World issues on young leader’s mind

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The complexities of the Syrian refugee crisis came into sharp focus for Olivia Butler when she attended the Global Young Leaders Conference in Berlin.
The 18-year-old Blue Mountain College head girl was one of only two representatives chosen from New Zealand to attend.
In all there were 150 participants at the conference. Their ages ranged from 14 to 19.
Olivia returned home recently from the experience, which involved not only attending the formal conference in Berlin but also visiting Austria and the Czech Republic.
There were also visits to various features of significance such as the site of the Berlin Wall, she said.
Olivia was alerted to the chance to attend the conference by one of her teachers, and applied.
The conference provided her with a chance to broaden her horizons.
‘‘I kind of figured out the world is a bit bigger than Waikaka and Tapanui,’’ Olivia said.
Participants were split into groups and Olivia’s group was tasked to come up with a plan for the Syrian refugee crisis. Olivia’s role covered the areas of health and safety.
The discussion about the refugee crisis made Olivia realise she did not want to spend all her energy on strategic planning but was keen to make a practical contribution to solving the global problem, she said.
While Olivia was aware the refugee crisis was an issue before she attended the conference, she did not realise the depth of the problem.
‘‘The refugee crisis had a very big impact on me.’’
The implications of the United Kingdom’s split from the European Union was also discussed, she said.
Other activities included hosting quizzes about participants’ countries of origin.
A visit to the site of the Berlin Wall also had an impact on Olivia.
She said it was a ‘‘weird feeling’’ standing where people had possibly died.
The differing lifestyles participants had were also interesting for Olivia.
‘‘A lot of people were from very wealthy families.’’
The trip served to whet Olivia’s appetite for further travel. She made many friends during the conference and they had asked her to visit.
‘‘I’ve got the [travel] bug.’’
It was hard for her to say goodbye to her new friends, she said.