Global Citizen Youth Leadership

I have very briefly mentioned that I spent a few weeks in El Salvador this summer. My time there was through the work I do with PWRDF. One of our partners, the Committee against AIDS (CoCoSI), was chosen to host a delegation of young people from Saskatchewan. The trip was designed and run by the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation. Its purpose was, as the title “Global Citizen Youth Leadership Program” suggests, designed to promote being a global citizen amongst young people.

What does it mean to be a global citizen, you might ask. This was explored through discussions of international development – good and bad, through understanding privilege and oppression, through living and interacting with people with a different history, culture, and worldview to the ones we may have grown up with, and through being open to being changed and willing to ask tough questions to ourselves and our society.

The eight teenagers from all across Saskatchewan who joined in on this journey are amazing young people. They rose to the challenge and let their hearts be broken time and time again by shattered worldviews, poverty, pain, and love. Their experiences, and the stories of some of the people we met have been captured in a 30 minute video by a Regina filmaker.

For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to see the video, take 30 minutes and be challenged by some amazing young people.

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Placemats and Genocide

When I tell people that I am on PWRDF’s Youth Council, the first predictable response is “What is PW… something?”. After explaining it as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the relief, development, and social justice arm of the Anglican Church of Canada (pwrdf.org), the next question usually asks about monkeys.

All joking aside, I am delighted to be a part of the Youth Council because I believe strongly in the work that PWRDF does and want every Canadian Anglican (or really just every Canadian) to know about it and understand the importance of their and their church’s support.

My first awareness of PWRDF has a very specific start-date: I can still picture the placemat. I grew up in a parish in the Diocese of Ontario. Our parish had (still has?) a wonderful tradition of Wednesday morning Lenten services followed by breakfast together in the parish hall. In my memory, there were a good number of people who would attend before heading off to work – my parents faithfully went every week, bringing their two young children. At breakfast, each long table was set with PWRDF placemats. I remember sitting at the table, looking at the pictures and being captivated by the images portrayed. However, what stands out to me even more than the images on the placemats is the memory of a church lady standing before everyone with one of the placemats and exhorting us to Stop! and Pay Attention! to the images and messages contained on the placemats and then Do Something! about it.

You see, this was the season of Lent 1994, a time in which the tensions in Rwanda were at the boiling point. We, through PWRDF and other organizations, were being urged to take a stand and write letters to our government to urge them to support actions to help prevent a genocide. I didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation being described until years later, upon reading accounts of the events and putting 2 + 2 together. However for me, PWRDF placemats will always be a reminder of a call to action, of a call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.