In November of 2014, by God’s grace, I had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at a youth leadership conference in Ankara, Turkey.
I was told by the organizers that it was one the the first types of these kinds of conferences in Ankara that focus on youth; investing in youth is just now beginning to be a priority and they wish there were more opportunities for young people. I’d spoken at conferences before but I rarely had the chance to be a keynote. Oh, and on top of that, I was going for a weekend, during school, nearing finals week …2.5 days to be exact, so I was nervous just as I was excited. I flew out Thursday night and arrived back in Boston on Sunday night. Short, yes. Unbelievable, yes. Frightening, yes! Wonderful, yes. Would I do it again? Yes. I met incredible young people who asked some pretty tough questions not only about social issues within their own school but they challenged problems going on in the world, and asked me about my own life; they asked whether I liked what I did and what I’d wish I could do more of; I encourage you to ask yourself the same questions. For the entirety of the conference they worked to build a social campaign around helping the ‘homeless dog population out.’ Everywhere you turn in Ankara there are tens and tens of dogs out and about the streets, many without food and water for days, many talked to me about being split on whether or not to feed them and the group I stayed with told me the shelters are overcrowded and there is no room for all of them; that’s why they chose to have the students focus on this. They were trying to think of better ways to accommodate for the dogs, food and volunteer/staff. No one knows how many street cats and dogs there are in Turkey. One estimate is that in Istanbul, a city of 11.3 million people, there are at least 150,000 free-roaming dogs. It’s an ongoing issue that many individuals are working to improve and many countries are ‘shipping’ some of the animals to other countries and shelters in hopes they’ll find loving homes and families to care for them. Just recently I heard California received a shipment of them and am excited to see more find a home. ❤
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