After months of preparation, the excitement of the more than 500 youth from Costa Rica, Panama, and Puerto Rico present at the youth conference could be felt throughout the gymnasium of a school in Santa Ana, near the capital city of San José. Meeting new faces from neighbouring countries and hearing their experiences, the participants caught a glimpse of the global conversation in which they are engaged along with the youth attending other conferences. Continental Counsellors Ronny Brenes and Bernardino Sánchez addressed the participants as representatives of the Universal House of Justice.
Many youth had made extraordinary efforts to attend the conference. A large group from Panama travelled for more than two days, having to wait at the border for 10 hours, and arrived at their destination just a few hours before the start of the conference. They were warmly welcomed by their peers from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and despite the fatigue, they eagerly began consulting about the contribution that youth can make for the transformation of their communities.
One of the youth from Puerto Rico stated that “we have the necessary maturity to understand the vision of Bahá'u'lláh of a spiritually and materially prosperous world, and to understand that serving humanity is serving God. When we work for the well-being of society we grow as individuals.” An Ngöbe youth from the Nedrini region in Panama talked about the implications for the life of an individual who wishes to contribute to the betterment of his or her community by saying that “the day-to-day activities that we carry out serve to assist others. For example, when we take care of our rivers we are supporting others who rely on that ecosystem.”
Those gathered consulted extensively about how they could assist youth younger than themselves to refine their characters and assume responsibility for the betterment of society. Their conviction about the potential of this age group was magnified after hearing stories of how younger youth in the San José area, unable to attend the conference because of their age, were looking for ways to support it. On one of the days of the conference, a group of these younger youth made an unexpected visit and, with impressive eloquence, shared their experiences of being accompanied by their older peers to improve their neighborhoods, and the impact this had had on their own lives. With moving words, they urged the participants to assist younger youth in other regions to take similar action so that they too could benefit from being accompanied.
The conference took place in a large gymnasium near the capital city of San José
Participants came from Costa Rica, Panama, and Puerto Rico
Participants study the conference agenda
Each group found creative ways to present what they were studying in the workshops
A group of youth study together one of the sections of the material
One of the many dramatic presentations that took place at the gathering
Music and the arts were a large component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated