When I first thought about going to the JCI World Congress, I had only been a member for 6 months and was still finding my way through the JCI maze. Everyone was encouraging me to go but I was in two minds…..Brussels in November? Should I really spend my hard earned leave at a week of workshops when I could be lying on a beach somewhere? Even when I clicked the button confirming my registration I still wasn’t sure……until I got there and was thrown headfirst into an exhilarating whirlwind of parties, activities and the friendliest group of people I have ever met in my life.
It all kicked off with the Opening Ceremony which was the first time the global scale of JCI actually hit me. Over 4000 delegates flooded into the Brussels Expo dressed in their national colours madly waving their flags in a mass celebration. There was a brass band and cheerleaders to get us in the mood-everyone just seemed incredibly happy and excited to be there. Each National President was introduced on stage accompanied by a booming soundtrack which kept everyone on their feet and energy levels sky high. When our own Alison Cowell came on the stage, the UK delegation went into a wild frenzy! We couldn’t quite beat the huge crowd of Germans who drowned out pretty much everyone else but we certainly beat them hands down on the fashion front with our Union Jack sparkly dresses!
At the end of each day, there would be a huge party followed by after parties for those who had the stamina! The French and Germans outdid themselves at the European night with their revolving dance floor, which went down a storm with the UK delegation! The Netherlands party the following night was a lot of fun as was the Korea party next door. The best party overall was Global Village where we got the chance to sample the national food and drink of lots of different countries. The gin and tonic at the UK stall proved to be a massive success while the French stall was overflowing with bread, cheese and wine. After making a few roundtrips, it felt good to burn off some of those calories on the dance floor!
During the week there were lots of speakers and training sessions and I tried to attend as many as I could. They covered a wide range of topics from leadership skills to negotiation to how to improve your flirting skills in business! The highlight for me was a talk given by Rees Mann of JCI South Africa who spoke about his life after JCI and how the skills he developed helped him in his career. Despite having no formal business training, he completely transformed a rundown area of Johannesburg helping many young people into employment along the way. Despite all the obstacles he encountered he showed that one person can make a lasting difference to the world around them.
Now that I have been to World Congress, I finally understand what everyone has been raving about. For me, it was all about meeting and making friends with people across continents and cultures. I felt like I had the whole world at my fingertips. The enthusiasm and positivity of everyone around me was so infectious that it inspired me to get out there and change things for the better in my own community. It has also given me some great ideas for my role as 2012 Personal Development and Training Director for London.
Many of the people I met were amazed that I was attending my first World Congress so soon after joining but looking back I’m glad I took the plunge so early on. As with all things JCI related, your experience is what you make it and that manic week in Brussels ended up being the most fantastic experience of the year so far.
By Mehnaz Siddiqui
Categorised in: Charity
This post was written by Sarah Beckwith