This summer, participants in WorldOregon’s Young Leaders in Action (YLA) program had the opportunity to meet with two groups of international visitors participating in youth exchange programs hosted by WorldOregon.
On July 25, YLA came together with youth from the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), and Muslim Educational Trust’s Youth Ambassadors Club for a roundtable discussion on youth leadership. The group discussed the challenges facing youth in Iraq and the U.S., the leaders they admire, and how youth can come together to affect change from where they sit.
The central question of the discussion became, “how do we change the minds of people who don’t want to listen?” There was a great sense of connection as all groups shared a common feeling that they are fighting against daunting systems of power. The youth shared inspiring words of encouragement, and a renewed conviction that we must to continue working together towards real change on a global level.
On August 13, the group met with visiting young leaders from Benin, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Togo who were visiting Portland through the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP). After a dance party introduction, the group talked about how environmental issues affect us on a personal level, at the community level, and at the global level, and what we can do at each of those levels to affect change.
There were some powerful similarities and differences on these topics: the PAYLP students most often mentioned environmental pollution and litter as local challenges, while the YLA students voiced concern about wildfires and air pollution, yet both groups identified education and awareness-raising as main strategies that youth can employ to address these issues in their communities.
Through these experiences, the Young Leaders in Action participants gained perspectives on the issues facing youth around the world, and what their peers are doing to take action-- this inspiration will hopefully be carried forward as the YLA participants begin developing their own internationally-focused leadership projects.