My One Young World journey started on the 3rd of October 2017, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had watched videos of previous summits and talked to previous delegates, but that didn’t prepare me for what I was about to experience!
My flight out of Bathurst departed at 8am, I disembarked at Sydney and caught the terminal bus to the international terminal where I checked in and made my way through customs. This process wasn’t as scary as I had imagined it to be! It wasn’t until 11am that I caught up with Francis at our international gate. We were super pumped for our flight to Santiago, Chile as this was our layover but just as we were about to board an announcement sounded informing us that there was a delay to our flight due to engineering issues. Francis and I quickly calculated the time of the flight and the time difference between Sydney, Santiago and Bogota and we figured that our connecting flight wasn’t affected. But this announcement about being delayed kept sounding throughout the afternoon, and it came to the point where we had missed out connecting flight. After talking to the airport staff, we were informed that we must catch our flight to Chile, and while we are in the air they will inform us of our next flight to Bogota, Colombia. Honestly this was the most terrifying moment, especially since I like being organised and on time for literally everything! It was a surreal feeling being aboard a Boeing 747 plane, it still hadn’t kicked in that I was on my way to an event that would change my life. Upon arrival to Santiago, Chile (13 hours later), an airport staff member gave us our next flight booking, and we discovered that we had been entirely rebooked onto an airline called Avianca and we were scheduled to depart at 4:30pm that afternoon, but due to more delays, we didn’t depart until 6:30pm. Landing in Bogota, I’ve never been so excited in my life, I was just about to start an unknown adventure. After some confusion at immigration, we made our way down to baggage collection where we discovered that Francis’s luggage hadn’t been transited properly and we spent an hour filling out paperwork before making our way through customs and meeting up with the transport team from One Young World. I cannot express the relief I felt when we met up with the other guys, the last 30ish hours had been a total curse, I quote “what can go wrong, will go wrong…”. Despite all the hassle, stress and confusion we both remained positive and still smiled at the end of the day.
Despite how tired we were from our previous day of travelling, we were up, ready and had breakfast by 7am and now it was time to start networking and expand our connections. At midday, we caught the shuttle bus to the Agora Convention Centre where we completed our registration and explored where we were about to spend the next week! Shortly after this, I had to catch another shuttle bus with the other flag bearers from 196 countries to the Simon Bolivar Plaza. During this bus trip, I was like a little kid with their head in the window of a candy store, I loved seeing all the different types of buildings, how their roads worked and how the people in the city interacted. By mistake, the bus driver dropped us off at the wrong point, and we had to walk a couple of blocks through the city of Bogota to the Plaza, we eventually made it! In-between rehearsals, it was my opportunity to start making connections by myself, let’s be honest, that was super scary.
The Opening Ceremony was fantastic, we heard from Mayor Penalosa, President Juan Manuel Santos, Laureate Tawakkol Karman, Kofi Annan, Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Sir Bob Geldof. It was during this time, that I participated in the flag ceremony and carried the Australian flag onto the stage. I remember shaking uncontrollably, I’m going to blame it on the temperature because it was freezing, but I was so nervous to get up in front of thousands of people and represent Australia. Now that I look back on it, it was such an honour and I hope that I gave our nation justice and made everyone proud.
Due to my participation in the flag ceremony, Francis and I ended up sitting separately during the Opening Ceremony, which caused a lot of confusion as everyone rushed to have dinner and catch the bus back to the designed hotels. But thankfully, I ran into the Australian Coordinating Ambassador Dan Ryan who described Francis and I as “two peas in a pod”, it was very shortly after this that both Francis and I found each other and we made our way back to our hotel.
After the Opening Ceremony, Francis had planned to call Qantas to help track down his luggage, he went to ask reception for the use of the phone (due to no international credit) and they had informed him that it had been sitting in the hotel storage all afternoon… He was over the moon, and being close to midnight I was so ready for bed but thankful that he had clean clothes for the coming week!
Now that the summit was officially open, I was super excited to start listening to all the counsellors, delegates and various other well-known people address issues that are affecting the world that we live in.
Our day started bright and early with an 8:45am session on poverty alleviation and economic development, it was in this session that we learnt about creating sustainable business models, but a highlight was the Innovating the 3 Zeros presentation (zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions) which was presented by Lamiya Morshed, Hans Reitz and Professor Muhammad Yunus. The main goal in innovating these 3 zeros is to leave nobody behind, a very strong message that Professor Yunus kept pushing.
Next came presentations with the topic, Ending Corruption which addressed corruption undermining democracy, businesses taking the lead on ethics, having the freedom to tell the truth and making sense of corruption. A cool video we watched was about how 4 minutes of eye contact with a stranger while sitting there in silence can help them form a bond that is as if they have known each other for years.
The highlight of this day was the Social Media for Change session, and the presentation Bee the Change by Rossana Bee. She highlighted how she uses her 18 million viewers to focus on social impact and positive change, using her story of struggling with mental health and sexual abuse she emphasised the value of self-love. One quote that has stuck with me is, “Don’t allow circumstances to change you and prevent you from being happy… no one can take your fire to change the world… but you need time and the right place to allow yourself to put the pieces back together”
During the evening, we heard sessions on the Environment and the Future of Philanthropy. What I found interesting was the presentation, Lumos- Bringing Light to Children in the Darkest of Places which is a charity founded by J.K Rowling (huge Harry Potter fan here!) that works with children in homes and orphanages because they suffer from physical and emotional harm. It made you realise how lucky and privileged we are living in a developed country.
For dinner, the delegates were bused to a groovy restaurant where we were fed a traditional Colombian dinner, here we met with some locals who were awesome they were so friendly and caring. Being so exhausted from the lack of hours of sleep and the overwhelming day at the summit we caught the early bus back to the hotel (10:30pm early…) where both Francis and I actually had a decent sleep.
The third day of the summit was quite an emotional day, as all the presentations were on topics that were eye-opening, they made you question why you’re sitting in that room and wonder what your purpose in life is. The topics included using business as a force of good, raising minority voices, leadership and government, education and disability.
Using business as a force of good taught us to hold on to our responsibilities because a company has invested in you, which requires you to focus on your passions, energy and determination. Three steps of action to hold on to your responsibilities include 1. Stop searching and start creating; reach out in your communities to improve or find the solution to a problem. 2. Find the skills; increasing your usefulness will assist you in creating solutions. 3. Levitate the One Young World brand; we’re all in this together and nobody gets left behind.
A take away that individuals can apply to everyday life is “find like-minded people because they’ll open doors that you didn’t think existed.” This can apply to studying, climbing a career ladder and just relationships in general.
In the leadership and government speeches, I was non-stop crying as topics of female genital manipulation, the rule-of-law and corruption, woman’s rights, sexual assault and LGBTQI+ were discussed. It was this session that made me realise how much we take for granted in Australia, one quote that I will never forget is “If you are silent… you’re okay with the consequences of the unknown.”. Did you know: the Indian government has a 12% tax on female sanitary napkins, which forces women to use ash, sand or plastic because they cannot afford the product.
The main session that I could develop ideas from to benefit PCYC was the education presentations, various ideas consist of getting our brightest kids to encourage others to study, careers advisory, and emotion coping skills. To improve our education system, collectively we must learn from our experiences, learn from asking questions and our failure and teach leadership and communication.
The last day of the summit was the first One Young World Peace Day, where speakers such as Kofi Annan and the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon joined us.
I learnt from one of the most inspirational individuals Kofi Annan, that the three elements to build peace if 1. Trust is essential to overcome conflict. 2. We must be inclusive. 3. “Voices of victims must be heard, and heard clearly”
A delegate from the UK Connor, gave us three key elements to create change, 1. Passion; build those in your community with the same drives and connect with these individuals. 2. Courage; work collectively, bring others and trust. 3. Sharing; create spaces to share ideas, visions and stories.
On a lighter one, in the Sport for Peace presentation a story was shared where at the Seoul 1988 Olympics a flock of doves were released to symbolise peace, but they lit the torch at the same time and the flock of doves were burnt in front of everyone attending the Opening Ceremony.
At the end of the day, the delegates were bused to the Simon Bolivia Park where the Closing Ceremony was held. It was here that we contributed to the ball of commitments, this is where we wrote on a piece of ribbon our commitment for when we leave the summit and we tied all our ribbons together and tied them around the existing ribbons from the previous summits. Also, the One Young World baton was handed over to the Netherlands cohort for 2018.
Our flights home was used as a time to reflect and to bounce ideas off each other, to talk about our feelings towards different topics, and to catch up on missed sleep!
We did some shopping in the Bogota airport, grabbed some dinner at Chile and breakfast in New Zealand, the time difference between the various places really screwed with your head. Exhausted was an understatement, we looked like a bus had hit us.
Upon our arrival to Australia, it was sad that we left the summit but touching homeland was so motivating because we can discuss and start implementing our ideas to make change for companies, the world but most importantly ourselves.
One Young World was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I will never take for granted. It was truly an eyeopener as I learnt more deeply about global issues that are affecting individuals and their families, in Australia we are lucky and now we should make actions to change the world and to help improve the conditions of individuals who are struggling.
The summit has taught me that young people are more capable than what we can see, that the task always seems impossible until it is done and that it is not about what you say, it is about what you do.