Wouldn’t it be riveting to get the chance to travel to another country and learn in the company of scholars from different parts of the globe?
Sixth formers, Paige Ribeiro-Agard and Eden Aqui of Holy Name Convent were two out of six pupils (which was the biggest group there) who represented Trinidad and Tobago in the Global Young Leaders Conference (GYLC) in China. Nominated by their teacher, the girls were given the choice of travelling to USA, Europe or China where they would embark on a 10-day journey of knowledge and activities to develop their leadership skills.
Funding was a prime factor for the trip since they had to raise TT$65,000 each. It wasn’t easy but with the help of sponsors, fundraisers (a grand raffle in particular) and participation from The Ministry of Gender and Youth Affairs and corporate T&T they were able to meet their targets.
Both Ribeiro-Agard and Aqui were excited to talk about their experiences with the Express and share what they learnt. They admitted their first day was stressful since they didn’t understand the language spoken. And for this reason they suggested that learning more than one language be mandatory in all schools. But with the help of their newly-made friends and a dictionary in hand they were able to adapt quickly.
They said the conference benefited them in multiple ways and greater developed their method of thinking. Aqui explained they were divided into groups named after different Asian countries and held Leadership Group Meetings. This activity allowed them to resolve conflicts, discuss cross culture and develop realistic ideas to solve problems that the people of China face regularly, for example “water scarcity”. She described it as a test of their cooperation and negotiation skills. In addition, they visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and were briefed on topics like entrepreneurship and how to start businesses in China.
Away from the conference they were taken on tours around the city. They explored places like Hangzchou, the capital of east China, Shanghai, the more technologically advanced area, and Beijing where they climbed the great wall. Ribeiro-Agard described that activity as her “exercise for the year.” They also went to the zoo to particularly see the pandas and even partook in a tea ceremony at the tea plantations.
Besides all the theory one could see the new found passion these girls returned with for their country. “We definitely learnt to appreciate our culture,” said Aqui. They explained that while it was great meeting new people and learning about their culture and ways of life, they felt proud that everyone were fascinated by theirs. Ribeiro-Agard had her share of this as she was constantly surrounded by locals who wanted to take pictures with her because of her skin colour. They found it difficult to understand that Trinis were not one race, but mixed.
They were also happy to show off their accents which resulted in their new colleagues taking words like “lime” and “vybz” back to their natives. Despite the technology barriers they were able to share soca music and knowledge about our holidays, religions and the mixture of people that make up both islands. Ribeiro-Agard said one of the other pupils, representing T&T shared the sound of his steelpan leaving everyone amazed. They even showed their friends how to “palance” and now they are all eager to experience Carnival. “They can’t wait to come to Trinidad,” she said.
After, what they have observed in China both girls feel like the experience has influenced their paths in some way. Aqui says she has greater appreciation for water since having cold water to drink is taken lightly here but in China they are just happy to have it. She wants to do humanitarian work and study medicine. As for Ribeiro-Agard she feels influenced to pursue public speaking along with pediatrics and theatre arts.
They added that the government should advertise to pupils ways to get funding assistance if ever they get this chance, so all nominees will be able to attend because it is indeed worth it. They think more of today’s youth should be the focus as our country’s future leaders. “Trinidadian’s take everything for granted,” said Ribeiro-Agard. She believes although we should modernise some parts of our culture it is better to preserve most of it. “There is no need to build skyscrapers,” she said.“We don’t need them!”
They believe if Trinidad and Tobago can be appreciated by outsiders; we ought to do the same ourselves.
The name of the raffle was:
GLOBAL YOUNG LEADERS CONFERENCE 2014 welcomes Eden and Paige to China.
The raffle was drawn on July 31 and the prizes were presented to the winners on August 6 at the same venue (Upper Crust Patisserie located on Patna Street, St. James
The winners are as follows:
1st Place: ALLISON PAYNTER
2nd Place: ERFAN REYES
3rd Place: RONALD LAZZARIE
4th Place: STEPHEN JACOBS
5th Place: MONICA PAZOS
6th Place: AMANI MOHAMMED
7th Place: CATHERINE THOMPSON
8th Place: BRYAN FIFE
9th Place: DAVID ISAAC
10th Place: ROBERT “BOBBY”