Memories are still afresh as I write this article. A couple of weeks ago, I was able to experience an incredible opportunity with 59 other likeminded people. These 59 people weren't just any ordinary beings; they were global changemakers.
This year's Global Youth Summit was held in Aarau, hosted by renowned Swiss NGO 'Global Changemakers', just an hour away from Zurich in Switzerland. The summit brought together 60 young activists and entrepreneurs from around the world who were implementing their ideas and working on projects to make their communities better places to live in. The opportunity for me not only meant that I was representing my organisation 'Footsteps Foundation', but also Bangladesh on a global platform.
The summit began early morning the next day. I was truly awe-struck by the people who were part of this program. One of them was Miro from Los Angeles, an 18-year-old hat-loving traveler who wanted to advocate travel as a form of education. There was Vini from Brazil, who created an online platform called PASSEI! that empowers public high school students to access university level education. Another would be Mai, who was born in Wahat al Salam Neve Shalom, the only intentional Jewish Arab village in Israel who is now a peace advocate and human rights lawyer.
The 5-day-long summit was an incredible learning experience. Games and workshops were arranged to test our ideas and creativity, and even though it drained every bit of energy from my body, I never felt so alive. The opportunity to learn from each other had been a priceless experience; getting to know difficulties that some faced, how they overcame such notions, and how every effort no matter how big or small made tremendous impacts. Notable speakers such as comedian Francesca Martinez and Global Citizen's Katie Dallas reminded us of how important it was to chase our ideologies no matter how difficult the obstacles were. The summit ended with a moving oath taking session, where we were initiated as global changemakers. Each of us were handed a piece of paper, where we had to write down our biggest kryptonite and then throw it into the bonfire set for us. This became extremely emotional for me, as tears rolled down my eyes when I finally pledged as a global changemaker after throwing my kryptonite into the gushing fire.
On our last day in Switzerland, we finally had the chance to tour the city of Zurich. The city is truly like no other -- clean and organised with a medieval touch. The water is so clean in the city that you can actually see the stones in the bottom of the lake Zurich! We had a city walk and a cruise planned, after which we were taken to the Greenpeace warehouse where we were taught how to hand make banners. A reception was arranged for us at the end of the tour at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, one of the finest institutes in the world. Dressed rather formally, we ended up networking with the guests, which included the US ambassador to Switzerland, enjoying the view, and of course, capturing life long memories on our cameras.
The last night in Aarau was an emotional one. We stayed up all night, singing songs about friendship and writing scraps of letter to one another. 5 days had gone by so fast that we weren't ready to say goodbye to each other yet. However, as the saying goes, every good song must end at some time.
The Global Youth Summit was the perfect environment to get close to these amazing 59 people, who were already changing the world; and as I was reading the scrap letter they wrote for me on my flight back home, it was hard holding back my tears. I knew I had a part of an extended family at all corners of the world, and if I needed to make a change, whether it's creating access to clean drinking water or helping vulnerable communities adapt to Climate Change, all I had to do was give a shout out to them. That's why they say, the journey of a changemaker is never a solitary one.
The writer is the Co-Founder and President of Footsteps Foundation and an environmental economics major at Pennsylvania State University.