By Alysha Ayres, Western Union Global Payments employee and One Young World Ambassador
One Young World is a UK based charity which was founded by David Jones and Kate Robertson in 2009. The aim of One Young World is to gather the brightest young leaders from around the world and empower them to stand up and fight for positive change. A Summit is held every year in various locations from around the globe, previous destinations include Johannesburg, Ottowa, Dublin and Bogota. During the summit delegates hear from a variety of counselors who address the most pressing global issues facing our generation. Following the summit delegates are known as One Young World Ambassadors and leave bursting with ideas and initiatives to implement into their corporate organisations, local communities and everyday lives.
When I heard about One Young World earlier this year and the chance to apply to represent Western Union at this years Summit in The Hague I knew it was too much of an opportunity to miss. I was fortunate enough to be selected and whilst I went to the summit fully anticipating it to be incredible I genuinely wasn’t prepared for the impact it would have on me. To say that it was life changing would be an understatement!
The opening ceremony on Wednesday evening was held at the Peace Palace considered the international temple of Peace and Justice. The summit was officially opened by Queen Maxima of The Netherlands who stated ‘I hope that this summit will bring you inspiration, wisdom, friendship and perseverance for all the tasks that lie ahead of us’. Our delegation was lucky enough to be represented by 5 flag bearers flying the flags for Austria, Lithuania, Costa Rica, The Philippines and Ukraine. It was a proud moment for all of us and the whole ceremony really made you sit up and realise that we were a part of something very special.
Over the course of the 3 days following the opening ceremony we heard from a number of key note speakers including Bob Geldof, Sir John Major, Amber Heard and Gordon Brown to name just a few. They covered the pressing topics facing our generation including Climate Change, Education, Poverty Alleviation and the Refugee Crisis and called for delegates to stand up and take action. For me the most humbling and eye-opening part of the summit was hearing from young leaders from all around the globe who have been passionately fighting for the causes they firmly believe in. Each day of the summit there would be a plenary session covering a specific topic, these were Human Rights, Education and the Environment. During these sessions we would hear from a panel of young leaders who would share their stories and the incredible work they have been doing to make a difference in our world. Each and every one of them has been on an unbelievable journey and I was frequently moved to tears hearing about them.
We were particularly excited for our leader & CEO Hikmet Ersek to speak on Thursday afternoon. In his speech he talked about the importance of building global connections and the work that Western Union is doing to ensure we remain aligned to this. Hikmet’s message was very well received by the audience, two delegates who were sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Your CEO did good!’. I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say in that moment we felt immensely proud to be a part of the Western Union delegation. In the evening Hikmet joined us for dinner and spent time with every single delegate, he was so keen to hear our reasons for applying and what we would be taking away to share both within Western Union and externally. Hikmet’s enthusiasm is infectious and we were all left feeling empowered to return to the business and start implementing our ideas.
I have found it challenging to try and put the summit into words, all I can say is that I have returned as a proud One Young World Ambassador who is desperate to fight for the causes I believe in and make a positive change no matter how small. The only way you can truly understand this incredible gathering of young leaders is to go and experience it for yourself. I would strongly urge anyone who is eligible to apply for next years summit in London, I promise it will change your life! I am so grateful to Western Union for giving me the chance to attend this prestigious event, it will stay with me forever and help shape the decisions I make both professionally and personally for a long time to come.
You can read more about the other delegates from Western Union who were selected to attend this year’s Summit, here.