The 2023 One Young World Summit (OYW), hosted in Belfast, Northern Ireland, gathered more than 2,000 young leaders from 180 countries, all driven by a shared mission: to forge an equitable and sustainable future for all. Among these attendees were five remarkable delegates representing United Way, each boasting a distinctive background and an unwavering dedication to their communities. OYW acted as a catalyst for transformation, empowering young leaders like the United Way representatives to take audacious strides toward positive change.
After the conference, each delegate reflected on the profound impact of the experience on their lives and deliberated on their plans to apply the lessons they had garnered. While each delegate had their unique perspective, a common thread resonated deeply with all of them—the extraordinary experience of connecting with peers from around the world. Jenna Richards, who represented Aloha United Way in Hawaii, found herself particularly moved by the conference's overarching theme of inclusivity.
“There were individuals from literally every corner of the world, hailing from countries both large and small. It wasn't a conference heavily skewed towards the U.S. or Europe, and that’s just remarkable to witness,” she remarked. The concept of inclusion held great significance for her. “I come from a very small island group in Hawaii, and there were people from even smaller islands. There were people from Tonga, from the Marshall Islands, and it was truly awe-inspiring to witness One Young World's global reach and the distance they've covered.”
For Camila Colmenares from United Way Venezuela, the experience was enlightening. She found herself engaging in discussions about pressing global issues and forging connections with fellow delegates who shared her commitment to change, despite their diverse backgrounds. Like her colleague, United Way of Reno County Board Member David Sotelo,she was deeply moved by the sense of connection she felt while engaging with her peers from around the world.
However, Camila also expressed gratitude for the global perspective that the event had bestowed upon her. She now comprehends the significance of a global outlook and recognizes that her local projects in Venezuela carry far-reaching implications. She aspires to engage with corporations on a global scale, underscoring the worldwide significance of their projects.
Driven by the prospect of effecting change, Camila elucidated how the conference had transformed her approach: “At United Way Venezuela, we collaborate with numerous corporations that were present at the conference. However, I believe that at United Way, we hadn't fully grasped that we are also a part of a global community. Consequently, we possess the ability to sit side-by-side and face-to-face with these companies, conveying our understanding that this project holds global significance. What we accomplish in Latin America, Venezuela, with these projects carries weight, and this perspective, in particular, holds great importance.”
Camilla is not the only delegate contemplating the next steps. David intends to leverage the power of philanthropy to address community challenges. Inspired by the conference, he aims to propagate the message of United Way as the adhesive that unites communities, inspiring change through philanthropy. United Way Ghana’s Grace Braimah plans to confront a more specific challenge. “Here at United Way Ghana and in Africa, we address education, health, financial stability, and more. However, through One Young World, I came to realize that mental health is a topic we are not discussing enough. We should be strong advocates for mental health here in Ghana and across Africa. We need to provide the necessary support to those who require it. Thus, I'm fully prepared to advocate for the inclusion of more mental health advocacy staff in our projects. That's an endeavor I'll be undertaking.”
United Way’s young leaders are poised to embrace their roles as solution-makers and champions of change. The One Young World Summit offered them a platform to connect, learn, and evolve. Moving forward, they are resolute in translating their newfound knowledge into meaningful action, leaving a positive imprint on their communities and the world.
Similar to his peers, Nazbi Chowdhury from United Way of Broward County left the conference feeling inspired. “I'd like to begin by sharing a quote that we often hear from another influential leader of a bygone era, Mahatma Gandhi,” he stated. “He said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Well, I'm going to modify that slightly and say, be the solution you want to see implemented in the world. We are all grappling with similar challenges, whether it's related to mental health, housing instability, or advocating for a livable wage. We are all contending with the same issues, and that's precisely the essence of this summit—coming together to explore potential solutions. I'm eagerly looking forward to being part of this discourse and establishing global partnerships. It's the only way we can achieve solutions effectively.”