This past week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 25th Annual Global Youth Institute from October 17-20th in Des Moines, Iowa. I was one of 210 students from 27 U.S. states and territories and ten countries selected to attend the three-day conference to engage with global leaders in science, policy, and industry to discuss the world’s most pressing challenges in hunger and poverty.
This year’s theme was “Rise to the Challenge” referring to the global movement to feed an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050. Seeing first hand the impact of poverty and hunger on my family, I was inspired to take effort through founding the Freeport Food Ark and spreading my efforts to impact more people. Participating in this conference allowed me to not only interact with young leaders from ten other countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Kosovo, Mexico, the Netherlands and the Philippines, but also international leaders making a difference. Seeing the efforts of youth and chartering their own initiatives to be hunger fights has truly inspired me in more ways than one, showing the impact that youth with a passion can make.
In a society divided by our differences, the GYI connected all students who shared an equal passion for helping others and taking a stand to end hunger.
Not only did I have a chance to present my research on malnutrition in China to a panel of food security experts, but I came back home motivated and inspired by the people I talked to and heard from.
The first day started off with the Borlaug Dialogue and ended with a social kickoff where I was able to meet new friends including one from the Dominican Republic who had competed in the North Carolina Youth Institute at NC State a few months prior!
The next day proved to be a long one where we got to hear from Catherine Bertini, the 2003 World Food Prize Laureate known for transforming the United Nations World Food Programme into the largest and most responsive humanitarian relief organization in the world, ultimately ensuring that food of good quality would be available in sufficient quantities to the world’s neediest, even in the direst of circumstances. She encouraged us to continue pushing the envelope and not to accept the status quo, drawing anecdotes from her time when she worked for the United Nations.
A few group sessions later, we departed for the Borlaug Dialogue, a symposium where over 1,200 people from more than 65 countries to address cutting-edge issues related to global food security and nutrition. The three-day conference convenes a wide array of scientific experts, policy leaders, business executives and farmers and has been called "the premier conference in the world on global agriculture." the fact that all of these global leaders had traveled far and wide to come and speak with us showcased their immense belief in the future and the power we had as youth to change the world. Before the end of the night, we heard from the Honorable Mercedes Araoz, the Vice President of the Republic of Peru and finally got to see the 2018 Laureate Award Ceremony live from Des Moines! Hearing the two laureates, Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro and each of their individual stories of how they got this far and the leadership they've taken in elevating maternal and child undernutrition to a central issue within the food security and development dialogue at national and international levels, inspired us. They encouraged everyone to take every opportunity to
learn and be ready to take risks. Day 2 was then completed!
Day 3 consisted of our roundtable discussions where I could to report of my research findings related to malnutrition in China. The paper I had written had been my ticket into the GYI and it felt like a full circle moment coming there and presenting my work to a group of experts! One of my favorite parts of the entire week was the Oxfam Hunger Banquet. It was an event that brought statistics about poverty to life. Guests randomly select tickets matching real people who are high-, middle-, or low-income earners, demonstrating that where you end up is all in the luck of the draw. It was such a powerful moment in time that showcased that events like these increase our power to respond to global crises, highlight issues of injustice, and change the laws that keep people trapped in poverty.
Then came the last day. Having been able to get so close with my group and the other students, I didn't want to leave. I had learned so much in such a short amount of time. Nonetheless, I knew it was time. We checked out of our rooms and departed for the Carver Center where we heard from Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro except this time they took the timeout of their busy schedules to talk to us! Our last event was the Global Teams Challenge where each group was given the same issue and we all had tot take the different things we had learned throughout the week to create a 5 step plan we could implement to combat the problem. After giving our presentations to a large audience, we had to say our goodbyes...
I highly encourage all high school students to take the opportunity to apply for the Global Youth Institute. It was emotional and eye-opening and a unique experience few get to experience at such a young age.
The Global Youth Institute is held in conjunction with the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, which annually gathers the world's foremost leaders in global food security. Students present and discuss their innovative ideas to combat hunger with World Food Prize Laureates, international experts and peers from over 60 countries. Students also attend symposium sessions centered on current research, trends, and innovations in combating hunger and poverty.
Featured speakers included:
2018 World Food Prize Laureates, Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro
The Honorable Mercedez Araoz, Vice President of Peru
His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria
Dr. Louise Fresco, President of the Executive Board, Wageningen University & Research Center