Thursday, July 23, 2009

WYAAP Decade of Dignity and Development Conference!

Today is day 2 of WYA Asia Pacific's Decade of Dignity and Development conference celebrating WYA's 10 years of existence with the specific theme of Good Governance and Marginalisation. There are 35 participants from the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil.  Speakers are from India, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. The conference venue is a center a few hours outside of Manila near a famous volcano within a lake - Taal volcano.  

It is a beautiful area and a beautiful center. The facilities are incredible; nice rooms, sound system, lounge area, great food and even a videoke room.  Most of the participants took advantage of the videoke lounge last night! They're really great, as Ren said, they're so quiet during the conferences and then very active and spontaneous participants during team dynamic activities. It truly is an Asian conference as English is not the first language to a single participant yet it is the working language of everyone here.  So we have participants communicating with English they are uncertain about with other participants who are also uncomfortable speaking English - yet they're all soaking in the information and becoming friends.

The speakers come from a variety of backgrounds.  We had a representative from Gawad Kalinga, Ashoka, a woman from Mindanao speaking about her organisation which promotes peace, professors on various topics, a humanitarian and even someone presenting on sustainable (and profitable) sanitation projects for the destitute poor, among others. The schedule is online if you're curious... The speaker for sanitation has an incredible organisation called Sulabh International which utilizes technology to provide clean and energy efficient toilets to poor communities and also offers jobs to former women scavengers in the process.  They've instituted training opportunities and rehabilitation programs for the women to move into society.

Yesterday evening we had a bonfire and played some games.  The penalty for losing the game was that one participant had to bum-spell World Youth Alliance  - in cursive! Very entertaining... and another participant sang "Heal the World" disco style while periodically attempting to moonwalk - it was the only Michael Jackson signature move he could think of...

Tonight we had a cultural night and showed the videos each region prepared for WYA's 10th Anniversary.  One of Gabby's friends is a professional singer and performed a number of traditional Filipino songs, musicals, broadway and even opera for us.  She has a beautiful voice.  Ren was MCing the night.  We've discussed that she doesn't find herself funny, even though she is incapable of speaking without cracking whole crowds up.  Later in the evening, as she spoke of what motivates her and Des to keep working at the most difficult times, which are the youth who are working alongside and the ones we still need to reach out to, she choked up.  She signalled to Des to help, but only choked up more with her partner at her side. I stole the mic for a few moments to allow her to recover.

It was powerful for all the participants to see someone they all admire, and who is so upbeat have an emotional moment about what all this means to her.  Many of them left the center speaking about how strong of an impact it made on them.

We have one and a half days left, I hope the conference continues to be as successful as it is so far!