Day 2 – We Need New Roads

Ben Turnbull, Nour El Khatib, and Paula Sleiman share their experience from a packed second day. Themes of the day consisted of poverty alleviation, mental health, and the impact of media in our communities. Counselors on stage included Professor Muhammad Yunus, author and activist J.K. Rowling, and human rights activist Yeonmi Park.

The second day of the OYW carried delegates through peaks and valleys as we found ourselves experiencing the heartbreak of our peer experiences followed by rousing inspiration from relentless action. Each delegate has arrived with a unique story to tell, and day two offered opportunities to share those stories in guest speeches, delegate plenary talks, and our workshop sessions. Two main themes carried through these sessions 1) the ever-present thread of mental health and 2) the impact of media in our communities.

“Old roads lead to old destinations. We need new roads.”

Nobel Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Our world’s climate crisis remained at the heart of day two’s content. Counselors mentioned the importance of a circular economy, recycling and reusing as much production material as you can, and the value of offsetting carbon cost that you ultimately produce through methods such as planting mangrove trees or see grass, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

These are familiar elements of the climate change discussion, showcasing action directed at outcomes we commonly see. However, one of the most unseen direct impacts of climate change is mental health. We heard from mental health professionals about the correlation between climate change events and admission rates for anxiety, depression, etc. A delegate from the Caribbean shared that tropical storms, continually battering her home year after year, are building ‘Eco-anxiety’ in her community where residents live in fear throughout storm season.

After others shared stories showcasing the mental strain of climate events on their community, our counselor advised joining co-aligned focus groups in these communities to combat the helplessness that arrives with climate events.

“8/10 children in orphanages today still have at least one living parent. It’s clear that it’s much more effective to strengthen family care than to support the orphanage business”

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling joined the stage representing her Lumos Foundation aimed at ending the harm of institutionalisation and working to reunite children with their families. She led a commentary on the dangers of volunteering with organizations that may take advantage of the children in their care and exposed the mental impact that a revolving door of volunteers has on developing children. She urged the delegation to stop volunteering at orphanages and encouraged awareness for the ‘voluntourism’ that so many engage in globally. View the video here on her #helpingnothelping campaign for more info!

“As free people it is our duty to use our voices to speak for the voiceless”

Yeonmi Park

A second theme of the day was media and the impact that free speech, or lack thereof, has on a community and its members. Human rights activist Yeonmi Park is part of a small group individuals to defect from North Korea, and part of an even smaller group that is willing to share their experiences under the regime outwardly. She discussed the feeling of experiencing the outside world for the first time given that all external media is blocked inside North Korea. She has dedicated her life to human rights activism and speaking up for the people that have been left without a voice in North Korea. Click here to see her incredible story.

These are only a few of the incredible stories that were shared across the stages of day two. More to come from day three!

Post written by Ben, Nour and Paula

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