The sound that changes everything [video]

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.

World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.

On Thursday, that message compelled our nation's leaders to hear them, too. In a time when the problems our nation faces are overwhelming -- where the polarization between the parties and within the system seem too great -- it was the passion of these teen delegates that bridged the divide. In the space of a few minutes, the political noise was silenced, and the possibility of taking action became a reality through their stories and proposals.

Sometime during the week, I heard it said that youth aren’t our future; they are our present. I don’t know what's ahead for any of us. But when I look into my viewfinder and into the eyes of these teenagers, the future looks amazing.

I made this video recap of the week's events that was shown at the summit's end-of-week gala, where the students' hard work is celebrated and honored. It represents less than a couple minutes worth of YEP moments. But each one of the faces in this video represents so much more -- a story, a dream, and a voice that is advocating for a better future. And it's their voices that are the sound that changes everything.


Read related posts Your role in changing our world" and "What makes an advocate"

Read more on the World Vision Blog about: reflections video Youth empowerment

Comments

Awesome! I am so proud of all those youth standing up for their communities! What a huge step to get so many enthusiastic youth from so many places together in one country-changing spot! Love it.

Through the voices of these teens all the way down to the cries of the smallest, youngest and most vulnerable of all, Jesus speaks to us. When we fail to listen -- to even acknowledge that these children have something to say; when we reduce them to "potential;" when we wait for he day that they will "become contributing members of society," forgetting that, in Jesus eyes they already DO contribute immeasurably, we set another stone in the foundation of child neglect and abuse everywhere.

That may sound like a strong statement, but I firmly believe it is true. It is seen most clearly in economically depressed societies where children are robbed of their childhood and forced to become "productive" through hard labor, military conscription, or prostitution. Until we face this "child as potential" virus and declare war on it, we will never eradicate the epidemic of child endangerment around the world.

We MUST defend childhood. We must declare it to be an honorable stage of human life, having implicit value of its own. We must advocate for children’s right to be children, and highlight the contributions they make as children. We must learn to let them lead us as much as we lead them, and teach us as much as we teach them.

We must understand that Jesus wasn’t speaking only for their when he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:3 (NIV).” He was speaking for ours.

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