When I first came home and told my parents I’d been selected to represent the University at One Young World in Colombia I was expecting a bit more of an excited response. Instead, I was bombarded with health and safety questions and statistics of British tourists being kidnapped! With the 'older' generation, the stereotypes surrounding Colombia are evident with memories of drug cartels, violence and political instability.
It wasn't until I sat my parents down and half forced them to watch the BBC documentary 'Simon Reeves in Colombia' and educated them on recent peace deals, that their views shifted and they became genuinely excited for my journey. P.s I really do recommend watching the documentary!
Without going into too much 'educational detail' for fear of sounding like a text book, I just want to give a quick overview on some of the history of Colombia and share the journey they have undertaken to become a symbol of peace and hope for years to come.
Many of you may have received your Colombian history lesson from watching the popular Netflix series ‘Narcos’, however as an overview Colombia has been through the following;
In the mid 1960’s A leftwing group called FARC started fighting the Columbian government for rights for the poor. To fund weapons for the war they were involved with drug trafficking which made them the money to finance the war. The civil war ended up lasting for 52 years, within this time an estimated 220,000 people were killed, 5 million civilians forced from their homes, and 8,000 minors disappeared. On the 23rd June 2016 FARC rebels and the government signed a ceasefire deal to end the conflict and peace was agreed.
The OYW opening ceremony is being held at the Simón Bolívar Plaza which is a very iconic place for the historic peace treaty. I believe that the steps the Columbian government took to end the conflict and achieve peace is inspirational and highlights an example of how stability can be maintained in the most unlikely places.
With only one week left before my flight to Columbia to attend OYW I am getting more excited each day to being surrounded by like-minded people and listening to some of the world’s most inspirational speakers.
Colombia’s journey although still early doors represent a beacon of hope for peace and this symbolism shows that social change is possible even in places where it may seem most unlikely. This echo’s OYW beliefs and values which highlight social progress internationally.
And so, the countdown continues…
Thanks for reading!
I thought it’s about time I introduced myself more officially and wrote a blog about my experience so far with One Young World. I’ve recently been selected by the University of Bath to be a delegate for this year’s summit in Bogotá Colombia. I’m Sophie a student about to start my second year studying International Development with Economics, I’ve always been interested in social sciences and using numbers and statistics to improve and develop social circumstances so my degree offered a perfect combination of the two. Honestly this time last year I had never heard of OYW or what they do, and now it’s all I think about. I attended Emma's summit last year in Bath and was hooked on the concept, programme and OYW community.
The University of Bath has been generous enough to commit to funding another delegate for this year through the department of social sciences and humanities, and after a vigorous application and interview process, I was lucky enough to be selected. The whole department has been incredibly supportive since and helped gather together ideas for my return (further suggestions are always welcome!), booking flights and ordering business cards! The whole process has happened so quickly and its crazy to think that in 50 days I’ll be off to Colombia.
One Young World have also held some fantastic events throughout the year in the build-up to the conference, some of which I have been fortunate enough to attend. The latest event was a speaker series in London, held in partnership with The House of St Barnard's. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness on the topic of homelessness, something I am particularly passionate about since volunteering with the homeless charity 'Crisis at Christmas' since the age of 16. The speakers were incredibly inspirational and very professional and polished with their presentations.
Tala Dajani kicked off the event and explained to those not so familiar with OYW, about how it works, and why tackling homelessness is a crucial part in helping to achieve positive social development. Then Sal Mohammed the CEO of connected homelessness took the stage, highlighting the role that technology can play in minimising extreme homelessness by increasing access to resources. He presented innovative ideas such as apps for those in need to help locate the nearest food bank or hostel in the region. New technology is also being developed and implemented, allowing electronic donations via bank cards directly to the homeless. This creativity and passion is replicated by OYW, so together we can encourage and promote social change to benefit those in need #leadthechange.
The following speakers took a different approach to their presentations, having both been homeless themselves Sophie Maxwell and Jamala Osman delivered incredibly touching stories of their experiences of homelessness. The whole event was engaging and enjoyable with Jamala showing off her rapping skills to close the evening, yet the overarching message was clear throughout.
The girl’s early childhood stories were heart-breaking but to hear how far they’ve come since then and what they’ve accomplished is unbelievable. Jamala has become the youngest bank manager in the country working for the reputable Barclay’s bank. Whilst Sophie has channelled her efforts into the education of others who are less fortunate through developing the 'really NEET project', working with colleges and Universities after she herself graduated from University!
All three speakers complimented the other and the whole event was tied together superbly. It was a great opportunity to network with previous OYW delegates whilst also learning and being inspired by the speaker series. The whole experience has made me even more excited for Colombia – If that’s even possible!
Thanks for reading my first blog - Any comments are always welcome!