Lead Youth Advocate Nikos shares his experiences of the HMDT Youth Conference, and looks back on a year of the HMDT Youth programmes.
The month of March has always been sort of bittersweet for participants of the HMDT Youth programmes. In March, our activities are coming to a close as we enter a period of reflection on the previous year and start to plan for the year ahead. It is a particularly sad time for members of the Youth Board as regular contact slowly comes to an end and we even have to bid farewell to close friends who will not be joining us next year.
However, March is also the time when one of the highlights of the year for every Youth Champion and Youth Advocate takes place – the HMDT Youth Conference! This year was no exception, taking place in an excellent venue at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool on Saturday 23 March. This year’s event brought young people from across the country together for a common cause – to meet, to learn from each other, to celebrate our achievements together and to draw inspiration from each other. It helps each and every one of us continue to work towards a better future in the months and years ahead.
As always, it was an action-packed event with contributions from the Youth Board and presentations from Youth Champions and Youth Advocates about what they did to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. This was in addition to talks from survivors of the Holocaust and genocide, interactive workshops by Protection Approaches and the British-Bosnian charity Most Mira, and, of course, the all-important icebreakers. What united all these sessions and what stood out to me as the highlight of an energising day, was the expression of a clear desire from Youth Champions and Youth Advocates to be not just passive participants but active leaders, who would go on to take action for the benefit of their own communities.
This was obvious from the very beginning as we heard about diverse and creative activities that took place across the country in schools, universities, workplaces, and youth groups. As we heard testimonies from the panel of survivors, attendees were taking detailed notes and asked interesting and thought-provoking questions to the survivors. During lunch, I could see them striving to get a seat around a table so they could sit with one of the survivors and build on what the Q&A session offered them. Around those tables, young people and survivors engaged in a frank and thorough exchange of ideas about the actions that have to be taken to ensure that the evils of the past never take place again. We witnessed the process that leads from ideas to actions as a community of learners transitioned into a community of activists.
The workshop with Protection Approaches made that clear, as attendees worked together to identify the roots that lead not only to genocide but to discrimination and prejudice even in our own contemporary society. We took matters a step further as we discussed the ways that we could prevent our communities from being filled with hatred and how we could help a seemingly distant community in Bosnia rebuild and recover during the workshop with Most Mira.
By the end of the day, I felt as if I had known everyone there for a long time. Though tired at the close of a busy day, everyone I asked was committed to use this day as a springboard to take decisive action for HMD 2020 – and beyond! For all of us, the HMDT Youth Conference marked more than simply the end of the year – it signaled the beginning of a new chapter.
The HMDT blog highlights topics relevant to our work in Holocaust and genocide education and commemoration. We hear from a variety of guest contributors who provide a range of personal perspectives on issues relevant to them, including those who have experienced state-sponsored persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.
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