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This post comes from a presentation that Alicia Conte, our Youth Global Leadership Program Coordinator, made at a community gathering to honor the 2017 YGL Insight Trip. 

One principle that guided this experiential learning journey was the importance of LISTENING. Listening to each other, listening to ourselves, and listening to the stories that community partners shared with us.

Each day during the trip we had the privilege of hearing many stories of survival, struggle and resistance. From Taos to Tucson, we were reminded that through listening to other people’s stories, the world becomes more complex. That it’s hard to not love someone, once you hear their story. We learned that when someone shares their story with you, they are offering a part of themselves. The people we met taught us that the act of sharing your story is vulnerable, and that we too must be vulnerable in order to receive the gift of someone else’s story.

What else happens when we listen to other people’s stories? Our worldview is challenged, and often destabilized. We must think for ourselves and form our own opinions. Someone else’s joy becomes our joy. Their pain becomes our pain. Their hunger and thirst also become our own.  When we listen to stories, we start thinking more critically and ask more questions – and question-asking creates movement. Question-asking creates dialogue. Question-asking does not allow you to stand still.

During the trip, more questions arose. Questions like:

Will this trip make me feel more afraid or empowered?

How can you stay awake to suffering during this learning journey?

What is the purpose of education?

Who in your family has shaped who you are as a leader?

What does youth leadership look like in a multicultural world?

What role do we want to play in this particular moment in history?

What assumptions do I have, and how are they being challenged?

More questions:

How can I stay awake to the evidence of joy, celebration, resilience, and evidence of the persistence of our species?

Am I part of a market or a movement?

What good is having a belly, if there is no fire in it?

How do we heal?

How do we heal?

How do we heal?

Among all the questions, however, one thing was affirmed for us: that strength and power can be found in community. We learned that community is an integral life-source in the struggle for justice. Our friends in Taos and Tucson  remind us that none of us exist in isolation, and that we have to work together to create a world without borders.

Write, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit touches on the power of community when she writes:

The modern right may wish that every man were an island, entire of himself, but no one is wholly independent. You can’t survive without taking air into your lungs, you didn’t give birth to or raise yourself, you won’t bury yourself, and in between you won’t produce most of the goods and services you depend on to live. Your gut is full of microorganisms, without which you could not digest all the plants and animals, likely grown by other people, on which you rely to survive. We are nodes on intricate systems, synapses snapping on a great collective brain; we are in it together, for better or worse. (from, “The Ideology of Isolation“)

In YGL, we are building a community of youth who are coalescing around a crazy idea that collectivism is indeed more powerful than individualism, and that another way is possible. We know that we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for, and that in order to create a more just and equitable world, we need to take action. Tonight is part of the YGLer’s process of taking action.

Our hope is that by gathering together tonight as a community, we can continue to amplify the voices of those we met with and those who shared their stories with us. We are here tonight to listen to some incredible young leaders, and we also invite you into our own process of asking questions and taking action.

Alicia Conte is in her final week as Philanthropiece’s Youth Global Leadership Program Coordinator. We hold immense gratitude for Alicia’s dedication to our mission and to the YGL program. To learn more about YGL, please visit the program website at Go here to view a mini-documentary about the 2017 Insight Trip.