Close to one of the largest open market centres in the city of Accra, a densely populated area filled with the sounds of buyers and sellers bartering goods, is located the Accra Academy Secondary School, surrounded by 30 acres of beautiful gardens, where 670 young people from Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone came together from 6 to 8 September to discover the ways in which they can prepare themselves for a life of service.
When the announcement came about the youth conference, many were stirred by the call of the Universal House of Justice and wanted to participate in this gathering. In the months leading up to the conference, youth thought of ways to raise funds to enable their attendance. One young girl made and sold local butterscotch toffees at her school and managed to raise over half the amount she needed for her passport. Her father then, moved by her efforts, decided to help raise the remaining funds. Another example was demonstrated by a group from Liberia whose travel papers were delayed. After saying prayers and relying on divine confirmations, they went to the airport anyway and to their great joy, everything they needed came together and they were permitted to board the plane.
“When we serve our communities, we are not only helping others but we grow too”
A participant at the conference
On the first morning of the conference many of the participants were so eager to begin they were seated in the assembly hall one and a half hours before the start of the plenary session. As they waited for the programme to start, groups of youth shared uplifting songs and dances, many of which were specific to the regions that they were from. One group would start singing and others would join in, quickly learning the songs so that they could participate. When the session formally began, everyone was energized and ready to embark on their days of study and discussion.
The participants discussed the responsibility that they have as older youth to assist younger generations to channel their time and energies towards selfless service to humanity. “I have come to appreciate that we have a an important contribution to make in building communities, and one of the ways in which we can do this is by nurturing the talents and capacities of those younger than us,” stated one participant from Liberia. They also considered the relationship between helping others and their own spiritual growth. “I used to assist a group of younger youth and over time my father started to comment that I was becoming wiser. I told him that I had been working with these friends and that in the process I had also learnt a lot,” said one participant from Ghana. “When we serve our communities, we are not only helping others but we grow too” another observed. Artistic activities complimented their study of the materials and helped to reinforce their understanding of the concepts in the conference themes.
The conference drew to a close with words of encouragement from Continental Counsellor Agatha Sarinoda Gaisie-Nketsiah, who reminded the youth that as they arise with faith and tenacity to work towards transforming society, they will attract divine assistance and confirmation from God. With high resolve and faces bright with hope, 700 friends left the venue, confident and ready to work shoulder to shoulder with others to raise vibrant communities in their countries.
Conference participants continue to arrive into the night
670 young people from Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone attended the gathering
The conference was held at the Accra Academy Secondary School
New friendships were forged between participants throughout the weekend
Workshops in smaller groups enabled more in-depth discussion on the conference materials
Tents were set up to accomodate the conference sessions
One group studies and reflects on a section of the materials with the assistance of a facilitator
Participants between the ages of 15 and 30 shared ideas, reflected on their own experience, and made plans to continue their efforts to serve their communities
The youth made maps of their neighbourhoods to consult about their plans of action
Youth from the same communities gathered to consult and plan
Participants devised activities to articulate the concepts explored in the materials that were studied
Singing and other arts infused both plenary and group sessions
Friends from different of communities took turns to share music and songs
Two youth shared their insights and plans for when they return home
A group photo of the conference participants