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World youth conference on volunteering opens in Panama
02 April 2008

Panama City, Panama: Over 220 young people from 22 countries are gathered in Las Cumbres outside
Panama City for a three-day event to share ideas on volunteering, solidarity and equity.

The event is organized by the Office of the First Lady ‘Contigo Juventud’ Programe of the Republic of Panama, IAVE, YMCA Panama, and the IAVE Youth Office in Catalonia.

At the inaugural ceremony on April 1, IAVE president Liz Burns started by thanking the first lady of Panama and her staff for organizing the conference, and the IAVE Youth Office and IAVE youth representatives on the board of directors for putting the program together. But Liz reserved the biggest thank you for the participants who had said ‘yes’ to be part of the conference and ‘yes’ to be part of the solution to the world’s problems. IAVE’s president said she hoped the participants would enjoy the conference and be proud to be able to tell other people, “I was there!”

Looking around the room, Liz asked what brought the young people to the conference? First of all, they had to be volunteers. So how did they get involved in volunteering? What happens to people to make them volunteers?

Some people volunteer because they believe in a cause. Or because they have a special interest in art, sport, postage stamps or another hobby. Some come to volunteering by accident, because they join a club, the girl guides or boy scouts. Perhaps they volunteered because it was required at school to do service work to get good grades or to get into certain faculties at university. But mostly because someone asks you to volunteer and you say, “Yes.” Sometimes we are happy to say “Yes” but quite often we say it because we don’t quite manage to say, “No!” But the important thing is, we have said “Yes.”

Liz then called for the participants to shout out “yes” in the language of their choice. The response was a resounding "YES" from 220 young volunteers.