the organisation and better understand the movement.
The message that came out of the NYR was powerful. Young voices asking the movement to respond to the call to action, to invest in collaboration and focus on inclusion in strategic decisions. Yet, there is still more to be done, and more young people to connect with. However, the delegates of the 2nd National Youth Retreat put forward the notion 'We ask you now to stand if you're prepared to take action, to connect with us and find solutions together.'
Taking a step back and listening to the six young delegates read out the key messages from the Youth Retreat was heart-warming, empowering and inspiring. I am so proud and privileged to have had the opportunity to be part of such an incredible experience. Thank you to everyone who made the National Youth Retreat such a success, your hard work and passion is truly empowering!
by Change Agent, Tanya Mischler
Last Friday I was one of the 100,000 – 150,000 people who attended the Global Climate Strike in Melbourne. I am a strong believer in people power for change. I think people often forget that whenever there is a social or environmental movement, it comes from communities to influence up to government level. That is how women got the vote, same sex marriage legalised etc.
It was amazing seeing all the people attending on Friday, led by high school students. It was really hard to get a sense of how many there were. But there were a lot of dogs and babies and students and grannies – all clutching signs. Just everyone who cares strongly about a safe ecological future and climate justice. I love attending rallies and I feel like this is one for the history books. There is a strong sense of unity and community and often it can get emotional because it's nice to know that people really do care. Sometimes the loudest voices seem to be the nay-sayers, such as the climate denialists. But at the Global Climate Strike they were drowned out.
Remarkably, there was not a single arrest. Imagine that, 100,000 plus people in a peaceful protest. And people are fired up. This is just the beginning. And everyone has a role to play, young, old and everything in between.
Photo caption: Lydia Hartwig, Ursula, and Shannon.
By Shannon McKeogh, Media Advisor, YMCA Victoria
Have you ever wondered what happens when you put a volunteer into a room full of CEOs and Executives?
You get a slightly overwhelmed young person. A young person learning abbreviations for concepts they've never heard of, whilst trying to wrap their head around the complexity of process management systems.
Here is another question for you. What do you picture when you hear the words CEO and CFO? Intimidating old men in suits? Tight lipped women with their hair pulled back? Maybe, maybe not? Maybe that's just me, or was me.
What I hope you do picture is a group of passionate, inspiring and incredible people, because that is what I now envision. People that, yes, might wear a suit, but much more than that, are eager to listen to the questions and ideas of young people working in their organisation. Young people on the ground, in the pool or even teaching handstands.
Moving forward we dove into creative thinking and flipped around ideas in a Commonwealth Bank led Design Jam Workshop. We looked into how to excel the YMCA as the Recreation provider of choice for customers, employees and council partners. We identified issues, brainstormed, discussed, broke down and built up ideas, turning our concepts into final pitches. Despite some of our acting as questionable, the final ideas that came out of the workshop were daring, relatable and innovative.
It was invaluable for me to observe volunteers, staff, Management Executives and CEOs in discussion about a common theme and working towards a common goal.
Through my experience at the 2 day CEO Forum, held in Sydney on the 10-11th September, I felt listened to, valued and inspired as a young person. It was an incredible privilege and eye opening opportunity.
By Tanya Mischler
Reflection of Global Change Agent APAY Regional Training, Global Gathering and YMCA175 Conference.
I have come away from my experience in London with my eyes open, my heart full and my head trying to process everything I have learnt.
But how do you even begin to comprehend the biggest event that you have ever attended. Y175 consisted of 4 days of workshops, panels, plenaries and performers with over 3,000 attendees from 100 plus countries. Well, trying to comprehend everything is still something I am working on, but I can tell you this.
Throughout the conference I was captivated by the words coming out of the mouths of young people. Young people who were younger than me, older than me, from different cultures and ethnicities all sharing their life changing experiences.
I was shaken hearing of young people who have witnessed death, in a way that no person should have to deal with. I was enthralled by a young person who was so proud of who they were as they stood onstage and radiating passion in wanting other young people to feel their sense of worth. My eyes welled up hearing of a young person belittled just because she was a woman and not given the chance to explore her true potential as a human being. And I was taken on journeys into the lives of young people who from negative circumstances birthed positive movements.
I was united with other young people in wanting to make the world a little bit brighter and more connected for anyone, and everyone.
For someone experiencing body image anxiety and physical and mental stress.
For someone wanting to express their voice on something that means so much to them.
For someone where an event that occurred 75 years ago in a previous generation still affects them today.
For someone who wants to offer a young person with a disability inclusion in a game at camp.
For someone who wants a safe platform to say 'I matter and I need the world to know this.'
For someone to talk to another person from the other side of the world and realise we aren't that different after all.
For someone who believes that mental illness shouldn't be shunned but instead supported.
For someone who wants to connect with an ally, who says 'let's work together'.
For someone to realise how fortunate they are and how to pass on that sense of appreciation.
I hope that my fellow delegates have the same inspiration in their hearts as I have gained in mine.
In such a massive event it was comforting to walk through a hall and have a familiar face smile at you and wave their hand. To put their arm around your shoulders and say, 'how's your day going?'. I never fully appreciated the importance of such a simple interaction and the feeling of knowing you mean something to someone, even if you've only known them for a few days. My hope from this realisation is to make other people I encounter feel like they matter. Feel like I take them seriously, like they have a voice, like they are valued and important with all the potential in the world to make a difference.
Young people are to be the change in the world and this can be presented as simply as a smile, or saying thank you. Lighting a fire in someone's heart is the basis of change but there is so much more that needs to be done.
The world can be challenging. From the outside no one knows what's going on in the inside. What makes one human life more valuable than another one? Nothing. We all deserve basic human needs; to be loved and to have connections. Take the time to, wave, say a quick hello or ask 'how are you?' to someone. We can give positive human connections so easily but yet sometimes I don't think we do it enough.
We are all on this this planet for a reason. We might not know what that reason is yet, but hey that's a part of life. But what we do know, is we need to work together as people of the world, across the whole world in every age bracket, profession, ethnicity etc. to make much needed positive change. We can all bring a spark into someone's life, it is just a matter of how themselves, yourself and society decide to fuel the spark, once it has been ignited.
From my experience my spark has been ignited. I vow to continue to nurture my spark with love and fuel it with passion so I can become the change in the world I want to be.
By Tanya Mischler
By: Georgie Nichol
The opening ceremony of YMCA175 was delivered in the most spectacular fashion! It began with a bold performance opening of the iconic "We Will Rock You" and followed with a staged re-telling of George Williams establishing the YMCA. The French arrived to the stage on bikes, having travelled from Paris with the original Paris basis agreement in hand, and people from all countries sat together in unity, proud to celebrate this incredible organisation.
From the moment we stepped inside the auditorium we could feel the energy and anticipation bouncing off the walls and reverberating around the stage. At one point the excitement bubbled over with an explosive conga line forming in seconds – there were almost immediately too many people and not enough room to dance! The flag bearing ceremony was not unlike the Olympic Games with patriotism alive and well – and yet an understanding and respect that diversity is our greatest strength. The largest collective applause was for the pride and refugee flags which brought emotion to the faces of many and confirmed our true commitment to becoming a more inclusive global organisation - paving the way for others to do the same.
In between inspirational keynotes, there were performances from an uplifting choir, the YMCA Glee club equivalent. Their contagious energy prompted a standing ovation from a crowd of over 3,000 people.
We were then transported back in time to 1844, the very beginning of the YMCAs founding by George Williams. The audience re-discovered an overwhelming respect for our past and the impact the YMCA has had throughout history - including two world conflicts, where support was provided to soldiers on the frontline and their families at home. We are now reaching 58 million people in 119 countries. Our growth has been exponential. The celebration transformed the venue into an electric hub of multiculturalism and connection with excitement zapping through the air giving us all goose bumps.
Young people shared their inspiring stories as activists of social change and social justice. A young woman by the name of Enzaree Kapri from Chicago shared a moving story of how her and her peers were forced to grow far too quickly when gun violence devastated her community. She told us that young people in Chicago are learning to become first responders out of necessity and firmly stated this reality is not acceptable.
"Lawmakers in the US care more about peoples' perceptions of their rights than their actual safety… Stop believing that gun violence is someone else's issue"
In response to the institutionalised racism and gang violence in her community she founded Project Orange Tree, a small but powerful idea that became the motivation for an entire country to raise gun violence awareness. Despite the sobering reality of her keynote – she closed with a message of hope
"I fully intend to change the world" - and we believe her!
Chief Executive of YMCA England and Wales, Denise Hutton affirmed our intergenerational approach to change "You are never too old to learn, never too young to lead".
Patricia Pelton, the first female World YMCA President in our 175 year history, proudly assured us that inclusion and diversity are at the core of who we are. Her recent appointment and humble leadership approach continues to inspire women to seek and achieve global leadership positions.
"We must strive courageously to call out discrimination…we must support the oppressed, marginalised and uprooted, and create a human community of justice with love, peace and reconciliation".
United Nations General Secretary's ENVOY on YOUTH – Jayathma Wickramanayake congratulated the YMCA for creating a diverse community for all. She challenged young people to design bold and creative solutions - address social challenges and in doing so, identify their purpose in this changing world.
She urged us to boldly face and overcome obstacles including gender, racial discrimination and the inequalities that exist across health, education and employment. She conveyed her appreciation of the YMCA's commitment to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals in our global strategy. And she humbly prompted us to reflect on what a privilege it is to live in Australia, as 56 million live in poverty and conflict settings. Many of us were reminded of the delegates within the Asia and Africa Alliance that were refused visas to attend this event in London, a barrier that Australians rarely have to encounter, and something we must never take for granted.
Climate change surfaced in conversations again and again as the defining issue of our time. The natural disasters that continue to increase in magnitude and frequency exacerbate the vulnerability of already marginalised communities. The actions and inactions of generations past act as the catalyst to mitigate climate change. The heads of young people nodded in agreement to the urgency of this crisis.
Jayathma's message was hopeful in urging us to realise that young people have a knack to turn challenge into opportunities and be the agents of hope that we need right now.
"Young people are not just leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today…"
The same message continued to surface - "a new generation of change makers will build the foundation for a better world. An investment in the potential of young people is an investment in our future."
What a privilege to be part of such an incredible organisation - Happy 175 years to us!
- Georgie Nichol
June is my birthday month, and regardless of whatever milestone I encounter, more often than not some time and effort is spent reflecting.
The realisation that in the near future I shall no longer be recognised as a young person by someone else's measure hit me. If you were wondering: no, it's not this year but it's pretty shortly after!
Being part of an organisation and movement which has firmly placed its focus on believing in the power of inspired young people caused feelings of jadedness to creep up. Would I just be cast aside, forgotten about or no longer needed? Had I done anything worthy enough to be titled 'an inspired young person'?
The answers to both questions are futile – time for me to show you why.
June also happens to be the birthday month of the YMCA. 175 years ago, on June 6th 1844, the YMCA movement was founded by a fellow named Sir George Williams. He wasn't titled a sir then, but he was a person experiencing the throes and upheaval caused by the industrial revolution in the surrounds of London.
The stated reason for the YMCA beginning was to provide young men from rural areas travelling to cities for work with low-cost housing in a safe environment, and morphed into a movement providing recreation.
Picture this… a situation where the main things a young person can do, besides working all day on a factory floor, is visiting a pub or brothel. A solution was needed to provide consistent positive influences to young men (organised sport was still developing, and, err, being organised!).
The YMCA was such a solution.
It was a movement founded on providing young men from the country side with a connection to others and to themselves outside of a cycle focused purely on working and spending.
So… how does this apply to an almost 30+ male living in Melbourne, Australia?
Well, it was researching and reflecting on the times which the YMCA was birthed that made me realise this: the basis of this movement, all along, has been connection. Providing individuals an opportunity to connect with others, and themselves, in a meaningful manner which is not always readily available outside of school and sport.
Then it hit me: this connection is definitely not limited to young men in rural areas in south east 1840s England, as evidenced by its rapid growth over the ensuing years.
In the face of industrialisation it wouldn't only be the young who ventured forth to the cities to live, to survive and to connect. All people would be drawn to such areas, as evidenced by the YWCA also springing up at a similar time. Regardless of sex, age or occupation, connection to others would have been sought.
Not much has changed.
Society demands the exact same solution now. Much more so than 1840s London in my view.
Connection is sought in a world filled with social media, AI technology, Netflix and the common catch cry even I heard during my school days of 'the jobs you have aren't even invented yet!'
Almost every single other thing can be achieved pretty much instantaneously but a real connection with other human beings. A face to face experience with real, living, breathing humans who have conversations. Who share stories and create moments remembered throughout a lifetime.
The Y continues to provide this same solution - not only to young people in an arbitrary age bracket, for volunteers or staff members, for those living in the country or city, or however anyone identifies as, but to all.
Which is a pretty heartening thing to an almost jaded, almost 30 year old person.
The Y connects people.
Who knows… maybe the age range will be reviewed and extended. Irrespective of that – I am tremendously grateful for this reflection and invite you to try something similar. Who knows what connections you'll make and share.
Having the opportunity to attend the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum as a World YMCA representative for both YMCA Australia and YMCA Victoria was an absolute eye-opening privilege. Attending as one of over 900 young/young people related delegates of the Member States, young people demonstrated a resounding commitment to leading progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for the UN 2030 agenda, in their home nations. The biggest issues that young people faced however, barriers that not only disempowered them but progress towards achieving the SDGs, were growing inaction on climate change and a lack of access to meaningful and fair employment. As António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN said, 'Engaging youth globally is essential for the well-being of the entire world', and while a lot of work has yet to be done for total inclusion, I see the YMCA as a leading organisation in engaging young people in shouldering the weight of progressing towards the SDGs. For this to happen however, we need to ensure that at all levels we are giving young people the opportunity to be heard and for their voices to be acted upon, as the Austrian Youth Delegate said in a whopper power statement, 'Nothing about us without us.'
- Kergen Angel
Checking our social media feed has become an hourly, if not daily, routine for many. While social media has helped us stay more connected with people all over the world some habits have led to concerns about mental health. Specifically, social media addiction and the potentially negative effects that ‘likes’ may have on self-perception.
“The addiction and compulsion that some teenagers have with not only checking their social media feeds but valuing themselves on the number of likes or followers they have is highly concerning,” says Dr Ryan Harvey of House Call Doctor.
While platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were created to help foster positive social interactions many studies are finding this is often not the case.
“On an individual level, we are seeing an increasing trend of people finding their moods worsened after using social media,” says Dr Harvey.
Most of us open our social media apps almost religiously, checking first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We do this expecting to see and feel something wonderful or new, however the opposite often occurs.
“When you look at the Facebook or Instagram page of someone else you are seeing only the highlight reel of their life,” says Dr Harvey. While they may be posing on a holiday and looking blissfully happy we don’t know what is going on behind the photo.
“This is particularly dangerous for younger more vulnerable generations as they may struggle with identifying this and compare their lives to the highlight reel of another.”
While there are some potentially negative side effects there are ways to create a positive relationship with social media:
1. Schedule time
“Individuals need to consider how much time they are spending on social media and whether that time is impacting their lives,” says Dr Harvey.
If you think you may be checking your social media feeds too often scheduling specific times may be helpful. “Pick times such as the bus ride home from school or work where you generally would not be doing other activities or missing out on the ‘real world’,” says Dr Harvey.
2. Remove the app from your phone
“Having access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at just tap of your phone screen can increase the temptation to ‘quickly’ check,” says Dr Harvey.
As we all know this ‘quick look’ can easily turn into hours of scrolling newsfeeds. Deleting the apps from your phone forces you to login via an internet browser and this may help limit temptation to check regularly.
3. Think before you post
We hear this all the time but it’s true, think twice before you post anything on social media. Consider the pros and cons of posting certain things and the possibility of offending anyone or having your post taken out of context.
4. Be selective about your followers
If you find that certain accounts make you angry, sad, jealous or disappointed unfollow them. “Following celebrities on social media can easily have a negative influence,” says Dr Harvey. “Their lavish lifestyles are not realistic and can cause disappointment and envy.”
Similarly unfollow and block any users that may make you feel bad about yourself or post negative comments on your feed. This may result in losing likes but your account will be more protected and less susceptible to internet trolls.
5. Post it later
“Taking time out of the present moment to post on social media is concerning,” says Dr Harvey. “We often see full tables of people taking pictures of their food and posting them instead of talking, eating their meal and enjoying each other’s company.”
Stop letting your food go cold as you choose between Valencia and Juno, enjoy your meal and the company. If you need to get a shot take the picture and worry about the filter and caption later.
Written by: Dr Ryan Harvey of House Call Doctor.
I was lucky to have the chance to attend the YMCA change agent global gathering, held in Setubal, a town about an hour out of Lisbon in Portugal. Young people (aged between 19 and 34) from all regions of the world came together, with the exception of Canada and the US. It was a chance to re-connect with some familiar faces from the regional training in Japan and get to know another 120 odd energised young people.
It occurred to me pretty early on, just how lucky we are to come from a developed country and even more so, Australia. Especially when I learned, despite rigorous preparations there were change agents that were not able to obtain Visa’s to enter Portugal, thus denied the experience. As a big traveler myself I’m so used to wandering off to whichever country I please, without any significant barriers or fear of crossing borders. This reality is something I must continually remind myself not to take for granted.
This gathering brought a real excitement from the very beginning. When you put young people together from countries like Nigeria, Palestine, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, Armenia, Serbia, Myanmar, Finland, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Madagascar, France…(it goes on - there were 49 countries) there’s this kind of contagious energy, it really feels like your about to be part of something pretty special. I had never experienced this scale of social diversity in my life and I’m embarrassed to say I learned my geography is quite pathetic. There were some countries I wasn’t even certain of which continent they were from… (Like where in the name is Easter Island?!) And yes there really are people living in Madagascar, turns out it’s not just a DreamWorks movie!
The 10 days were amazing - however exhausting at times and not without challenges. The schedule was jam-packed, you were continually thrust in front of new faces, cultures and changing environments. You needed to be always on from about 8am until 10pm every day. You also had to consciously remind yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, away from familiar faces to get to know as many people as possible in order to truly embrace the experience. Living conditions were very cosy, with only a few places to escape and ponder ones thoughts and digest the days learning. On the upside everyone was in the same boat - and there’s nothing like overcoming adversity in order to bring people together, mission accomplished YMCA!
Our days consisted of large group discussions, smaller workshops, excursions to local communities including community service, constant cross cultural learnings and exposure. We visited Parliament in Lisbon, which was an incredible historical building. I can safely report politicians in Portugal appeared to be just as slippery as ours at home. They did the same predictable somersaults and backflips, unable to provide simple answers to simple questions. One minister detoured for so long she finished up looking confused herself.
With 150 young people from all different backgrounds I was impressed by how few topics were left untouched. We delved into a diverse range of global issues, always remaining conscious of cultural sensitivities. Our Why Not campaign issues were right on the mark, clearly relevant to young people across the board, mental health in particular repeatedly surfaced in discussions. We discussed unemployment, sustainability and climate change, human rights (sustainable development goals), civic engagement, immigration and social integration, economic instability, terrorism, political extremism, radicalisation, issues of inclusion/exclusion, social, cultural and sexual diversity.
It is impossible to share the depths of all discussions had, but I do want to mention some particular highlights and eye opening learnings for me personally.
- Hearing from one change agent, whom had migrated to a neighboring country due to conflict and political instability and founded a new YMCA. She proudly noted this YMCA had grown from 20 members to well over a hundred in 5 years, serving a community who was in desperate need of familiarity, refuge and support.
- Discussing the challenges of youth empowerment for young people in parts of Africa. Here, there are countries that culturally abide by respecting your elders without exception. The young people in these countries are at times without a voice entirely, silenced out of respect - yet they still appear overtly optimistic they can make positive change.
- I learned of what’s described as the “African Elephant”. In many parts of Africa, people do not have the freedom to outwardly express their sexuality. This law directly conflicts with the YMCA mission of inclusion and is a frontline reality in parts of Africa every day. I was saddened to hear that there are young people in our world that are legally prohibited from expressing their sexuality and who they want to be in this world. This was yet another reminder to be grateful to have Australia as my home.
- There were many young people that had travelled far and wide to attend this gathering. That had overcame financial strains, social obstacles and physical challenges to be there. One amazing change agent stands out to me in particular for her bravery, she is almost 100% blind and attended without an aid or designated support person. Her courage gave me strength for the entire week.
- We gained many new cultural perspectives as such a diverse group of young people living side by side. The rich history of Easter Island stands out as something to remember, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The Rapa Nui people were the earliest inhabitants over a thousand years ago. Only 45 years ago, their people were enslaved and almost completely wiped out. The change agent from Easter Island lived and breathed this culture, he provided a passionate account of ancestral stories, songs and dances in full costume (see pic). His life ambition is to share the history of his people with the rest of the world, to ensure Easter Island stays on the map and its future is protected.
These change agents bravely stood up and called out some painful realties. They did so whilst remaining loyal and proud of the counties they’d come to represent. They spoke with such humility and courage, optimistic and motivated to provoke change and proudly connected to their YMCA’s. They are invested in getting young people off the streets, feeding the homeless, tackling the rapid rates of suicide and calling out discrimination and violence. Some are committed purely to providing basic human rights - including water, food, safety and shelter. This gave me an unbelievable perspective of what our organisation is capable of on a global scale. The YMCA really is a lifeline for more people than I could’ve ever imagine.
I have enormous respect for the World YMCA, whom ran the entire week. They are a tiny team, running a huge operation on a shoestring, responsible for bringing the world of YMCA’s together.
The world Y staff attended the entire 10 days, including the General Secretary Johan, our own Andrew Mckenzie and Romulo Dantas, whom we call 007 of change agents because of his relentless commitment to the change agent program and young people in general. I saw a lot of our office in their efforts, tirelessly trying to facilitate cooperation and collaboration. Their team graciously welcomed ongoing feedback, willing to change and always find ways to do things better. General Secretary Johan noted “We have a unity now that we have not seen for a long, long time” they too, like us have their sights set on the value of working as one.
The biggest learning for me is hard to describe, it relates to a shift in my perspective. There are people in the world that are experiencing war, discrimination and violence everyday single day. People that live without access to safe water and sanitation and are without a roof over their head. I met some young people that see this first hand in their country far more often than they should. Sometimes in the comfort of the developed world, the nature of these issues can be too big, too overwhelming. It’s easier to compartmentalise problems of this scale and put them somewhere else in our minds. It’s easier sometimes to tell ourselves that these people are different to us, because it puts some distance between the discomfort that nags at our conscience.
The greatest learning for me was the reminder that these people are no different to us at all. The young people that flee one country in order to live a safer existence elsewhere are just the same as young people battling mental health issues in Australia. They are resilient and they are brave. Perhaps their resilience has been tested more than some, but they still love music, wear jeans, laugh and enjoy a drink or two, just the same as any young person. When we distance ourselves from the extremism of these issues, the pain we know exists but seems too farfetched for us to comprehend, we inadvertently distance ourselves from the solutions we can offer the world, the solutions that sit readily in our hands. This was the biggest learning for me. Empowerment is contagious, the small steps made by many of us is the only way the big things can change.
I saw many parallels throughout the week relevant to our Fit For Purpose journey. YMCA Europe’s General Secretary said “Europe’s capacity is huge, but we are not organised”. They too face the same challenges we do - if only we could ALL just get organised! We are the biggest youth organisation in the world. Our widespread global footprint is our greatest weakness as well as our greatest strength. Identifying commonality is how we embark on the path to unity. Unity is the only way we can unleash our collective potential.
I’m incredibly grateful to of had this opportunity. Be the change, Communicate the vision, Inspire action. That’s the job of a change agent. I had the privilege of meeting some incredible young people undeniably committed to this cause.
"Young people are avocado-eating, latte-sipping work bludgers. They have never had it better and should stop their whinging!" It's a rhetoric that's hurting our young people and everybody else too. Soon we will be relying on this so-called egocentric, lazy generation to provide for the growing group of pensioners. (There are 4.5 Australians for every pensioner. In 2055 that number will be down to 2.7 Australians.)
As Joe hockey once pondered: "How are our children going to be able to afford the future?"
Myth #1: Young people don't want to work.
This is simply not true. Young people want more work but the work is just not available.
- - In the 1970's one in thirty young people reported being underemployed. Now it's about one in six. Underemployment has risen for all age groups but much further and faster for young people.
- - Work is more casual and insecure than ever before. Young people want full time, secure jobs like the ones their parents enjoyed.
Myth #2: Young people change jobs all the time!
Also not true! Young people change jobs at exactly the same rate as 20 years ago. It's old people who are changing jobs more often than ever before!
Myth #3: If you want to buy a house young people should just save their money, not spend it on smashed avocado and $4 coffees.
They'll have to do a bit more than that to be able to afford a house. Not only have house prices skyrocketed over the past 20 years, the cost of education has too.
Myth #4: Young people are lazy
Really?? Young people drink less, commit less crimes, fight less, watch less television, read more, volunteer more, use less drugs, smoke less than you.
We have a responsibility to set our young people up for success, not be demeaning to them. Perpetuating these myths about young people entrenches an ever growing inter-generational divide between the old and the young.
For more information about inter generational divide, please read GENERATION LESS by JENIFFER RAYNER. It's great!
Let me know what you think by commenting below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org