So, it’s the second last day of World Council. We have all grown progressively more tired as the days have passed, today we’re laughing at each other as we struggle to make our minds work at full capacity. As a friendly face tops up my third coffee for this morning, I breathe a big sigh of contentment and relief.
Despite the evident exhaustion today, people are smiling from ear to ear and they are doing so because they remember that last night, YMCA History was made. We have our first female President after 174 years, and we know this is the right side of history to be on. For women like myself, we can feel the enormity of this moment in time, we nod at one another and carry the pride on our faces and in our hearts.
First up this morning, intergenerational group presentations take place in various locations. Young and old(er) stand equally vulnerable and proud together, pledging their group’s commitment to youth empowerment today, tomorrow and beyond. We mustn’t underestimate the power of this connection, amongst the laughter (and delirium) we know this is the only way we can design the future we imagine to be possible.
We have unpacked many of the complex layers of the youth injustices that exist around our world. Unequal access to opportunity, education, healthcare and the dark cloud of mental illness continues to surface and dominate conversation.
And so, as I challenge my brain to function even writing in this very moment, here’s three things I’ve learnt in the last 24 hours:
- Hugs are mandatory at the Y!
Even when you anticipate a polite, yet reserved handshake, you can bet the next second you’ll be wrapped in a warm (and very sweaty) embrace with someone you have just met. Often a kiss on the cheek can follow and if you’re lucky the double cheek kiss is the YMCA jackpot of affection! (It happens more often than you’d expect) If you make it to this level of friendliness – it is truly not worth resisting.
- Diversity is absolutely, our greatest strength
From all walks of life we come together and are reminded of the power we hold to accept each other and ourselves. Despite some resistance from a minority, we can be confident in knowing that YMCA people truly get this and we will continue to inch ourselves forward in this space. Whether it’s gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, courage has become contagious and many continue to tell their story of belonging with the YMCA.
- Lastly, kindness costs us nothing (no explanation needed)
Coffee consumption during the breaks truly must of doubled in the last day or so. The afternoon comes with thanking our past leaders for a triumphant four years we welcome new leaders, fresh faces, and can sense the enormity of energy required for a prosperous future full of possibility. Challenge accepted.
With the day winding up and only the closing ceremony left to be led by the champion performance team (YMCA Change Agents), a familiar feeling of an approaching end washes over me. Anxiously wanting to bottle every moment of learning and invaluable perspective (so I can draw on the inspiration back home), I remind myself of the fragility of the present moment.
As I collect my dinner, I no longer search the room for people from my delegate to sit with, because there are now far more familiar and friendly faces in the dining hall, than there are not.
Georgie Nichol is a 26-year-old YMCA Change Agent from YMCA Australia.
She is passionate about overcoming barriers to create connection, belonging and enhance opportunities for all young people engaged with the Y Movement.