Working with the Young People of Asia

I have been working with the World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific office for more than a year now and it is one of the best experiences I have had. Despite the exhausting demands of my full time job, I never tire attending WYA activities be it for work, for training, or for simple social gatherings. Being with young people who understand the intrinsic worth of the human person and strives to live this belief every single day has made my perspective a lot more positive and hopeful that despite the drudgeries of modern life, the person is not relegated as a second class entity in this world.

The Philippine members of WYA have been most dynamic in their participation in WYA. Every meeting is an event to look forward to. From the Gawad Kalinga builds, to the conferences, to the trainings, the young members of the Philippines have been active and most enthusiastic with the Alliance’s work that it’s hard to believe we’re doing any work at all. These have been for the most part of my affiliation with the Alliance constitute our description of work. But I never imagined that I would be able to experience an equally amazing and interesting part of my work with the Alliance soon enough.
I have been given the opportunity meet a greater group of young people during the celebration of the Asian Youth Day 2006 (AYD2006) in Hong Kong last 31 July to 2 August.  The AYD is held a year after every World Youth Day and is the counterpart of the event in Asia. It is a week-long conference of young people from Asia characterized by moments of fellowship and formation, leading to constructive action. I was greatly privileged to join the dynamic duo of Erika and Tam to participate in this rare gathering of the youth and we were joined by participants from China, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Singapore, Hong Kong and of course, the Philippines. The theme for this year is “Youth, the Hope of Asian families”.

The whole event was a wonderful experience of unity, friendship and camaraderie. The delegates witnessed a great exhibition of cultural exchange as each country presented their national cultures in the different locations of the venue. Participants easily exchange contact numbers, smiles and greetings as they pass by each other as if they were just next door neighbors. Except for the language – at least for some delegates – there were no barriers in making new friends and meeting new people from another part of the continent. We were easily able to get our fair share of new friends and were able to invite new members of WYA Asia Pacific.
Our task in the conference was to facilitate a workshop for the delegates to better understand their roles in keeping the families in Asia intact. Begin with Dignity, also known as Workshop number 20, were participated by delegates from India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines and China. There was a healthy exchange of ideas and insights on how this concept of dignity is understood back in their own countries. What delights me the most are their colorful stories on how they live and uphold dignity in their work, families, friends and communities. It was not hard to ask them to think of a project that would further this understanding and help other people be it young or old to realize that it is intrinsic in every person.
The AYD experience, made possible by our work with the WYA is a unique example of how it is possible to speak of common and universal concepts and ideas. It was a refreshing way of making connections not because of work, race, or culture but because each young participant acknowledged dignity as a basic possession of every person.

My dispassionate geopolitics professor would usually end our class with her version of resolution for each existing rival claim between sovereign territorial states. According to her, present conflicts started from the psychological divisions – i.e. concepts of “they” and “us” – that have been impressed and reflected on physical boundaries. The delineation of boundaries strengthen these concepts which ultimately resulted to conflicts – to protect what was believed and perceived as owned by a specific group. She believes that ending these conflicts requires deconstruction of that division – they and us – and replacing it with a WE. More importantly, she believes that the best point to start is working with the young people. Allowing the youth to be raised in an environment that speaks of common values of each person, recognizing the intrinsic worth each one in spite of his location.

The encounter with the young people of Asia has fortified this idea in me. As the World Youth Alliance brings to fore the universal idea of dignity, it also bridges the gap between the divisions that previously existed in the consciousness of the older generations. As we to continue our work in helping youth to realize this dignity in each one of us, we move closer to diminishing the division that exists between “they” and “us”.

My first trip to Hong Kong was memorable not simply because I had fun, but because there was greater meaning in our work with the young people. There was so much to learn from the trip, from our train adventures, to the administrative and social functions, from the whole day out in Mongkok, to the food trips, and movie nights, to meeting Tam’s wonderful family and getting to know Ros (Erika’s gorgeous friend). The trip was one blessed experience.

Gail Pelayo is a member of the Philippine Committee. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the University of the Philippines and is currently working with Citibank. Gail is one of the treasured members of WYAAP – always ready to volunteer her time and talents! Trivia: Gail has a beautiful voice and loves to sing.