Friday, August 7, 2009

WYA Africa DDD

WYA Africa finished it's Decade of Dignity and Development Conference entitled Peace: Our Responsibility for Integral Development yesterday. The conference was a great success and we had participants from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, we even had one participant from Sierra Leone arrive today - a bit late but he still gets to meet some of the others.

The speakers were all very interesting, and all focused on the responsibility of the participants to take these ideas back to their countries and make them a reality rather than blaming leaders or waiting for others to take the lead. The participants asked tough questions, and there was a real sense of urgency and importance behind each participant and their thoughts. They are all passionate about developing Africa and bringing their countries to be key players at the international level and want to begin working towards that goal now.

What was most incredible is the huge responsibility each one has willingly taken on himself. As the participants spoke with each other they discussed plans to be presidents of their countries someday, to be Africa's leading entrepreneurs, and to rid their countries of corruption through whatever field they are engaged in. When I think of what other youth are engaged in, and the conversations they are having I just hope that these youth are given the opportunities to make their dreams reality - as they certainly have the talents and desires to do so.

The second day of the conference we had a cultural night. A children's choir performed for us, all the children are from a nearby slum and were selected on the basis of musical talent - they initially came for the food and have since perfomed in South Korea and also at the UN. They also perfomed some traditional Kenyan songs and dances for us and were so adorable. Hezbon's sister sings in the choir so they are clearly a talented family!

The next performance was a troupe of dancers and acrobats also from a nearby slum. The dancers were great and the acrobats were incredible. I'm still in shock when I think of what they did. They performed pyramids, handstands, and other structures off each other for the longest time. They did flips, one swallowed fire, just amazing... What was really most remarkable was the duration of time. They did things I've seen in pictures before, but repeatedly! I kept thinking surely it was over, that they must be exhausted and the show continued. The other thing that was so remarkable was the floor they performed on was slippery and they had no safety anything - they would run and jump onto each other's shoulders and into the arms of someone already on top of another person. If they fell, that would be it. I hope someday they become world famous - they have as much talent as some of the performers in Cirque de Soleil.

I also had one Ultimate player join me from Kampala, Uganda to teach Ultimate to the participants. We did two sessions in the afternoons after the conference and finished with a game the final day. Each of the participants received a frisbee to take home with them, and most of them are quite addicted to the game. We've already heard from one participant who had to leave early and didn't take a disc that he misses playing and is wondering how he can get a disc. Many others are excited to return home and either join an existing team or start one of their own :)

What was most exciting was to see the mastery of the game. The first game we played was full chaos with people running around, double teaming and messy throws. By the final game, they were calling their own fouls, arbitrating the game themselves, marking each other and had some flow. We even had a few participants who truly understood Spirit of the Game and Good Governance who would call fouls on themselves as they felt it was necessary.

We had lunch with a few remaining participants today, and some are staying at the WYA office. The conversations they are having are so inspiring. Last night, a few were speaking of how they dream that someday all world leaders, entrepreneurs and people in positions of power will be WYA Alumni, and another seconded that someday in the future every single young person will be a member of WYA and learning how to live and treat others with dignity. They were also discussing their countries' pasts, inclusive of democracy, genocide, conflict, etc and discussing how the way forward consisted of each leader, but more importantly each youth learning about dignity and transforming their countries from that perspective. WYA and Africa have a great future together, I am excited to see what each of these people will do even within the next few years!

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