Global Issues and Student Empowerment: An Update on Abu Dhabi GIN Conference


Natasha Krell, a JUMPer and CORE Planning Leader for the GIN Conference at American Community School (ACS) in Abu Dhabi, sent us an update about their conference in February.  JUMP! was on hand in November to meet with the Core Group and work with the Global Village student facilitators to prep for the Conference.  For more information, check out the ACS GIN Conference website and the Global Issues Network website.

This year’s GIN Conference at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi brought together 200 participants from 18 schools  to “respond and engage” to global issues. What made this conference special was the dedication by an inspired group of eight ACS high school seniors: the GIN Planning Core. Bolstered by teachers and administration, the GIN planning core successfully organized a conference for students and by students.

The GIN Conference was an opportunity to work with other students from Shanghai to Dusseldorf. Students collaborated as they voiced their thoughts on how to break down barriers surrounding these issues.  A metaphor, introduced at the start of the conference, stuck with many of the participants: the world is a puzzle, humans have broken it into many pieces and now, we the youth, can put it back together.

Workshops, keynote speakers, iCare service projects such as “Dumpster Diving” and “Bus Raids”, Global Villages, and a Hunger Banquet, were central elements of this year’event.. The Global Villages, led by ACS and NYU students,  enabled participants to collaborate with a small group on action plans and draw connections between global issues.  Justin Bedard, from the JUMP! Foundation, ran activities in workshops and provided participants with tools for leadership skills and communication.  Participants discovered how interrelated global issues are and the potential of their impact. We could see that global issues are a very complex web, yet solutions are driven, inspired, and hopeful youth.

Keynote presentations spanned from children with HIV to magic tricks. Pippa Biddle who helped establish a summer camp in the Dominican Republic for children with HIV, reminded participants of our common humanity, while Elvis Donkoh reiterated this cause by inspiring students to run projects to help raise funds and awareness for development projects in Africa. Scott Hammell, a magician who puts his talents for social good, advised participants to recognize their passions and make this their call to action. Daniel Nwodi, a Nigerian charity worker who promotes human rights reminded us that leadership is self-taught and in order to change something in the world, we must change negative qualities about ourselves. Rebecca Kantor, creator of MINGA, spread awareness about human trafficking and asked participants, “What’s your BHAG?” (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal).Yet, as great as the speakers were, the energy and action plans of the students was the true source of inspiration. Many participants left with a common dedication to humanity and the hope that we can change the world to how we want to it be.

The GIN Conference remains self-empowering as it reminds participants that we are all stakeholders in global change.  Little drops make a mighty ocean, and everyone has the power to make change. This program encourages us to create our own experience, respond to the problems we see  and actively get engage in the community.

Co-authored by Natasha Krell, CORE Planning Leader and Anne Russell, teacher.

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