A special feature by Little Voice’s author Amanda Bernardo after attending the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Before sharing my experience, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who supported my One Young World journey, who donated to my delegation fee, and who encouraged me to raise my voice and chase my dreams. Thank you!
It’s hard to sum up everything I’ve seen, heard and felt over these past few days. There’s been a lot to digest. It’s even harder to think where do I go from here?
As a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, I attended One Young World with a particular interest in how I could grow Little Voice to support the causes I believe in. I wanted to learn how I could use my platform to truly lead on the causes I am passionate about, specifically mental health and gender equality. I also wanted to learn what more could I do to make a difference.
I didn’t know what to expect from this Summit, but what I never imagined was that I would learn more about myself in four days than I had in the last year.
Here’s a little glimpse of the day to day summaries I tried to jot down throughout the Summit.
Pre-Summit: The Home Run
Today meant so much to me! It was a chance for me to run five km alongside many delegates that will be with me this week at One Young World! I got to meet people from South Africa, Brazil, England, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States; the list goes on and on!
The best part of this week is that I will be surrounded by likeminded young leaders whose passion is so contagious! Together, we will all be inspiring each other to do more, make a difference and change the world forever! I am so extremely fortunate to be part of this amazing community!
The Home Run was the brain child of Ottawa’s One Young World Katie Dolan, which raised funds in support of 613 Refugees.
Day One: Opening Ceremony
One Young World (OYW) kicked off on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 with Kate Robertson and David Jones, founders of OYW. The opening ceremony included a performance by Orkidstra, a children’s orchestra with a mission to empower children through the universal language of music, and a special welcome address from Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson. OYW Counsellors were introduced onto the stage as 196 members of the delegation, each bearing the national flag of their country, took part in the symbolic flag laying ceremony. Finally, Kofi Annan, Sir Bob Geldof, Professor Muhammad Yunus and Mary Robinson delivered keynote speeches that left everyone motivated for the days to come.
Where do I begin? What an amazing first day at One Young World! Before attending OYW, I was forewarned that I would feel extremely overwhelmed throughout the Summit. After today’s opening ceremony, I feel it!
Today’s opening ceremony was absolutely amazing. We were introduced to this year’s entire panel of leaders who will be speaking to us these next few days! I am personally very excited to hear from Emma Watson tomorrow!
The speeches were beyond moving. We all know the major issues our world is battling and yet, sometimes it takes Summits like these to really put it all in perspective. Sir Bob Geldof’s speech definitely was eye opening because of how blunt his message was, and blunt is good when you need to get a point home.
On day one of the Summit, I got to play tourist in my own home with a new friend I had made all the way from London, England. I got to meet delegates from over 196 countries and got to hear first hand from those that are leading the way for many of today’s global issues.
But more than that, on day one I got to ask myself an important question that remained with me throughout the Summit: What was my purpose?
Day Two: Sessions Begin
After we celebrated the start to our Summit, it was time to sit down and discuss the global issues we are facing across the globe. Day two of the Summit focused on topic such as building a positive world, extremism, peace and security, climate justice, poverty, unemployment, net carbon emissions, sustainable development, technology in relation to the environment, gender equality, engaging the next generation of change makers, renewable energy, and human rights.
There’s absolutely no way I could do today justice with a quick summary but I’m going to try! Today was our first official day hearing from counsellors and delegates. We discussed topics from extremism to climate change, and social entrepreneurship to human rights. The list of speakers was absolutely remarkable. Delegates who had applied also had a chance to share the stage and I was able to get a first hand perspective on many issues where I am so far removed that I was grateful to hear and learn from them. They empowered me to raise my voice, to create a change, and more importantly to remember. I will forever remember their stories and calls to action and hope that next year I’ll have the courage to present my own presentation perhaps at OYW in Colombia! We shall see!
One area I’ve been following from the sidelines has been gender equality, a topic I am very passionate about. It was a life changing experience to hear from Emma Watson and many delegates on their initiatives to lead a world that promotes gender equity universally. This is an issue that is heavily rooted in many if not all global issues. The solution, however, starts with you.
I know many of you have been following me on Twitter and these posts here on Facebook so, as you read this I hope I can call you to act too. You don’t need to tackle an entire global issue but even just a small part of it. Together, small action after small action we can and will change the world. I promise you I will make a difference not only in my community and country but one day the world and I know you are capable of doing the same!
Day Three: The Power of Collaboration
As the Summit continued, the days became more and more intense. We were not only hearing from our counsellors but from delegates just like us. These delegate speakers really impacted me on a level that is hard to explain. We are not blind to the issues around us; we see them every day on the news, social media, etc… but when you hear first hand how someone has seen their family murdered, how someone’s island is on the brink of extinction, or how reconciliation continues to challenge Indigenous youth, things become real very fast.
It is in these moments that you begin to question how you, as a global citizen, are helping to support those in need around the world. It is in these moments that you really start to question your life and examine how you are contributing to these issues and more importantly, how you can help solve them.
Day two of the Summit focused on the power of collaboration, transformation and innovation in Latin America, the peace and reconciliation process in Canada, inequality and the global economy, global business, social consciousness, and preventing pitiful prisons for the wild.
It was a long day with lots and lots of information! It’s hard to process everything we are learning because there is just so much going on in the world. I’m really enjoying hearing from other delegates after each session and seeing how they are reacting to everything we are part of.
Today, we heard from the PM’s Parliamentary Secretary, the Queen’s young leaders, former Latin American Presidents, Senator Sinclair on reconciliation, Gary White CEO of water.org, Dambisa Moyo global economist, and so much more! Highlights definitely included hearing from the one and only Cher and Jon Landau, producer of Avatar!
We then broke out into external sessions across the city where my team developed a sustainable framework for charities and not-for-profits.
1300 delegates then took over Parliament Hill for a special sound and light show.
One of my favourite parts about day three was the home dinners. Canadians from all across Ottawa opened their homes to serve us dinner; it was so special! I was grateful to have been hosted by Caroline Hanna with uOttawa who prepared such a special dinner that myself and delegates from Venezuela, the United States, and Indonesia enjoyed.
Day Four: Is it really over?
It was extremely bittersweet to wake up on October 1st knowing that the last day of the One Young World Summit was here. I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted to stay surrounded by these powerful, inspirational and positive young individuals who transformed my life forever in the span of such a short period of time.
With everyone soon leaving, it meant that the part where we listen would soon be over and the time for us to act would soon begin.
On our last day, delegates discussed government policy, ethics in the context of technological advancement, mental health, the refugee crisis, impactful leadership, education, sport for good, and disabilities.
One of the most moving topics of the day, for me personally, was on mental health. As many of you know I am a mental health advocate, particularly around Alzheimer’s disease and more recently around depression, anxiety and suicide. Having lost someone last year on this very topic, it was very difficult to sit there without tears running down my face. Hussein Manawer’s poem left the entire audience speechless.
I was also extremely moved by Oscar Anderson, a disability activist who in the simplest of words told us what needed to be done: Take courage and see us as clearly as we see you.
With all the sessions complete, it was time to celebrate how far we all had come over the course of this Summit. With One Young World heading to Bogotá, Colombia in 2017, we united behind Colombia’s first peace accord and learned more about this beautiful country.
My voice is gone but my drive to create an impact in the world has certainly multiplied! I cannot believe this experience has come to an end. One Young World has truly changed my life. Now, I know that probably sounds cliche but if you heard the stories, met the people, and experienced the week that I did, I am certain you’d say the same.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into this; I knew I’d be learning about so many global issues around the world but I didn’t think I’d also be learning more about myself. OYW really helped me to see the kind of person I want to be in this world, the kind of leader I want to be for the future, and the kind of global citizen that doesn’t just follow world issues but rather tries to take action.
I also truly saw how privileged I am to have food in my stomach, a roof over my head, and a country that doesn’t persecute me for my beliefs. This was a daily reality for some of the people I met. It was a wake up call to say the least.
There is SO much I know want to accomplish and with this new community of global ambassadors, I feel like I can! I am so honoured to be part of the graduating delegation for 2016 and I cannot wait to head back next year in Colombia – I hope!
If you can take away anything from my experience, I hope you take away this: No action is ever too small to change the world.
Finally, the day ended with each delegate making a commitment that would be added to the thousands of others made throughout the last seven years of One Young World.
I promised to continue to raise awareness around mental health and to do more for those countries that are suffering in conflict.
Where do I go from here?
With the One Young World community behind me, I have high hopes for what I am capable of accomplishing in the months and years to come. I learned so much about what is going on in the world around me that I cannot simply turn a blind eye to it now.
One thing I realized is that many of the delegates at One Young World are pursuing all these amazing ideas for change at the side of our desks. We may not get enough sleep and may seem crazy for following our dreams, but that’s what being a change maker is all about. There is no excuse for why we cannot make a difference. If there is one thing I took away from this conference is that the youth can and will change the world.
So, where does Amanda Bernardo go from here?
- I hope to stay in contact with all the friends I made from around the world and to work together in our shared pursuits.
- I am motivated more than ever to transform Little Voice into the social business I dreamed of it being by strengthening the partnerships and resources behind this project to really make an impact in communities across Canada, and hopefully soon, around the world!
- My voice will only get louder from here. I am committed to raising awareness around mental health and gender equality and will push myself to find new ways to make this happen.
- I want children, youth and even people my age to believe that we are a force to be reckoned with. I am committed to being a young leader in my community and will continue my mentorship efforts to help others become young leaders too!
- We all have different talents, I feel like public speaking and writing are my own. I have a lot of projects underway in terms of my writing and I am committed to launching those now more than ever.
- Bogotá, see in you in 2017!
A BIG thank you to my home city Ottawa for making this Summit possible and to Kate Robertson and David Jones for believing in the power of youth.
As Emma Watson explained, thank you for helping me find my tribe – a community of artists, spiritual teachers, dreamers, thinkers, doers, who work together and support each other!