Facilitating Dialogue among Youths and Government Leaders: 250 attend the Youth Camp & Young Professionals Conference

2010confOver 250 participants attended the International Youths Camp and Young Professional for Community Development Conference organized by URF on Jan 07-10th, 2010. The conference aimed at motivating young people to engage in community development efforts. The youths engaged in a dialogue with Members of Parliament about development strategies for the community and how the youths can become involved. Various sessions involved self-empowerment, project planning and implementation, youth mentorship, and professional development.

Below is a write up by a group of student from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, Minnesota (Catherine Hansen, Bree Auringer, Nathan Mayer, Tim Bungum, Emily Bina, and Keenan Brugh)

“The Uganda Rural Fund conference at Hope Academy was a wonderful gathering of many individuals committed to the ideas of education, leadership, and entrepreneurship.  The children that we encountered on our trip have all been extremely dedicated to learning and helping each other out.  This was a very interesting and a wholly new experience.  The speakers were very inspiring and the children in attendance very interested in what each speaker was saying.  It was wonderful to hear all these adults talking to the students and telling them how getting an education was possible, and encouraging them to keep going to further their learning.

Tim Bungum with kids

Tim Bungum with kids

The number of people in attendance was a testament to the respect the surrounding community holds for Hope Academy and Uganda Rural Fund.  At one point of the conference, community parents were given the chance to engage in a question and answer session with local government officials including two members of parliament. 

When our group, Extending the Link, was given an opportunity to speak in front of the students and young professionals, we were amazed at the questions we were asked and the level of support that we received from those in attendance.  After the conference we were bombarded by a number students who all wanted to keep in touch with us and to help us out as much as they possibly could.

This all ties in to the immense amount of energy that could be felt reverberating from the students.  All day the attentiveness and passion of the students kept them at attention to those who came to speak to them, and then at the end of the day they had the chance to mingle with other participating students.  At the end of the night everyone got together for socializing around a bonfire and a dance.  It was at this point the friendliness of the people in attendance was especially evident.  Everyone was very welcoming and wanting to incorporate the Hope Academy volunteers into their festivities.  At one point the women volunteers were asked to participate in a traditional Buganda dance; despite a lack of practice and possibly ability on our part, it was a fun experience for all.  During the time around the bonfire email addresses were exchanged in full, with promises made between everyone to stay in touch.  Students were able to return home with more resources, suggestions and hope for their future.”