One thing leads to another.

That’s sure the case for Patrick Watson, who headed out to represent Canada (and Barrie) at a Youth Leadership Conference in Zamek ?Zakedy, Czech Republic, in July. You may remember my plea for donations for Patrick to raise the $2500 he needed to attend the conference.

Well, the community came through, with cheques big and small, and Patrick spent a week in international discussions that have surely changed the fibre of his soul. I see this as a trickle-down effect as Patrick is headed for the high school classroom career-wise to impact the attitudes of his students.

He called when he got back, just to say he learned a tremendous amount not only about international issues, but about consensus building, and essentially about learning how to look at life from more than his own vantage point.

Each of the 60 participants received a package that outlined discussions and points of view that would be assigned to delegates. All delegates participated in all activities, mock parliaments, simulations of United Nations crises, and international decision-making.

“First of all,” says Patrick, “the participants were truly from an international stage... very active, very participatory, very social, very intelligent.” He called the conference his idea of heaven, being with young people who want to do something amazing.

“We didn’t sleep much, we mostly lived on adrenalin,” he said.

“You could sit down and talk with anyone about anything. I wanted to enlarge my perspective on the overall global village so I have a more knowledgeable approach.”

Patrick said he left the conference with lots of interest and confidence in international affairs and international studies. He took a Canadian perpsective to the conference and was particularly proud of his participation in the simulated United Nations Crisis in the South China Seas. The scene was set up as China forcibly trying to gain control of the South China Sea because of mineral deposits to be exploited, as well as the flow of goods and services into Burma, Malaysia and south Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam.

As the Malaysian delegate, Patrick’s proposal (which was adopted by all delegates) called on China to reduce their claim to within 100 km of any country.

“The Chinese delegate was ‘upset’ that Patrick’s proposal was accepted, but afterwards we congratulated each other and rebuilt our relationship.”

At the end of the day it’s all about learning.

For Patrick the impact of the youth leadership conference was not only that he had to learn to understand the political and social values that aren’t his own, but he also had to help select roles for other people and participate in supporting other views.

The other topics included economics, political strife, criminal courts, and model parliaments.

The whole thing required coalition building, consensus.

From this conference, Patrick has been selected to attend two others: a Global Citizenship conference in Prague (Oct 26-31) and a European Union Youth Summer from December 6-12. He’s the only Canadian selected in both cases. He’ll be the first Canadian ever to attend the Czech conference and Patrick is certainly aware that Canada-Czech relations are at an all-time low.

So, thank you to the many Barrie folks who responded to Patrick’s funding needs. The next two conferences are completely underwritten for Patrick, a special bonus.

As we talked I wondered if he’d changed his mind about a teaching career... “I still want to teach. I feel teaching can use a global perspective. I become more enthusiastic about teaching when I attend a conference like this.”

Patrick has three more years of university and one year of teachers college before he heads into a classroom. He wants to take his third year of study at the University of Rotterdam in Holland. Any bets as to whether he’ll do it?

Thanks, Patrick.

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