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Young Community Leaders Share at YWCA Canada’s Think Big! Lead Now! Summit 

Published on 01/09/2022 by Cheta Akaluka

“Get over yourself. It is not about you, but the story you represent.” 

Those were the words of award-winning filmmaker Andy Villanueva who was one of three amazing panelists to share their leadership journeys during the YWCA Think Big! Lead Now! National Leadership Program, a two-day virtual summit which took place on March 12 and 13, 2022.  

As the host of this panel, I found myself scribbling fast to keep up with pearls of wisdom.  

“You have to heal to represent your story accurately,” Villanueva continued. “Get over yourself.” 

Those words stood out to me as I had once learnt that you bleed on those who do not cut you, if you do not heal from those who hurt you. 

Leadership is about service was my biggest takeaway. I learnt to take action not only for the benefit it can have in my life, but also for the benefit of my community.  

Community organizer Lourdenie Jean and Olympian Pamphinette Buisa also shared their leadership journeys.  

Jean’s advice for growth in your leadership journey was the very best. She said, “Be creative as you shoot your shot.”  

By “shooting your shot”, Jean meant taking advantage of opportunities that come your way. Try, and keep trying. You never know at what point your efforts will pay off. You never know if the opportunity you are looking for is looking for you too. So, shoot your shot! 

Many times, other people are vying for the same opportunities as you are. What makes your application different? What makes your pitch stand out? What makes your project newsworthy? Being creative about executing your ideas is not only a unique way to promote yourself but also an avenue to allow yourself the freedom of expression. Authenticity is now a priced commodity.  

Buisa, on the other hand, shared three qualities that sustained her leadership journey — honesty, drive, and commitment.  

What are you looking to achieve? What are the practical steps you could take to get to your leadership goal? What are the obstacles to you achieving your leadership goals? How can you overcome them? These are important questions that can steer you in the right direction. 

Remember why you started. Have a clear-cut ambition and allow it to guide you through uncertainties. Let it motivate you on days you do not feel like it and spur you onto success. 

All panelists agreed that self-care is pertinent to achieving your goals. In fact, they identified that rest is a form of resistance. When there is pressure to grind and hustle despite clear need for a break, rest becomes resistance.  

Tap into the productivity of rest. Take time off to take care of yourself. The leadership summit modelled this by emailing care packages and food vouchers to all participants. Let that serve as a reminder that you deserve good things. 

Plan joy moments when you get something you like or do something you love. It could be as little as getting your favorite drink after a long week or clearing off your schedule for a moment and doing nothing. Take yourself out if you can afford it. Go on a trip if that option is available to you. Plan joyful moments that motivate you to be the best version of yourself. 

The 2022 YWCA summit was indeed a wholesome experience. It began with a very audacious opening speech by activist Fae Johnstone on Saturday and ended with performances on Sunday. I particularly enjoyed the workshop sessions. All participants got the chance to attend two out of six available workshops — art-based social justice, event planning, financial literacy, civic engagement, and advocacy, building your authentic career story and making your work more visible. The two-day event was incredibly empowering.  

Beyond hosting the panel, I was a member of the Leadership Summit Animation Team (LSAT). The LSAT is a group of about ten young leaders who assist in the planning and preparations for the YWCA Canada Leadership summit. I felt privileged to anchor the panel discussions, and also advise on topics that were discussed in my commentary during the session. I got to plan and organize the summit alongside other brilliant young women from different provinces in Canada.  

During the pre-summit event the LSAT put together, I also got to be Master of Ceremonies for the first time ever. That was a very rewarding opportunity. Working with the LSAT was truly a favorable blend of exposure and experience. I got to sharpen my communications and project management skills in the process. I would definitely do this again, if I could. 

As YWCA wraps this year’s event, they are already looking to plan the 2023 program which will hopefully once again include a 3-day immersive summit. Keep an eye out for applications for next year’s LSAT. 


The Think Big! Lead Now! National Leadership Summit is a key component of YWCA Canada’s national leadership program for for young women, two-spirit, genderqueer, trans and non-binary people across Canada aged 18 to 25 years old. Grounded in intersectional feminism and social justice, this three-day immersive training and networking summit is designed to equip young leaders living in Canada with the knowledge and skills to be change-makers in their communities and beyond.  

To learn more, visit www.thinkbigleadnow.com or contact us at projects@ywcacanada.ca. 

This project is funded by the Government of Canada and RBC Foundation. 

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