First, I have a confession to make. When I was first approached by Solveig about running the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the world) programme for JCI UK next year, I agreed simply because it included training in Istanbul. Having just returned from that training I can honestly say that whilst Istanbul exceeded my expectations, it is now the least of the reasons why I am excited about the programme.
One of the main reasons I love JCI is because it is a global network – not just on paper, but real opportunities to get to know likeminded people from across the world. I turned up, late at night with a slight sense of trepidation (ok, fear – I stupidly watched Taken before leaving and, whilst my dad is great, he’s no Liam Neeson) and no idea where I was going or who I was staying with. My host not only rang me at the airport to check I had address, enough money etc but then actually directed the taxi driver all the way to her door. Guildem was so welcoming and genuinely excited to have me there – I have long standing friends who do not greet me with such enthusiasm!
The hospitality continued the next day when the TOYP Academy Director, Onur, collected me and took me to meet the other delegates for a spot of lunch and sightseeing with the other delegates and some JCI Istanbul members. Here I got to know people from the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Serbia, and started to learn a bit about JCI across Europe. The Polish delegation joined us – and yet more friendly Istanbul members – for the welcome dinner.
Thursday was spent in training but in true JCI style this was fun, interactive and us “learning by doing” almost immediately. It was a great chance to understand more about the cultural differences across Europe and to chat about the varying challenges we face in our chambers. But, even better, it was an opportunity to discover just how similar we are. We all want to give up our free time to improve our communities and to celebrate the achievements of young people around the world. Which is exactly what TOYP does.
And on the Friday, after a few knowledge transfer sessions (and a lot of coffee) with the previous TOYP team, we got to see TOYP in action. Which, for Turkey, means a gala reception for around 700 people, funded entirely by sponsors. Pretty impressive – and not a little scary when we were asked to go on stage to graduate from the Academy! Again, though, I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was – not just the JCI members, who even translated acceptance speeches for us, but the TOYP candidates, the judges and the other attendees.
TOYP really is a wonderful flagship project that showcases not just what is amazing about JCI, but what young active citizens can achieve. It is inspiring, challenging and, if I’m honest, quite overwhelming. I’m honoured to have been entrusted with running TOYP for JCI UK in 2013 but, as ever, it is all about team work – meeting new people and working together to create something incredible. I hope the Istanbul members are ready for a LOT of questions!
If you would like to be part of the 2013 TOYP team please get in touch with me as soon as possible. We have opportunities in marketing, candidate/judge selection, sponsorship, budgeting and event management. All of which include the chance to meet the most outstanding young people in the country!
TOYP Manager 2013
Categorised in: Charity
This post was written by Soraya Bowen