ISF: A Participant’s Recap


The International Solidarity Forum 2013 on Health and Sustainable Development was my first experience working with WYA and it was better than I could have ever imagined!  Being a 15-year-old high school student, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to participate as well as others due to my lack of experience and knowledge on the subject. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the discussion was not out of my reach. In fact, I was encouraged by other participants to partake in and challenge the topic at hand. It was great being able to discuss a topic I was so interested in with people who were so passionate about it. As the conference went on, I became more comfortable and the age and experience gap became irrelevant. I realized that it wasn’t about how much you know and how much you’ve done, but how much you’re open to learn and how much you’re curious to do. The ISF 2013 conference allowed me to explore challenging ideas and interact with different and intriguing people in order to expand my way of thinking.

My fondest memory from the ISF 2013 is the inclusion and warmness I felt at the conference.  Although there were people from all over the world with different cultures and backgrounds, we were all able to relate and connect through WYA. Everyone was challenged by each other and from that was able to learn from each other. The interaction between the participants and staff members created such a warm and inviting atmosphere that really motivated great work. As I was the youngest one there I thought I would feel like an outcast or easily be dismissed, but I wasn’t at all. I felt equal to everyone and felt comfortable contributing to the discussion. The environment of the event was a perfect representation of who WYA is and their mission. Attending the ISF 2013, I was not only able to learn more about the topic but also, how I can use what I’ve learned in order to further the mission of promoting the dignity of the human person.

After participating in the ISF conference, I was better informed on the topic of health and sustainable development, better equipped to inform others and built long-lasting friendships. Now, I’m so inspired to execute WYA’s mission in my own community and hope that others are too. In addition, I was able to realize that despite my age, I am capable of contributing to the overall goal of a better world. The ISF 2013 was very different for me; I’ve never done anything like it before. I think this was an excellent introduction to WYA that made me feel included and also required me to not only challenge myself, but others as well. Overall, I felt the ISF 2013 was an exceptional experience that allowed me to grasp first hand the wonderful values and mission of WYA and contributed to the expansion of my outlook. I would love to participate in another one and curious to see how I will push my understanding.

By Anabelle Basterrechea, member of World Youth Alliance North America.