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YWCA Canada’s Think Big! Lead Now! Summit: Reflections of a Young Leader

Published on 05/07/2023 by Drishti Patel

A weekend by the beautiful Sparrow Lake in Muskoka [the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Wendake, Haudenosaunee, and Mississauga (covered by Treaty 20)], surrounded by over 100 wonderful humans, was all that I needed to feel overjoyed, rejuvenated, and hopeful for the (present and) future of social change and justice in Canada.  

As a Leadership Summit Animation Team (LSAT) member, I had the honour of attending the Think Big! Lead Now! National Leadership Summit in March. This was a space intentionally co-created to uplift and amplify the voices, skills, and abilities of young leaders and community change-makers. Youth delegates, each with causes close to their hearts and a passion to drive social change, had gathered from coast to coast to coast. 

Jessica Gordon opened the summit by welcoming us to the land and inviting us to learn about its importance to the people who have been inhabiting and caring for it. We then heard from Debbie-Owusu Akyeeah, who in her keynote, shared insights from her leadership journey and taught us a golden life skill – “be comfortable with discomfort.” Following the keynote, each delegate attended one of four workshops; I attended the Networking for Sustainable Leadership workshop and gained an important piece of advice – why “network” when you can build a connection? After the workshops and a hearty lunch, a group of us went on a guided hike where we walked, skated, and skied the afternoon away. The final session for the day was a panel on Joy, Healing, and Growth in Activism. As we laughed, cried, and learned collectively, the room was filled with emotions of vulnerability and connection. Day 1 ended with great food, several rounds of Trivia, and a cozy bonfire! 

On day 2, we heard from the wonderful Lisa Smith (a fellow Newfoundlander!) and attended our second round of workshops. In the workshop I attended, we explored the power of being your authentic self in building a personal brand. I then had the privilege of moderating a panel with some trailblazing young leaders; we talked about radical self-care, leading with love, challenging the status quo, and more. The night was groovy as delegates shared spoken word, poetry, songs, dances, and pizza! It was truly moving to be in a space with such diverse, yet united, young leaders. Every individual had unique lived experiences, but what brought us all together was a shared purpose to lead change in our communities. The best part – we have chosen to stay connected beyond the summit and actively support each other’s leadership journeys. 

Attending the Think Big! Lead Now! National Leadership Summit was an opportunity that I will forever cherish! It was an empowering experience, and I left feeling truly grateful for all the work young change makers are doing across the country. I cannot wait to see what we achieve collectively! A huge thank you and shout-out to the YWCA Canada team for all their work in bringing us together. Programs like this truly make a difference! 

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