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September 10, 2014

Youth Conferences and Activities Raising Community Capacities in Ottawa
Youth Conferences and Activities Raising Community Capacities in OttawaThe Bahá’í community of Ottawa has seen an increased tempo of youth-focused activities and an increased engagement of young people since the summer of 2013, when 125 youth from the Ottawa area attended a Toronto Youth Conference that was part of a global series of youth conferences. This past March, Ottawa hosted a one-day youth summit that gathered approximately 100 youth to reflect on what participants had learned and achieved since the Toronto conference. Last month, in mid-August, a local youth conference brought together 140 youth for three days in Ottawa.

Emad Talisman was the logistics coordinator for this conference. He explained that these gatherings have gone hand in hand with increased youth participation in a series of regular ongoing activities in the community, including youth group activities, study circles and community service projects. These conferences and youth activities are open to everyone, not just Bahá'ís, and the focus on helping youth “examine their role in contributing to the betterment of society,” Emad explained, has attracted many different people. In fact, one third of the recent Ottawa conference participants were not members of the Bahá'í community.

Youth Conferences and Activities Raising Community Capacities in OttawaEmad speaks of the “privilege of witnessing the advancement of a community” as it rallied together to organize the most recent conference in a very short time. For those involved in organizing, running and facilitating the conference, he noted, a great deal of personal and community capacity was developed. “Large groups of friends,” he explained, “planned and executed art activities and fundraisers, studied guidance from the Universal House of Justice, and explored their role in contributing to the advancement of civilization.” He  also identified the useful skills participants exercised when they evaluated what they had experienced. They “reflected on what we learned” and were able to “generate, synthesize and diffuse knowledge among large groups of people.”

The arts played a prominent role in all the activities over the past two years. Artistic expression was one of the key ways that participants explored the themes of the conferences. Emad also emphasized the value of the bonds of friendship that were formed. “Singing, laughing, conversation, and food give life to study, reflection, and planning.” He  thought it was very important to always remember that the spirit of fellowship and friendship “gives us joy, and joy gives us wings.”

“One thing I have learned from serving the Cause,” he said, “is that change happens rapidly.” Before last year, he said, many people had certain “comfortable” ideas of how to do things, but through the dynamic pace of action and reflection over the past couple of years, “our collective understanding has advanced tremendously.”

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