Posts Tagged ‘Hope XXL’

I met Belen at the Hope XXL Conference at The Hague in May, and she’s such a gorgeous, inspirational lady! I’m super proud of her, we were chatting a few days ago and she’s just gotten a scholarship to study for a Masters’ Degree in Spain! Super proud of you babe, and I’m definitely coming to visit!

Belu sent me a piece before, but to further confirm I need to shut every Yahoo account I own, I didn’t get it! By the time I reached out to her to ask, she’d written another one! Advance warning for y’all, I loved both pieces so don’t be surprised if she’s featured  twice. Enjoy!

My name is Belen, I am from Argentina and I work on government international cooperation.

This year has been quite intense. I have grown professionally, travelled a lot, and now Argentina is one step of away from winning the football world cup, which for us it is the greatest national glory.

Throughout this year I have tried to be close to people and experiences that inspire and challenge me in new and different ways. In particular, I want to share a trip that really made me think about the future. In May I travelled to The Hague for an international youth conference to debate on the major global current issues, and I was lucky to meet some extraordinary young people from all over the world. I met amazing activist and academics involved in politics, environment protection, poverty reduction, education, among many other issues.

While I was at the conference, I was inspired and I kept thinking that eventually I would find a way to help others and make a social –and even global- contribution. But I also thought that I am still too young to be making major local or global revolutions. I had the idea that I should “focus on building myself now to be able to focus on the world later”. Yet, by the end of the week I had met plenty of young bright people, and even younger than me, making tremendous impacts in every corner of the globe.  I didn’t notice at the time, it even took me a couple of weeks to realize the power laying in each one of them.

So this made me think about the ability to create change. If everyone in the world would support the same idea, wouldn’t it be true? No matter how crazy or out there it might be? Each one of us would then be a key factor of global change because we form part of the consensus built around it. Then it would necessarily have to become true, and change will be the new constant. So my biggest lesson was to consider myself a part – rather than an observer- of the changing forces around me. And my biggest challenge for the future would be to take this new perspective into action.

I am grateful for many things, but if I had to pick only a few, the most important one is the amazing people around me, specially my large and loving family. The second is the high quality education opportunities I was given, including full scholarships to undertake graduate and postgraduate studies in four different countries. And what I value most about scholarships is the responsibility to pay it forward that comes with them.

What I am looking forward for this half part of the year is to meet empowered and bright new people (like  you!) to join me in the transformation of future visions and ideas into concrete actions.

foto belu

While Argentina didn’t win the World Cup, I’m totally on board with change being the new constant! Eddie alluded to it a few days ago and it really says something that we’re hearing it again. What are you doing to improve yourself? Think about it!

Thank you Belu!

Back to the girls and out of Nigeria, we’re off to The Netherlands and a guest post from Paulien Boone, a super amazing lady I met in May! Before I talk about her successfully coordinating 70 delegates from three continents for the Hope XXL Summit (think applications, visas, travel, etc), can I just say she has a new initiative called the Paris Declaration? Check on it!

By the way, The Hague is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to go back!

My name is Paulien Boone, I am Dutch and I work for a nonprofit in The Netherlands. In the first half of 2014 I learned that I have a voice.

The year 2014 started off pretty great: I won a national essay writing contest on fundraising. The essay had to be about connecting with donors, and to my great surprise I won the contest and was awarded the title of “Young Fundraising Talent 2014”. This award did not bring about a big change in my life as a fundraiser for nonprofits, but it did make me realize something else: I love to write.

Even before the start of 2014 I had already registered my own website, the Paris Declaration, which is designed to help readers get the most out of their time on earth and change the world in the process. This is something I’m really passionate about, because I believe that it is possible to have a wonderful life, apply your talents and change the world at the same time.

This belief is not something I developed overnight. It is directly linked to the experiences I’ve had so far, with (mostly young) people deciding to become changemakers. It’s amazing to see what happens when someone discovers new talents while working on something they believe in. They grow as a person and as a changemaker, and it makes a big impact on their lives and on the people around them.

Unlocking this potential is something I want to contribute to, and something I want to learn more about by writing about it and connecting with others.

One of the highlights of the year so far was a couple of days during which I got to do exactly that: connect with an international group of amazing, talented and inspiring young people. They were all participating in a conference I organized in The Hague (Chioma took part as well!). This group confirmed the famous saying to me: our similarities are far greater than our differences. It inspired me to continue building the Paris Declaration to support them and many others. It also gave me the courage to launch it and commit to writing a new article every week. The inspiration brought about by this experience is something I’m truly grateful for.

I’m super excited about the second half of the year, which will be all about supporting readers with valuable content and offering an online home to all changemakers out there. The first six months of 2014 were dedicated to starting up, and now, at halftime, I can reflect and conclude that I can’t wait to grow further. Bring on the rest of the year, I’m ready!



Thank you so much Paulien!



This is my final post from The Hague, and will be a mash-up of places we went, things we did, and even though there’s an overload of photos, there’s a video (or two) too!

In case you didn’t catch them, parts one and two are here and here.

This video was made by Royce Lyssah Malabonga just before her presentation on her home country, The Philippines!

The day before we left, we went to the Grote Markt (a market that has a large sit out area that the pubs in the area use) and there was a band playing songs from all over the world. It was so much fun! We danced to music we didn’t understand, lol.

It was so much fun! Singing and dancing to songs we didn’t know, and all the yelling! Guess what? I was chatting to Paulien about the number of bicycles in The Hague and if she ever forgets where she’s parked hers. She said it wasn’t really about forgetting but about them getting stolen, and that bicycle theft is the biggest crime in the country. Bicycle theft? We’d take that here over Boko Haram, the ‘unknown gunmen’, and the kidnappers in a heart beat!

Anyway, a few pictures from our day out at Peace Palace!

Outside peace palace! Thanks to Director Chris for the fabulous photo!

Outside peace palace! Thanks to Director Chris for the fabulous photo!

Lunch at peace palace... Lots of greens, a lovely brown bread sandwich, and apple juice! Yummy but I was hungry soon after!

Lunch at peace palace… Lots of greens, a lovely brown bread sandwich, and apple juice! Yummy but I was hungry soon after!

Ice cream galore! (There are one too many ice cream pictures - I had only one!)

Ice cream galore! (There are one too many ice cream pictures – I had only one!)

Nigeria, Botswana, and Uganda represented!

Nigeria, Botswana, and Uganda represented!

And a few more!

Miss Colombia!!

Miss Colombia!!

Dinner at an Italian place (don't remember the name now... Just know that my pasta and salmon was fab!

Dinner at an Italian place (don’t remember the name now… Just know that my pasta and salmon was fab!

My dear Kaushalya from Sri Lanka!! Thank you for taking all the amazing photos!

My dear Kaushalya from Sri Lanka!! Thank you for taking all the amazing photos!

I know I've used this before but I had to use it again! Nigeria's the best country, warts and all!

I know I’ve used this before but I had to use it again! Nigeria’s the best country, warts and all!

Now, some of the boys had been to Amsterdam the evening before (and I didn’t know, sob), and even though I had moved my ticket forward by 12 hours, it didn’t look like I was going to make it to Amsterdam to see the sights (including the Red Light District)!

I had given up, when Yama came over and asked if I still wanted to go. Yama is from Afghanistan, but has lived in The Netherlands for the past 15 years. He’s a data and securities professional, and loves fashion too! Of course I still wanted to go but time check? 10pm!

Silindile and Charity were up for it, and so we left! Had to get back to hotel studio to get his car (and Lord knows how we passed our tram stop), but by 11pm, we were driving to Amsterdam! With Kaushalaya, who had woken up, heard we were going, and jumped in the car!

We played music all the way, ranging from Ice Prince’s Oleku to DJ Cleo’s Bafana Bafana, whoop!

Like Yama warned, I was disappointed with the Red Light District. Not like the women weren’t in the windows or anything, but (and I’d hate to sound judgmental), I wondered how the women (and men, and transvestites) felt each night after ‘work’. Happy? Sad? Invaded? Was a very sad thought.

We had chips from the best spot in Amsterdam (thanks to Yama), and then after looking around a bit, it was a drive back to The Hague! Got in about 3.20am, and everyone just dropped into bed!

Massive thank you to Yama for driving us there, buying us drinks (and those extra juicy strawberries Charity picked out), and for being the perfect host, and gentleman. Thank you!

Four musketeers... Silindile, Kaushalya, me, and Charity! Photo credit: Yama!

Four musketeers… Silindile, Kaushalya, me, and Charity! Photo credit: Yama!

Really fancy hotel... most beautiful in the whole of the country according to Yama!

Really fancy hotel… most beautiful in the whole of the country according to Yama!

Midnight fries baby! Best spot for chips in Amsterdam, again according to Yama! I think I agree!

Midnight fries baby! Best spot for chips in Amsterdam, again according to Yama! I think I agree!


Selfie before we got into the car for the drive back to The Hague. Time check? 2am!

Selfie before we got into the car for the drive back to The Hague. Time check? 2am!

We all woke up late (of course), and it was off to The Concordia for our closing session. Nooo!!! We didn’t want to go! After a couple speeches and thank you’s (including the Director’s weird but very sweet dream about the participants, Ban Ki-Moon and a marriage involving me and two of the guys, lol), we received our certificates of participation, signed our big eight (signifying our happiness rating out of 10), and Hope XXL Triple A Summit was officially over!

This isn't the end Paulien, we will do you proud!

This isn’t the end Paulien!

Big thank you to Paulien Boone, Chris Vaan De Ven, Koos, and all the other organisers for their overwhelming hospitality! To the staff and chef at The Concordia, thank you for the amazing meals, yum, yum, yum!

To all the new friends I made ( I won’t list names so I don’t offend), it was an honor meeting you, and I look forward to hearing marvelous things about you!

I had an amazing time!

Next stop? Russia? Siberia? The Himalayas? I honestly don’t know yet!

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By the second day, everyone had made friends, cliques had been formed, ad people generally knew who they were more comfortable hanging with.

We went to China town (isn’t it incredible how there’s a china town literally everywhere you go)? Dinner was fab though, and it was nice sitting and chatting with Sirenya (South Africa), Silindile (Botswana), and Kaushalaya (Sri Lanka) – lovely, lovely people!

Somehow, I had a lot of work to deal with from home, and by the end of the day, my presentation was moved to the next day.  Didn’t mind much though, because our sessions would hold at the world-famous Peace Palace!

The Peace Palace (also called the international sear of law) is a historic building, housing things like the International Court of Justice. By 2013, it had been in standing for 100 years, and is one of the United Nations heritage sites. Beautiful, breathtaking, I could go on and on!

Of course we took pictures!

IMG_2236 IMG_2402 IMG_2405


I presented a 20 minutes talk on ‘Young people and politics – transcending borders and maximizing impact via social media’.

It was such an honor to talk about Nigeria, to plot the graph of our social media usage and how, regardless of the horrible things we’re seeing now, we’re coming into our own because we recognize we have a voice and boy are we going to use it! I’m so proud of my peers, of every young person who is daring to be different in their little corners – it is because of you that there is hope for this country!

Of course there were questions about Boko Haram being a Muslim vs Christian war, the abduction of the 200+ girls from Chibok, Borno, and the usefulness (or not) of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Here’s a summary of my answers:

  1. Boko Haram is not a religious war – it is the ambition of a few made manifest in the most devilish way.
  2. The fact that 45 days after we still cannot agree on the exact number of girls missing is absolute cause for concern.
  3. The day we did the march to the National Assembly and got drenched in the rain, the Chibok community in Abuja thanked us for standing with them when no one believed their children were missing. When we saw international support (in the form of the celebrities and movements springing up to echo the hashtag), we (I know I did) felt encouraged to keep going out, day after day, after day. Are there people who have hijacked the hashtag for their selfish ambitions? Of course! Doesn’t take away from the fact that we need our girls back, now and alive!


*While I am not particularly impressed with the ‘West’ coming in to help, I believe that the light the international community has shone on Nigeria and our practices will hopefully, embarrass us into effecting changes we desperately need.

There was another presentation by from , and I really loved learning about her country. Loved it! Plus she’s got such a love for travel and adventure, and a signature shot she does in each country!


Enough of the talk, here are a few more pictures!




Later that evening we had a speech performance by …. She’s amazing! Like, each time she was doing a speech, the hall would be so quiet it was incredible! She’s so good! Wish I would steal her and plant her in a room with our leaders so she can coach them. She’s so good!











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So, in January, I was selected as one of 70 young people from America, Asia, and Africa to attend a 4-day conference organized by Hope XXL at The Hague, The Netherlands.

One word? Incredible! Meeting people from countries I’d only ever heard of, learning bits about diverse cultures, listening to our keynote speakers, deliberating on articles for the Liemer’s List (please allow Google the option of your friendship) was just incredible. I feel so blessed!

There are two keynote speeches I really enjoyed, and I made a few notes. Wanna see?

Leo Bormans wrote ‘The world’s book of happiness’ and he told us about the two kinds of people, ‘green buttons and red buttons’.

Green button Red button
Talk about ‘us’ Talk about ‘me’
Talk and seek ‘solutions’ Talk and see ‘problems’
Look to the ‘future’ Look to the ‘past’

Trust and equality are major determinants of how happy a country is. Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands lead on the happiness index, even though they are not the richest countries. Why?

Happiness can be summarized in two words – other people. (Here he asked us to think about the four happiest moments in our lives and then crossed off money, surprises, other people, and family as the thing behind our happiness).

Here are a few more thoughts on why happiness ranks higher than money and accomplishments

  • The best-selling meal on earth is McDonald’s Happy Meal
  • Nike, Danone, and Coca Cola’s  slogans play on a smile. Wristwatches  always appear in ads set to 10 past 2pm – that’s a smile. Would you buy a ‘frowning’ watch? (To be honest I’ve made it a point of duty to take a closer look at adverts from now on!)
  • Coca Cola has moved from ‘Enjoy’ to ‘Open happiness’, even Lipton Iced Tea has become ‘drink positive’. Like there’s any way to drink negative. 

He also talked about ‘realistic hope’ which is hinged on these three:

Survival – resilience

Attachment – trust

Mastery – goals

He also took time explain the meaning of ‘Namaste’ to us. It means three things: I see you, I recognize something positive in you, and I bow to it.

And then he wrapped with, “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. To a man with a telescope, everything presents an opportunity to be viewed from different angles. I wish you a telescopic life!”

For more from Leo Bormans, visit and/or

Another session that really spoke to me was the one on chemical weapons presented by Mr. Michael Luhan, head of communication at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for their extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

OPCW was founded in 1997 and so far, 109 countries have signed up to the OPCW, and there are 8 countries declared/gave up their stash of chemical weapons. And so, far, there haven’t been any ‘challenge inspections’ – where the OPCW doesn’t believe a country has surrendered all they’ve got, and decides to challenge their declaration.

Really interesting to hear of the devastation chemical weapons cause, and more importantly, to learn of the extent of brilliance and wickedness the human mind is capable of.

We spent the rest of the day identifying the countries we came from – check out the sexiest country of them at the top – Nigeria!!


Right at the top baby!!


I think this group was classed as the people from AAA but living in Europe…



Then we went to dinner, and then it was off to our accommodation, Hotel Studio, and bedtime! The evening and the morning, the first day!



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