At the heart of the Niger Delta sits the Songhai agricultural research institute, a verdant landscape extending over 150 hectares of lush green gardens. It is here where 407 radiant young people from villages and cities gathered for the youth conference in Sapele, Nigeria, to explore the ways in which they can contribute to the material and spiritual progress of their surroundings.
The number of youth attending was impressive; an overwhelming majority of the participants had only recently been introduced to the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and before attending, many had to overcome their uncertainties and apprehensions. One youth shared, “My friends back home said I should not come here. But I said I will first go to see what is happening. As I’m here now,… I am learning how to be a good leader and to take care of the younger youth.” Another said, “I was told not to attend this conference, but now that I have come I understand that Bahá’ís are working for the betterment of society. When I go back home, I am going to tell my friends all about it.”
“I have learnt a lot this weekend … the concept of mutual support has been especially interesting for me. I can now see that it is only when we are humble that we can learn from others.”
A participant at the conference
Many participants were inspired to see other youth at the conference who were from different ethnic groups, tribes and educational backgrounds, yet united in their vision to contribute to the advancement of their communities. They discussed the importance of working together, and reiterated their conviction that helping to build better communities demands collective effort. One youth commented on the quality of humility that is required when we work with others: “I have learnt a lot this weekend … the concept of mutual support has been especially interesting for me. I can now see that it is only when we are humble that we can learn from others.” A group facilitator from Lagos shared how one of his key insights has been witnessing how the participants have come to the realization that they have the ability to transform the societies in which they live. One youth said: “After studying the materials here, I have seen that it is not only the government that has to build a better society but that we can help, no matter what our culture or background is.”
Just before proceeding to a delicious lunch of ogbono soup, a traditional delicacy in Nigeria made with the nut of the ogbono tree, a light rain began to drizzle over the grounds and the participants took shelter under coconut trees and huts.
Singing played a natural part throughout the entire conference, and the energy of the evening presentations would continue through to the morning plenary sessions. Upon arrival on the last morning, all were energized by the liveliness of a group singing and dancing around the main hall, including songs with lyrics such as “the time to be happy is now” and “show our love to mankind”.
After a final dinner of rice and stew, the youth gathered back into the hall in time for the artistic presentations that reflected the concepts they had been thinking deeply about during their study. A presentation was shown in three different languages, Isoko, Urhobo, and Igbo from within the Niger Delta region, to demonstrate how youth from diverse backgrounds can join together to work for the well-being of their communities. Another drama presented by a group of youth from the nearby city of Calabar received a standing ovation from the participants who were watching!
As the conference drew to a close, everyone was excited to depart for home and to share what they had learnt at the conference with their friends: “I am going to begin my plan of action next week!”… “I will bring my friends together by telling them all about this youth conference!”Return to top
Participants arriving at the conference venue
A supportive spirit imbued the conference
Name tags were prepared for all participants at registration
Over 400 youth from Nigeria attended the gathering
The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the development of those younger than themselves
Mealtimes were also occasions for fellowship and laughter
Youth studied, consulted and planned together
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
Participants brought their instruments with them to the conference
Friends gathered to share songs and learn new ones during the breaks between sessions
Original artistic presentations were shared each day of the conference
A group photo of the conference participants and volunteers