Brasília Youth Conference

Brazil | 19-21 July 2013

After months of preparation, the expectations of the organizers of the youth conference in Brasília were pleasantly exceeded when nearly 800 youth from the Central-West, North, Northeast and Southeast regions of Brazil arrived at the venue, a conference centre surrounded by lush greenery.

The spirit of collaboration that characterized preparations for the conference was demonstrated by one group from a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro. Some of their youth were not able to afford the cost of travel, but others in the community helped to raise money by selling crafted purses, organizing movie screenings, and celebrating Festa Junina, a Brazilian folk festival.

“We need to combine our efforts, encourage each other, and work together. It is not enough to say ‘go ahead, you’ll make it’; we have to say ‘let’s go together’.”

A participant at the conference

Although groups had travelled together for long distances, a feeling of great excitement filled the air as buses rolled in one after another. One young woman described the happiness of the trip: “We drove here singing, and even the drivers joined us.” For many of the youth, this was the first gathering of this magnitude they had ever participated in. One young man said how he decided to attend the conference as soon as his friends explained its purpose: "When they spoke to me about fostering social transformation through spiritual concepts, I was very motivated to participate. I want to contribute to building a more just society."

Seeing everyone who had gathered for the conference, one participant commented: “There is a very large and diverse group here, but we are all united in one common goal.” This diversity found joyful expression through the arts, including a presentation from the Kiriri, Kiriri-Xocó, and Mundurucu ethnic groups, who sang in their language and danced the traditional toré.

The relationships among participants reflected the strength of their unity and their conviction in the role that youth can play in contributing to progress. “To do that, I need to reflect about the environments I interact with and recognize how I act in them,” one young person said. Youth also discussed how the power of social networks to attract people with similar ideas should be channelled towards the improvement of the community. The conversations at the conference gave everyone present an opportunity to reach a greater understanding of the imperative of collective action. “You can’t change things alone, you need to do it together,” one 19-year-old explained.

Youth who had been involved in working with the younger generations in their neighbourhoods and villages shared experiences with their peers, describing their efforts to help those younger than themselves to recognize destructive social influences, such as violence, and develop the capacity to think critically about moral choices. Those who had not yet had this opportunity were inspired and decided to dedicate time to contribute to the betterment of their communities upon their return home. One young man, who decided to try to help younger youth develop their capacities for service by starting such a group, said: “I will leave here with a renewed vision, knowing that I am not alone and there are people who will support me.”

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  • Participants came from four of the five regions in Brazil

  • Friends registering and collecting conference materials

  • Consultations took place in an encouraging atmosphere

  • Participants wrote down their reflections to share with others in a larger group

  • A group presents a traditional dance

  • Youth studied, consulted, and planned together

  • Participants devised activities to articulate the concepts explored in the material that was studied

  • The atmosphere for the duration of the conference was joyful and high-spirited

  • A photo of all the participants

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