The year was 2015. A big year for me as it turned out. In April I graduated from my university course and felt a huge sense of relief and a new sense of time on my hands. I found out that the next world youth camp was to be held in Istanbul Turkey. I didn’t need much convincing. A friend by the name of Olwyne and I became the two representatives from Australia to attend the camp. I paid my registration and was set to go.
Upon arriving at the camp I couldn’t believe the number of other young Deaf people my age from around the world. In all there were about 115 participants from 40 countries. I was staggered to find out the breadth of their experiences, volunteering pursuits and leadership qualities. I had been a leader at previous small-scale camps in Australia so the jump up to be amongst peers was awesome. I made so many new friends and relationships. All the while I was lamenting the fact that Australia is not blessed with such opportunity.
The camp began with activities, leadership training and team-work skill development. As well we were exposed to presentations on a variety of topics, of which a couple of standouts were a person from Hong Kong who presented on sign language from the region and another from Fiji on the establishment of the Deaf youth association in that country. Colin Allen also presented on human rights. The diversity of people at the camp was awesome. In fact, I had never met anyone from Saudi Arabia before. All of the participants were divided into groups and then had to make up a poster showing some artwork on certain themes. Placed along a wall you could see the cohesion of the themes from each group.
During the camp people were asked to present their nomination for the WFDYS board 2015 – 2019. The board asked the whole camp to consider themselves a new board member as they were looking for more diversity of directors – gender, background and region. Several people approached me to put forward my nomination and while I was reluctant at first I did eventually submit my nomination. Their encouragement cited my capacity to work through problems, my positive attitude and my ability to get things done. Making that final decision wasn’t easy. I didn’t consult with my parents but luckily was able to talk with the president of DYA (Deaf Youth Australia) to ask for a vote of support. Without question she was happy to support me and my nomination. So from there I held on to my nomination form and gave it some more thought. In the end it was a question of “why not?” If I didn’t submit the nomination I would be living with regret. “What’s stopping me?”
By the end of an exhausting week, as you can imagine, not much sleep is done during the camp, I represented Australia at the general assembly, where I was also the delegate from DYA. The assembly also heard our bid to host the next junior camp in Melbourne. I was really anxious yet confident I could deliver a good presentation as never before had I presented to any people on a world stage like this. At the end of the presentation we got overwhelming support for the Melbourne bid. It was a surreal moment because mostly these events are hosted by countries in the northern hemisphere. The previous event of this kind was the 1999 WFD congress in Brisbane. It was truly an exciting moment. Then came my presentation for becoming a board member. Two rounds of presentations were required and I think I was more nervous for this one. Members of the general assembly voted on each presenter and then votes were tallied. I felt okay about my presentation but still shocked to find out I had been selected. Altogether the board consisted of 7 people. After greetings, photos and some congratulations we then had to enter the WFD congress. I was blown away by the size of this event – so many people! Without much sleep in the bank I struggled to survive the week of the congress but eventually got to the last day where the old board handed over to the new board on the stage. We sat and watched the closing ceremony for about two hours, culminating in the WFD flag being handed over to the next host nation, France in 4 years time.
It was really an amazing two weeks. At the start of it I never imagined I would become a new board member of the WFDYS. Following the congress I then travelled Europe for about 6 weeks before setting for home.