Having a sense of identity.
These are a group of youths that know it means more than having a social media profile. Through an 8 week program founded on religion, creativity and expression, they learned to recognise their their worth, values, and direction in life.
In a culture where obedience and social hierarchies are heavily engrained, what may be considered common thought in the west, is a change facing several challenges in Tonga. Luckily, the leaders of the ICON Youth Group have the commitment and courage to take them on.
I had the chance to observe these weekly workshops take place. Being older, I was also able to share some of my own experiences, but I definitely learned more than I could contribute.
I learned that no matter where you grow up in the world, a big city, or small country, being young is still a strenuous journey marked with many cross roads. Right turns and wrong decisions are everywhere, which is why it’s important that youth programs and other initiatives are just as widely available, and recognised for the directions they provide.
The workshops all led into a final exhibition that I also had the privilege to attend. This was the chance for the youths to preform individually and as a group, addressing the question of ‘Who Am I”.
Individually they where from different backgrounds and had different interests, but what brought them together was their desire to express themselves in a positive way. Through outlets ranging from dance, fashion, singing, rap, music, art, to drama, they provided their answers and were well applauded.
In response, the crowd was reminded that the exhibition wasn’t just for entertainment, it was to deliver a message.
What I’m taking away is the importance of pursuing positive things you’re passionate about, if not for where they will take you, then for how they make you feel. It can mean the difference between a right turn and wrong decision, something that we never get too old to make.
So here I am writing and sharing my experiences, thoughts and ambitions, because regardless if it gets read, it’s who I am.