A Homeless Generation of Builders

The me, me and me generation is constantly being told how they are the most narcissistic and spoiled generation in the history of humankind. If you use the amount of selfies as your yardstick, then yes, it might make you believe that the youth of today are more self centered than the generations before. But somehow, millennials also happen to be the most altruistic compared to the older generations.
Millennials think it’s important to engage in work that has a positive impact in the community and contribute to the society; they give to charity and think it’s important to help others; they are also active citizens and engage in volunteering. We are a generation that doesn’t only believe in change, but is doing something about it.
We’re at a point in time in history where we have to start cleaning up the mess that others before us have made. We can either ignore that the change needs to happen, and selfishly deny the responsibility. If we want the next generations to have it as well of as we do, we need to accept that we need to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. A lot of young people choose to make a difference. So perhaps it’s better to talk of Millennials as the “we” generations that doesn’t need to be selfishly motivated to act, but can, and will do it for the world.
What does the world need?
We’re perhaps more aware of global problems than ever. It can be quite overwhelming, especially when the scale of some problems, like climate change, can make you feel very small as an individual. Fortunately a lot of different instances are driving change, and it’s easier than ever to get information about every issue. For example the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations give quite a comprehensive answer to what are the problems in the world that need to be tackled.
But what does the world need from you?
You’re probably a 20 something year old university student with no complete degree, yet. You don’t have much experience and little to no money. What can you possibly do to help towards eradicating poverty or hunger? You have the passion, but passion alone is not enough. You also need to think how you can help the most. Of course it would be nice to do something Instagram-worthy that you can showcase to your friends. However, in order to maximize your impact it might be worthwhile thinking twice about how to best utilize your time. Many people want to do something concrete to help, like building a school in a developing country. But if you’re a business student, maybe creating a kick ass marketing plan for an NGO can have more of an impact.
It’s important to consider what’s your personal fit for what you’re going to do. You can maximize your impact by doing what you’re best at. Other things to consider are the scale of the problem you want to tackle, quite simply by contributing to solving bigger problems you can have a bigger impact. Sometimes it can also make sense to look at issues that might neglected and not talked about so often for one reason or another, for example problems related sanitation and hygiene in poor regions.
In the end you can contribute a lot even by being willing to take on seemingly small things. Just interacting with people and sometimes giving them a role model can be enough to make a huge impact on individual people’s lives, and that positive impact can produce a ripple effect that can have unforeseen positive consequences. There’s always a way to contribute to no matter your situation and skill-set. Find an opportunity that can help you maximize your impact, your way to do it for the world.

No risk, no fun!

Blogpost writer: Jakub Wolf

How often do we plan things out in life, only for them to go a completely different way than we anticipated? Of course, then we have to start looking for solutions because otherwise the problem will never be fixed. But, how is it that some people just magically seem to always have the right answer for any situation that arises? Are they magicians? Or some kind of ritualists? Nope. They are risk takers.

Things in life almost never go smoothly and exactly as planned. But there are certain situations, where sometimes what we come up with on the spot is a lot better than what we planned. With all the stress and adrenaline running wild, our brains sometimes really save us. It is those situations that show us, how far we are willing to go for the success of our project.

Risks are a complicated thing. Many people are very comfortable with being safe and plan everything ahead and if it doesn’t work out then ‘oh well’. But what is it that makes a great leader? They are not scared of taking risks, when needed. Of course, this doesn’t mean gambling away your profits because they ‘could triple them’ but it means taking calculated risks, in situations where good leadership is necessary. That is what differentiates a good leader from a great leader.

It was T.S. Eliot, a british poet, who said “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.”  We all have limits, but we usually underestimate them a lot. Whether it’s out of fear or other reasons, we often don’t push ourselves enough to truly reach our limits. Risk taking is pushing. How can you know that your project won’t be even more incredible if you just make that one decision that could potentially have a negative effect?

Robert F. Kennedy said “Only those who dare greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

Leadership is a difficult term to describe. It’s a very personal thing and definitions differ greatly. In AIESEC we have defined it with 4 personality traits: being a world citizen, empowering others, being self aware and last but not least, solution oriented. The last one is vital, since working in a youth led organization can sometimes be very unpredictable, you always have to search for solutions when something doesn’t go your way and taking risks is part of that.

If you feel like you have grown as much as you can and have already become the person that you want to be, that’s fine. But know, that growth only stops when you want it to. Some of us have higher ambitions than that. Taking risks is something worth getting used to, to really test your limits. Be brave and step out of your comfort zone.

Now tell me, are you a risk taker?

Reminder: Do not celebrate this day, champion.

Picture this; it’s the 21st century, there are no hate-crimes, refugees have been integrated in communities around the world and granted access to education, there are women in parliaments where women could not vote before, gender-discrimination in the workplace is a thing of the past, and no woman is forced to marry her rapist based on century old laws in countries by the sea.

Unfortunately, and with great disappointment, it’s easier to write those words down than see them manifest in reality.

You see, there are laws still that force victims of rape to marry their rapists in order to drop charges. There is discrimination still where women are paid less for the same job a man does. There is oppression still when a group of men decide what a woman should or should not do with her body, what health measure she should or should not take. There is ridicule still when a woman is told to shut-up and concern herself with ‘beauty’ or the ‘kitchen’ every time she makes a statement on politics. There is regression still when girls are denied access to education. There is injustice still when a man thinks it’s okay to beat his wife and then tell her he loves her. There is still an unfairness to policies forbidding women from granting their children their nationality and birthrights.

Do not speak of equality because a woman in Europe looks comfortable, satisfied, contained; you do not know her struggle. Do not speak of equality because a woman in the Middle East started her own company, she’s her own boss; you don’t know what prejudice she receives.

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There is a common notion present that diminishes the importance of feminism because of opinions spit onto women’s faces judging their sole demand to be treated human. Equal.

Human and equal shouldn’t be so far fetched, being brave and revolutionary shouldn’t be the standard to be treated rightfully. This International Women’s day, a day for all women, men, and non-binary, young or old to join forces not to celebrate, but to champion basic human rights.

After all, there is nothing to celebrate, yet.

There are only milestones of extraordinary achievements by women who defied gender norms and told the world of prejudice: you can not stop me. Nothing stops a champion.

From AIESEC, to the world:  To achieve peace we must first breed leaders worthy for the world. And this world does not exist in the absence of a basic human right; equality.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme  is #BeBoldForChange; what are you going to do about that?

 

Celebrating ambition transcending gender

There are many theories and interpretations on what causes women to be disadvantaged and unequally represented especially regarding work, but also in other fields of life; A glass ceiling is an invisible obstacle that prevents a woman from advancing in her career, while a discriminatory practice that keeps women at the bottom of the job scale is called a sticky floor. The majority of decision makers are men, both in business and politics. Wage gaps exist even in the most gender equal societies of the world. Women often face many unfair obstacles that make it harder for them to advance their careers, ranging from the pressure of staying home taking care of the children to belittling attitudes that force women to prove that they’re just as capable as their male colleagues.

If you take a look at the “Women’s First” , a list of achievements by women, it’s hard to find areas where women were truly first, and not just first after men. It is quite disheartening that very often to achieve something as a woman is to do something that has already been done by a man. From the standpoint of professional achievement, women have to face being constantly compared to men.

 

Yet, there are women who managed to defy this fate seemingly against all odds. Take for example Marie Curie. Yes, she was the first woman to receive the Nobel prize, but she was also the first ever person to receive a Nobel prize in two different fields, both chemistry and physics. She is one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. cabinet and helped pave way for the participation of women in work life. But Perkins was also shaping policies that influenced the lives of millions of men. She was working for the whole society, both men and women. The one small step for man taken by Armstrong was enabled by the in-flight software developed by Margaret Hamilton, a pioneer in software engineering, and her team. When looking at the young self-made entrepreneurial generation of today of Alaa Murabit, Divya Nag, and the like, one can only guess what they will accomplish in the span of their whole career.

Margaret_Hamilton Margaret Hamilton and the code her team wrote for the Apollo project.

This International women’s day, we celebrate ambitious women; those who broke off from sticky floors, who shattered the glass ceilings with a smash, and who didn’t ask for a permission to excel. Women who are successful in what they do both as women – and just purely as exceptional people.

 

AIESEC has been recognized as one of the most freedom-centered democratic workplaces for 10 consecutive years by WorldBlu. AIESEC’s youth empowerment defies gender norms, through numerous projects focusing on the Sustainable Development Goal 5, and through both young women and men that are represented in the top levels of the organization. They were all chosen for their roles not because or despite their gender, but because they were the best people for the job. AIESEC doesn’t discriminate based on gender.

Everyone should have the opportunity to explore their passions, and strive to become the best version of themselves, no matter their gender. So go for the career that you want, whether that is to defy the prevalent norm, or not, and don’t let others’ expectations hold you back. Dare to believe that you are good enough for it.

How Teaching Vietnamese Children English Impacted Me

Tay Ninh is a small, provincial city that borders Cambodia and Vietnam. It is a gentle and slow city with people who have an affinity for shrimp salt and rice paper.

When I first came to Tay Ninh, I didn’t know what kind of impact I would be making. But I soon quickly realized how much four young foreigners with little fluency in Vietnamese could do to a little community.



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My AIESEC exchange in Vietnam pushed me from becoming a curious, stray traveler to an English school teacher, helping 40 kids learn and giving them the opportunity to discover about other cultures. What I hadn’t realized was how much I learnt along the way.

In Tay Ninh, I learnt how salt is formed, how rice paper is made and how chopsticks are put together. I’ve learnt that kids—no matter their background or classroom—can be naughty, and rewards with music or lollies at the end of the day remedies all. I’ve learnt the importance of an English education, particularly in rural areas where children are often thought of as working in low-income jobs on a farm or at a factory in their future, and that learning English would give them the chance to compete with students in the city, a chance for them to obtain a stable job and therefore a better future.


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There are few foreigners that visit Tay Ninh and even fewer that have the opportunity to connect with the locals of this town. And it is therefore, more difficult to find people or places to help them practice English or to help carry English conversations so that they can learn by doing. But I feel privileged to have been able to be one of those few foreigners and to have been on the other end of those conversations for the past month.


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When I think of my exchange, I think of the wide-eyed, curious children at the orphanage constantly asking me questions about Australia and airplanes and my hometown. I think of the high-schoolers and our conversations on politics, education and how they got away with doing last night’s homework. But most of all, I think of the locals I’ve connected with on a day-to-day basis, the countless lessons on how to live, placing value on the things that you have around you and never taking things for granted. I feel privileged to have indulged in the lives of the people of Tay Ninh. I will always remember fondly of my time spent here.


My name is Linh, I am from Australia and I went on exchange to Vietnam. This is my leadership story, start your own story here: http://opportunities.aiesec.org/



What do you think about Linh’s story? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

A Life-Changing Volunteering Experience in Brazil

When people ask me about my exchange, there’re a thousand moments that come to my mind. But the first thing that I think of, is actually a person. Today I want to tell his story, that left a mark on mine – no doubt that forever.


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This is Emanuel’s story, one of the children with whom I worked.

I frequently noticed that Ema turned away from the rest when he was not paid attention to, and that he got deeply frustrated when a game did not work for him.

One day I asked him “What’s wrong?” in my Portuguese that was not so good back then. He said he would tell me when I was able to speak Portuguese properly. I quickly promised that I was going to make a bigger effort. He stuck a lot to me since that day.

Another day he was not able to play a game but instead of turning away like he used to, he grabbed my hand and led me to a little room in the NGO. He told me that I had learned to speak Portuguese better and that he was going to tell me his story.

He doesn’t have a father, which happens a lot here. He has eleven siblings and he confessed that his mother beat him when he messed something up. “To her, everything that I do is wrong, you know?”. He told me that one day he ran away from home for two days and his mother never realized that he was not there. So he liked a lot being with us (me and other five volunteers from around the world). He liked it when we asked him questions, when we encouraged him to participate – what he liked the most was that we looked at him. THAT WE LOOKED AT HIM!

My eyes filled up with tears. I acknowledged that I deeply admired him. He laughed and invited me to his place. I was not sure about going there because of his story and for fear of the unknown. He insisted day after day until one day I went there with him. His house was the size of a bathroom and no one – and I mean it, no one – paid attention to him. But he was standing there, holding my hand and with a smile from ear to ear. It was then that I understood – what he wanted was for me to see his reality.



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Once he showed me his belly. He had a burn of an iron. He asked me to kiss him so he would get well. I always told him that love cured, I guess he got it from there. When we were leaving, he asked me when i was going back to Argentina. I said that the following day was my last in Brazil.

“Can’t I go with you?”
“No, Ema. But you’ll always be in my heart, and I’ll be in your heart too.”
“Yeah, I know that. Cause you’re my mum!”



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Finally the not so long awaited last day arrived. Ema avoided me all day. He was mad because it was the end of my project. A couple of hours before leaving I looked for him and led him to the backyard. I told him that every time he stared at the sky and sees a tilting star, it was me thinking about him. He looked at me and said: “Every time you see a star that’s still – that are many many more- it’s me thinking about you.” This was the last time we talked. Even today Ema has no idea how much he changed me.

Going on an exchange is not about changing the world, but if the experience changes you then something in the world changes. AIESEC is as stewardesses explain, in the event of turbulence be sure to adjust your own life jacket before helping others, but never ever forget about others. I came back from Recife with much more than what I gave.

Months later I continued volunteering in AIESEC in Rosario, trying to give back something to the organization that had given me so much. During an afternoon in July, a young guy came in and straightforwardly said: “Hey! How are you? I’m Emanuel. I would like to go on exchange as a Global Volunteer next week. Is it possible? I’ve been checking some projects out and I like Giramundo very much. I’ve decided my destination as well, Recife, Brazil. What now?” I was shocked at his confidence, and I must admit, because of his name and the fact that he wanted to work in the same project in the same city I had a week later Emanuel was on his exchange in Recife, Brazil. Once there, he texted me this picture:

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“Can you imagine who did it? I was assigned you NGO! I was just introducing myself and said I was from Argentina when a little boy came running to me and hugged me. He shouted “Just like my mum Aldi” and was so full of joy. Isn’t it crazy that for him Argentina means you? He’s drawing and writing to you now and he wants to do everything in Spanish, so he got me here helping him with the language haha! Huge kiss from here! And Aldi, keep doing what you’re doing! You changed the world for this kid.”

What Ema has no clue about is that he changed my world forever.

My name is Aldana, I’m 22 and I went on exchange to Brazil to do volunteer work as part of Giramundo Project. I worked for achieving social inclusion in a NGO located in a “favela”, with kids from the third sector.

This is my leadership story, start your own story here: http://opportunities.aiesec.org/



What do you think about this amazing story? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for a job…or a future?

Blogpost Writer: Laura Sabrina Al Bast 

There are always going to be challenges; not the right job, indifference and lack of motivation, time. But there will always be opportunities, if we seek them properly and take enough risks to defy every single obstacle that has put the young under the epidemic of unemployment, social unrest and inequality.

The Economist described it best when it called this generation, jobless. It’s true, there are not enough jobs. Not the right kind of jobs at least. The life our parents lived had a set path, the life we live today has been moulded by technology and various waves of economic changes that having a stable career is not and won’t be an option.

Youth today are not looking for jobs, they are looking for a future. There’s a difference.

 


The Economic and Social Council Youth Forum ’17 was concluded yesterday – a platform that was provided for youth to engage in dialogue with member states and share ideas on innovation, collective action and solutions to global problems.


At this forum, a panel was held at the Digital Media Zone moderated by AIESEC Global’s president, Mr. Neils Caszco. The panel’s objective was to unravel the unique challenges of unemployment among young people and highlight the global efforts and innovations to create decent and sustainable jobs for youth.

One particular insight presented by speaker Mr. Christopher Eigeland, a UN Youth Delegate from Australia is that “it’s becoming increasingly clear that a university degree is no longer enough to often get you a job, or a job that you want.” Which is true, the world has evolved, and though great benefits it has brought forth but it has also pushed youth to exert more effort; seeking alternative education and learning mechanisms that would advance both their knowledge and grant them transferrable skills that the market looks for -skills are not taught in a classroom but sought after on-ground.

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The real question isn’t why youth are left sinking in a sea of unemployed futures, but rather how can they swim back up for a breath of opportunity. Simple; open a blog, manage a social media page, seek dialogue with policy-makers in the government, hold immense dedication and perseverance, look for your passion and most importantly, volunteer.

 The future isn’t about how much money you earn and products you consume, but rather how much change you bring forth and experience that consumes you.

Once you work towards the development of yourself and a local community foreign to your own, you realize how the path you thought should be pre-set for you is rather one you set for yourself. In a day and age like this, what we as AIESEC do and why we do it becomes not just relevant, but necessary. Our organization envisions peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential through cross-cultural opportunities for an individual to develop key leadership skills; self-aware, solution oriented to problems that push your innovation to extremes, empowering and open to new experiences, and most importantly, a world citizen constantly interested in issues that could shape the future you seek. So yes, The Economist rightly described our generation as jobless. But what we realise today is that we may be a jobless generation, but we are not futureless.

 

Let’s talk about Poverty

Blogpost Writer: Frans Astala

Poverty is one of the most fundamental problems of humanity.  It is present throughout the world and in contrast to the simplicity of its definition, scarcity or lack of money or possessions, it lacks a simple solution. Today, the young leaders of the world will get together to talk about the eradication of poverty and focusing on the role of youth in it. The 2-day forum, hosted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, will hold one of its foci on the concept of “shared prosperity”; an attempt to bring forth a different way of looking at economic growth, namely from the perspective of a nation’s’ bottom 40%. 

Perhaps one of the most debated aspects of globalization is whether the wealth it is supposed to generate is actually benefitting those who need it the most. Unarguably that is not always the case. They say that what you measure is what you get, so if that holds true, shared prosperity might just be something worth measuring. Whatever the case, it is a step to reframe the discussion on economic growth to take inclusiveness into account.

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But as poverty is still rampant despite the efforts of governments and other powerful instances, what is the role of individual young people in finding solutions, and what is it that we could do to make a change? Even if today the decisions are made by someone else, we have one thing on our side; time. Eventually the biggest decisions will be made by the youth of today.

Meanwhile there are other ways to make an impact. What you can do is to educate yourself about poverty, and expose yourself to the reality where poverty affects the everyday life of people, and then help the in the way you able to do so. Especially in the most prosperous nations it is easy to close your eyes from the reality a large part of people of the world live in.  836  million people live in extreme poverty. One in five people in developing regions live under $ 1.25 a day.  These numbers are high, but in general we are much better at understanding people than we are understanding statistics. Numbers don’t motivate us to act in the same way as people do.

If you’re reading this text the chances are that you’re already interested these issues, but the question also revolves around how can we  get more people to care enough to bring about change. The more people care the louder our voice, as youth, be.

Solutions to these kinds of problems are never simple, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up trying to find solutions to them. So even if you aren’t a big boss in an influential organization, there’s still something everyone can do in their scope, no matter who they are.

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For us in AIESEC, being a leader is also about being a world citizen; it means believing in one’s ability to make a difference, and enjoying taking responsibility for improving the world. This requires you getting out of your comfort zone and standing up for what you believe in, and doing something about it.

You can make a difference. Here.

March, Roar: On Women’s Rights

Blogpost writer: Frans Astala

Over half a million people participated in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. last Saturday. In addition to this, through hundreds of cities around the world, dubbed sister marches were organised, from Australia to Argentina; serving a powerful call for women’s rights. 


Last Monday we discussed the Civil Rights movement in honor of Martin Luther King day, “The bigger a movement grows, the more diverse it will become in thought, and the more opinions you have on what actions should be taken. “


Just as with the Civil Rights movement, it’s good to stop and think for a minute about how we’ve gotten to where we are right now and what has actually changed. The history of the women’s rights movement goes back to the 19th century and in the beginning it’s main goal was to achieve universal suffrage, the right for women to vote in election. The first country that would implement this was New Zealand in 1893.

Looking at the world today, over a hundred years later, we can see that we’ve come far, but unfortunately rather unequally. What the most progressive countries achieved already in the late 19th century, some countries are still struggling with today. 

Moreover, most of the marches were organized in western countries, half of them in the United States. The fact that women are voicing their opinions more in developed countries only highlights the disparities between the rights of women in different parts of the world.

Canada Womens March   Australians Take Part In Women's Marches To Protest Trump Inauguration TBC

But we also know from the countries that have made the most progress that women’s rights are not simply a matter of passing laws. If it was, these marches wouldn’t be happening. Laws are always interpreted by people and what is needed on top of that is the application of law equally and the equal treatment of both genders. African Americans were technically allowed to vote in the United States prior to the civil rights movement, but the rules were applied in a way that made voting practically impossible. 

Equality is also about the attitudes of individual people who make up a society. This is why we also need to raise awareness, and why we need role models. We can ask if it is equality if individuals of both genders technically have the same opportunities, but because of attitudes embedded in a culture they are still treated differently. For this reason it’s important not only to strive to change the institutions and laws, but also to influence the attitudes of individuals.

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AIESEC is an organization that seeks to activate leadership in young people, which is about essentially empowering people. Our vision is to strive for peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential, and humankind encompasses both genders. Though we won’t be able to change the legal system, we are able through cross-cultural exchange to show people that different realities are possible, and thus influencing individuals on a grass-root level through volunteering projects around the world.

And it’s easy, projects managed on raising awareness on issues of gender-equality are a click away. Volunteer here.

Conversations, Leadership, and Youth

Blogpost Writer: Frans Astala


You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.” – James Baldwin


These are the words James Baldwin wrote in a letter to his nephew more than half a century ago, being later published as part of his book The Fire Next Time. He was at the time, of course, referring to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. In the light of recent events and the racial tensions that have grown worse in the United States, the words have an eerie feel to them. If you just changed the amount of years passed would the quote still hold true?

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day celebrated in honor one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century.  A Baptist minister by profession, King ultimately became one of the best known frontmen of the Civil Rights movement demanding equal rights to everyone during a time when racial segregation was still the norm.

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However, the Civil Rights movement was more than only one man. How successful was it in achieving its goals? Recently the issues that gave birth to this movement have resurfaced in the public discourse, manifesting itself as a new public movement, Black Lives Matter.

In some ways you could look at the Black Lives Matter movement as a reincarnation of the Civil Rights movement. Both movements stand against the injustices of racism, both of them mobilize and unify, but also divide people. The bigger a movement grows, the more diverse it will become in thought, and the more opinions you have on what actions should be taken. Some say that today the issue has become politicised but most people agree that we should be able to talk about human rights without politics.

Even with all the ambiguity, one thing is for sure; the young generations want to see change and are ready to make it happen. The question is how to best channel all that will into something that will create impact. Everyone wants to voice their opinions but who is actually willing to sit down and listen? With the polarization we have today this is undoubtedly what the world needs.

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As a youth movement that wants to create a positive impact in the world, AIESEC is always looking for ways to address current issues through different initiatives. The YouthSpeak Forum, for example, is about providing a space for young people to discuss relevant issues in an inclusive way, bringing together many stakeholders, ranging from students to businesses, and trying to find solutions to challenging problems as one.

Times seem not to be favouring working together, but in the end change can only be brought through unity. Even if it’s hard sometimes, maybe for the sake of having a constructive conversation it is good to try to see beyond what you think a person represents, and actually listen to what they have to say. We can never know what mr. King would’ve said about what’s happening today, but his words are still relevant.


“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.