Last November when I was appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion I had no idea what to expect. Now, the International Year of Youth is coming to a close and I’m astonished at how far it’s taken me. I traveled to 24 different countries in 6 months, spoke with thousands of youth, met with numerous government officials, volunteered with tons of NGOs, and raised awareness of youth issues among millions through major multi media outlets.
But, all of my efforts were validated a week ago when Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor of USAID invited me to share my experience with Agency staff (and especially the team that is currently working to create their first ever policy on youth development). I was thrilled to meet some of USAID’s biggest youth champions, including Administrator Shah himself! My home country became my 25th and final stop on the Gimme Mo global tour, and the beginning of a new journey to support and engage with Americans to promote the global youth agenda.
In the afternoon, UN Foundation hosted a dynamic discussion led by Aaron Sherinian, VP for Communications and Public Relations at UNF. I was joined by Dr. Nicole Goldin and Ashok Regmi, director of Youth Action Net, an initiative of the International Youth Foundation. Basically, I had geniuses on all sides! Nicole shared some her experiences with our first lady Michelle Obama in South Africa and gave us insight into many USAID projects. She also made an interesting case for empowering girls while not neglecting or excluding boys. Ashok encouraged us to look at youth as assets and invest in them. He also challenged us to redefine the role of technology. He expressed that technology shouldn’t be the basis of our thought or the core of change. People are agents of change, technology is simply a tool. Aaron, our host, kept us honest and thinking. He posed great questions, formed interesting connections, and helped us to think about youth in a new way.
At one point, Aaron said “philanthroteen” and I almost fell out of my seat. All around it was an inspiring, enlightening, and lively panel. I hope everyone who attended was as impacted by the day as I was.
I’m excited to continue the conversations and support the efforts of UN Foundation and USAID, and of course young people themselves at home and abroad!
Happy International Youth Day! Remember, YOUth are our world’s present AND future.
Stay connected to USAID on our Youth Impact page, and using the hashtag #USAIDyouth on Twitter.
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