September 21, 2017  |  

There is no goodbye in the YMCA…

I am a Change Agent and I just came back home from the Global Gathering in Portugal. Ten days are more than enough to change your mindset and leave you with many, many, many thoughts and questions about the future. I know, it sounds cliché, but it is the truth. I have never really been “exposed” to so many different cultures, so many people with different personalities and backgrounds. My experience was like discovering a new way of life, a brand new family that I had only heard stories of previously.

It all started on the 1st of September 2017. That was the beginning of our journey: 150 young leaders from all over the world met in YMCA Camp Alambre in Setúbal, located in a national parc. To all of us, it was an unknown environment, with unknown people, feeling excited but at the same time very nervous and clueless, just like our first day in school. To be honest, it only took me a few hours to engage to this. I stood in a chair, feeling confident about myself and ready to serve the purpose we are all here for. To #BeTheChange!

Without even realizing it, time had passed very quickly. I found myself in different working groups, sharing stories on various topics that made us more excited to discuss. I personally think that working groups can be an effective method to motivate all participants, encourage active learning and discussion, and also to develop key critical thinking, and raise awareness.

When we think of shared experience, what usually comes to our mind is being with close friends or family, and talking to them. We do not often realize that there is more behind this. We do not see the extent to which we influence, and we, ourselves are influenced, by people around us.

As the days went by, I tried to remember of the past. A throwback to all that we‘ve been through together. All those workshops we attended, all these hours, days and nights that we spent together. But unfortunately, when you are having fun, time flies! You try to absorb as much as possible. You try to squeeze in as much info as your brain can fit in one day. Every day, you try to squeeze more people in your life. More important than having conquered something is having people around you who understand. Surrounded by friends make things easier… and of course, more fun!

This is why I proudly call myself a Change Agent. World YMCA has provided us with a safe space, to further our skills and leadership abilities and discover the untold stories of our home communities. I made friends and I managed to grow in it. I expanded my global network and now I have more people in my life that I can share and work with.

I share World YMCA‘ s vision of working towards young people, and I am committed to walk in those “shoes” as long as I can.

Without even realizing it, on September 10th , the journey ended. But of course, this is not the end. It is just the beginning of a whole new journey with great days coming upon.

It is definitely NOT a goodbye. It is a see you again.

To all those who call me friend, and especially, to all those that we together created a lasting bond, it was a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you. Thank you for your time and effort. Thank you World YMCA for making this seem so easy! it was an experience I would not trade !

Emma Symeonidou

YMCA Thessaloniki – Greece

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