“My life wouldn’t be the same without WYA”: Meet Olivia Raw, WYA’s 2017 Kathryn Hoomkwap Awardee

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“World Youth Alliance gave me a deeper core as a person. It’s like the roots of a tree. It gave me solid grounding on what is human dignity. Who am I? Where do I come from? My core values were strengthened. The branches of the tree are all of the WYA friends that I met and continued to keep. My life wouldn’t be the same without WYA,” said Olivia Raw, WYA Europe’s first Regional Director of Operation.

“Today, the fruits of that tree are the young people who joined us as WYA members plus the new programs, Human Dignity Curriculum and FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management). I love these new programs. They’re absolutely amazing. Before we were just building the foundations of WYA, now you have these tools,” she adds.

Olivia first heard about WYA in 2001 when she met WYA Founder Anna Halpine at a weekend event in Strasbourg. They traveled back together to Brussels where Anna shared more about WYA and their plan to open a regional office. Olivia said yes to open the WYA Europe office and flew to NY for the first WYA internship in January 2001. She served as WYA Europe’s 1st Director of Operations from 2001 to 2005.

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“First was living in the very first WYA apartment. We had no money and we drank wine out of empty jam jars. Second were our fun memories in New York City. We would go dancing on top of the skyscrapers. Anna watches people dance. It’s like her secret interview technique, Olivia said, speaking of some of  her most memorable WYA experiences.

“I will never forget our very first WYA Europe apartment. We can only afford very cheap rent so our apartment had no windows and no heating. We had tea all day and lots of blankets to keep us warm. Eventually, heating came later,” She adds.

On March 25, the World Youth Alliance will recognize Olivia’s significant contribution and continual support to WYA’s mission through the Kathryn Hoomkwap Award. “I was really honored and very touched,” Olivia shared when she heard that she was chosen to receive the award at the next ball. The award recognizes distinguished service in defense of the dignity of the human person among WYA members and alumni.

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“I want to thank all of the WYA staff and members for all of their work – the sleepless nights and endless amount of work that people don’t know about. It’s the foundation of the work. Keep going. And to all of the WYA members and alumni, I hope you can continue to give to WYA through your time or money,” Olivia said.

When asked for her dream for the World Youth Alliance, Olivia hopes to see “WYA to grow in England and for the new programs HDC and FEMM to continue to grow and expand. It’ll be good to see WYA’s Certified Training Program to be integrated into school curriculums. I’d like to see that. I also hope to see WYA generations to keep going and WYA members continue in developing themselves with their own skills.”

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From the very first WYA Europe regional office in Belgium, WYA has grown to national WYA Chapters across Europe including Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. More chapters are planned to be launched soon.

“It was absolutely clear that WYA was needed and people responded so quickly with so little that we had. The more we give, the more they gave. There was a constant thread. It was needed and it grew so fast. So I would advise WYA members and chapter leaders to keep holding on to it regardless of the circumstances,” Olivia shared when asked on what kept her going during the early years where they had very little resources and zero money.

The World Youth Alliance family warmly congratulates Olivia for having been chosen as the 2017 Kathryn Hoomkwap Awardee in defense of the dignity of the person. Olivia Raw currently serves as an alumni member of the International WYA Board.

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If you’d like to bring WYA to your school or to open a WYA Chapter, you may click here to contact our regional offices. You may also purchase your tickets to the 18th WYA Birthday Ball on March 25 here. Save $10 if you purchase your tickets by December 31, 2016.