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Inspiring a network of changemakers: Asia Pacific Youth Conference in Japan
Monday, September 24, 2012

APYC 2012 Opening ceremony (Photo: Mutsumi Yuba)

The 18th Asia Pacific Youth Conference (APYC) took place in Japan over 10 days in August, organized by Initiatives of Change in partnership with A Common Beat, a Japanese not-for-profit organization. Around 80 participants from 13 countries took part. Over the past two decades, APYC has aimed to create leadership for positive change based on personal change. Its legacy can be seen in a network of changemakers active across the region.

The conference started and ended at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre in Tokyo, with seven days in the middle at the Fuji Calm Human Resource Development Centre at the foot of Mt Fuji.

A Common Beat has its origins in a musical production by Han Chu Son, a Japanese born Korean, inspired by her time travelling with the musical group Up With People in the USA. About half the Japanese participants of APYC came from A Common Beat, whose contribution included providing inspiring evening programmes acting, singing and dancing.

Morning exercises at the foot of Mt Fuji (Photo: Mutsumi Yuba)Morning exercises took place outside taking advantage of the inspiring scenery. Then the heart of the conference: including sessions on the Morning Quiet Time (how to listen to the inner voice of wisdom) and the Family Workshop (helping people understand how their family has shaped them, and offering the freedom to be fully themselves)

With so many countries present, the sometimes difficult relationship between Japan and her neighbours was an issue. On several nights there were different small groups talking about the history of the region. Several of the young Japanese had never been taught what Japan had done to Korea and China and it was painful for them to learn this. By the end of the conference, there were Korean, Japanese, and Chinese sitting together building up the friendships they had started.

(Photo: Mutsumi Yuba)

Learning from the pain of others was a common theme of the APYC. Some had lived through the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 and poured out their pain and frustrations from that time.

Kelvin Anthony from Fiji is the communications co-ordinator of Project Survival Pacific, a regional youth environmental organisation. He talked about his work to safeguard the survival of the Pacific island people from the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable development. On the final night, he was moved to tears by an announcement by the organizers that the air conditioning was turned off because the Pacific Islands were sinking and that people in developed nations needed to start living simply so that ‘others can simply live’. (A report by Anthony in the Fiji Times titled ‘The message of Kizuna’ can be found online here)