Chess Reflects on Her Experience at One Young World 2022

Arctic Angel Sharona and Chess met at the OYW 2022 conference in Manchester

As I stepped onto my train to Manchester and started the journey northwards, my imagination went into overdrive as I begun piecing together what the next few days might hold. I was overcome with that feeling in my chest – the mixture of nervousness, excitement, anticipation, readiness for learning and listening. I’m not sure there’s a good word for that feeling, not in English at least. It was to be my first time in the city and also my first time attending a conference of this nature. The world’s biggest youth leadership summit…and I had been given the opportunity to attend and represent the Arctic Angels? I felt so privileged.

Considering the conference was to be attended by 2000 young people from across the world, it felt like a fately intervention that the first face I saw as I stepped into the conference hall on day one, was that of my fellow Arctic Angel Sharona. How powerful, I thought to myself – that the network brings strangers from the corners of our planet together in a way that makes someone you’ve never really met feel like family – united by such profound common ground. It was also so rewarding to see that the work the Angels do in their communities and for their causes, is being given the recognition it so clearly deserves. It was wonderful to catch up with Sharona over the next few days and watch her in action as she so sensitively moderated a high-energy session on one of the interactive stages.

The three days of keynote speeches, panels, fireside chats, workshops and networking, delivered by powerful young leaders and giants of social change alike flashed by in a whirlwind (- almost too quickly!) with emotional highs and lows. I was moved by the personal stories told by many including journalist Shiori Ito, founder of a peace organisation Heela and Nasreen Sheikh, survivor of modern-day slavery and advocate for global Human Rights, to name just a few. A check-in with the hub participating remotely in Japan, working on their visions for the future, was a moment of pure joy.

There were also many moments of reflection. It was Professor Thuli Mandosela in her session on strengthening democracy, who, in reciting the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”, reminded me of an equally powerful proverb that Global Choices co-founder Sally Ranney spoke to at COP 26 “The youth can walk faster, but it is the elder that knows the road.” Together they reflect on the need for both young and old to work in collaboration to achieve the level of action required to face the challenges of the day.

It is nearly impossible to choose a highlight from the summit, but I think the words of Muhammad Yunus spoke very much to my experience and my feeling of the power of uniting so many young changemakers. Mr Yunus used the opportunity to advocate for the power of one small step at a time in order to change the world and collaborating together to amplify the potential of those steps. A step onto a train. A step into a conference. A step out onto a stage. 2000 of us making those steps. I hope having seen and heard all that we have over the past few days, the opportunity now presents itself to galvanise the energy and enthusiasm for change following the summit into tangible actions. The appetite for action was evident and who knows what all of our steps can achieve, together.

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