International Congress Of Youth Voices
By Galicia L.
On Saturday, August 4, 2018, San Francisco hosted the International Congress of Youth Voices, where 100 young writers and activists from around the world gathered at an event organized by 826 Valencia, a literary organization founded by author Dave Eggers. I listened to all the speakers, but one in particular stood out. Salvador Gomez-Colon is a fifteen-year-old from Puerto Rico who spoke about Hurricane María hitting Puerto Rico and the aftermath. He spoke about how people were emotionally damaged and how he saw people steal things, abuse alcohol, and get into fights. Salvador said there are still people in Puerto Rico without power and that life after María taught him that young people can do anything. Salvador created an organization called Light and Hope for Puerto Rico. He raised over $100,000 to purchase and distribute solar-powered lamps and hand-powered washing machines to households. Salvador said, “Either we run the day, or the day runs us.”
My seventeen-year-old cousin happened to be visiting us from Puerto Rico on the day of the event and went with me. Watching somebody speaking about the same hardships he went through was empowering for him. Because I have family in Puerto Rico, Hurricane María affected me too. When the hurricane hit, I was scared for my family and the island. I was really affected by how bad the pictures made the island look. Listening to Salvador inspired me. It made me wonder: If one fifteen-year-old can have such an enormous impact on so many people’s lives, imagine what all the youth around the world could do?
When I asked Salvador how his experience at the Congress affected him and what he hoped to do with what he learned, Salvador said, “Being at the Congress has enabled me to open my perspectives and see things in a more open way. I learned to always respect different ideas. The Congress also brought close to various international issues such as the Syrian Civil War, access to water and underdeveloped nations in Africa, and the role of youth in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With what I learned and the perspectives I saw, I envision myself more fit to be able to empower youth around the world to act on issues they care about and take action even when others might not.”
Another delegate who inspired me was Cory Williams, a sixteen-year-old from Ypsilanti, Michigan. When I asked him why the conference was so important, he said “Because we are bringing together the greatest young minds to see what will happen.” Cory also told me that the reason he was invited to the Congress was because he was a leader and a creative writer in his community. He told me that currently he is writing his longest story. When I asked him what he wanted to change in the world, he said he wanted a poor black boy and a rich white kid to have the same opportunities in life.
There were many other delegates that spoke about issues such as homelessness, racism, feminism, gun violence, and immigration. The organizers promised there would be another Congress of Youth Voices. Make sure to look out for it. I know I will.