When the Vancouver Branch Board decided to have a fund raising event, we had no idea that it would turn into an energetic and enthusiastic morning of discussion and information gathering on most, if not all millennium development goals of the United Nations. It was indeed appropriate and timely that the partners who joined us at our ‘Think Global, Link Local’ networking breakfast on March 14th 2014 are activists at the local and global level. The issues they pursue include poverty reduction, rights of women and children, lack of adequate shelter, basic human and civil rights, rights issues of exclusion due to disability, sexuality and race while promoting equality, education and environmental sustainability.
Twenty-nine organizations and over three hundred youth turned out to a delicious Dim Sum meal at Floata Seafood Restaurant where accomplished professionals shared lessons learned in their own quest for social change with enthusiastic and curious young people keen to learn and connect.
The morning started with a keynote address by David Eby, MLA who shared his own journey from being a student to becoming a lawyer, an advocate at a local N.G.O, head of the BC Civil Liberties Association and now an elected official. He emphasized the value of volunteering and networking in the local communities, which was key to his own success. David’s human rights work during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics had earned him the UNA Vancouver’s ‘Renate Shearer Award for Human Rights’. Thousands of volunteers were trained to monitor and report how the police and other authorities treated local residents marginalized by socio-economics and homelessness.
The representatives of the organizations present at the breakfast readily shared information about issues they deal with on a daily basis, the structures they have developed to provide services, and the volunteer and career opportunities they can offer local youth. These community leaders shared their own personal journeys of finding the social change work they are currently engaged in, the kind of education and skills needed to be employed by their organizations, challenges they face and advice for any one who is interested in starting a career in their fields.
I observed the ease with which the youth participated and asked questions of substance, quizzing the agency representatives for details during the session. The honest and open responses by the representatives made it possible for the youth to understand the challenges of transitioning from being a student to an employee and then on to becoming a satisfied change agents themselves.
The informality of the session itself made it an ideal venue for the youth to seek information, and clarify issues with experts at the table. The organizers of the networking event allowed the youth to move around the room twice so that they had opportunities to meet and talk with at least two other experts in addition to the one they started out with.
I must also note the skills of the two moderators namely Courtney Szto and Dara Parker, Co-Presidents of UNAC Vancouver who facilitated the event with the support of Carla McIvor and Joy Ruiz who attended to all the details creating a calm and friendly atmosphere for the guests with the help of several other board members.
The feedback from the attendees was overwhelming positive. Some suggested that the morning should have been longer, and others requested that we hold Think Global, Link Local every year. We even received an offer for joint sponsorship of future events and some attendees were interested in joining the UNA Board. Informal testimonials offered by the participants and organizational representatives indicate success with the session and the strength of this kind of outreach to the youth community. Naturally, a full evaluation by the board of the lessons learned will come soon enough.
The fact that this event raised some funds for local programming is an other successful aspect of this very successful first attempt to reach out to the youth to help them “Think Global, Link Local”.
I, for one, look forward to repeating of this type of engagement with youth and connecting with partners in our communities to discuss local and global social justice issues. Currently, at the United Nations there are discussions going on about post 2015 plans to arrive at Sustainable Development Goals and it is imperative that our youth get involved with these global issues. The future of this generation of youth and their children depend entirely on the actions we take now to save the planet and all of us in it .We are all interconnected and interdependent with nature. Together we must find solutions to create a sustainable Canada and the world. We owe it to the youth of today.
Report by UNAC-Vancouver Board Member Patsy George
To see more photos from the event check out our Facebook gallery here.