CityU hosts International Conference on Youth Empowerment

Karen Lai

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More than 400 scholars, youth delegates and youth workers from 13 countries all over the world participated in the Second International Conference on Youth Empowerment (ICOYE) from 5 to 8 June at CityU. Organized by the Department of Applied Social Studies (SS), the Conference aims to promote academic and experiential exchanges on the theme “Empowering Youth through Volunteerism” among international scholars and young people.

At the opening ceremony held in the Wei Hing Theatre on 5 June, around 50 CityU youth delegates made a firm commitment to carry out voluntary services and pledged to be confident in problem solving, take up responsibility and be sincere in serving others. All overseas representatives, guests and youth delegates joined hands in hanging their national flags and organization emblems on the stage, officially kicking off the Conference.

“I am privileged to officiate at the Conference and delighted to witness youth delegates around the world exemplifying the success of youth empowerment in organizing today’s event,” said Mrs Carrie Lam, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, HKSAR Government. “The Government is planning to set up the Centre for Youth Development which will be opened in mid 2008. We strongly treasure the input from youth work practitioners, scholars and academics in formulating our future youth policies and I believe the exchange of ideas in the Conference will provide insights for the Government in this regard.”

Professor David Tong, CityU’s Deputy President, said CityU provided a holistic education to today’s young people. “With the continuous effort of our staff and faculty, we have developed a leading inter-disciplinary network focusing on youth studies. Through applied research and outreach activities, we contribute to understanding the psychological, social and cultural issues confronting the youth of today. This Conference explores the role of youth empowerment, promotes youth development and social well-being, with an ultimate objective of building a society of care and concern,” he said.

Dr Elaine Au, Convenor of the conference and Associate Professor of the Department of Applied Social Studies, said youth empowerment was an attitudinal and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people. “Through organizing the conference, we aim not only to draw people attention on how to motivate young people to get involved in voluntary services but also to inspire them to rethink the benefits they gain from voluntary work,” she said.

Dr Au added that that instead of things like recognition or the honorarium, young people should value most the importance of inner self-empowerment through which they can strengthen their self esteem, acquire the capabilities to solve their own problems and help others.

During the four-day conference, plenary speakers from renowned universities in the US, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the mainland will examine the latest trends of youth empowerment and discuss issues from different cultural perspectives. Presentation topics include the psychology of volunteerism, empowering young minority women, the role of university and voluntary centres in youth empowerment, and nation building and youth empowerment.

“This is a great opportunity for students, scholars and researchers on youth empowerment to meet big names in the field and to have face-to-face exchanges on the youth empowerment issues in Hong Kong in terms of both theoretical and practical aspects. The comparative approach is significant in drawing invaluable experiences to our future studies on youth policies and development,” Dr Au added.

The conference also features ample opportunities for youth participation, from planning, event logistics to experience sharing. In a series of youth symposiums, local students will share their experiences with youth delegates from Southeast Asia, UK, Canada, US, Japan, India, and the mainland of voluntary work and give voice to their needs and expectations for the future.

Going parallel with holding the youth empowerment conference and various studies relating to the theme, SS has been organizing a series of activities mobilizing the youth to do volunteering services for the community. CityU students participating in the City-Youth Empowerment Project, a voluntary service project in the Student Residence, will share their experience in helping Asperger children and tutoring primary school students from deprived families.

The ICOYE is organized by the SS every two years as part of its endeavors to promote youth welfare and cross-cultural exchange. Other highlights of the second ICOYE include workshops on social work intervention with children and adolescence, agency visits and a cultural night. Closing the event, the cultural night is an opportunity for delegates around the world to celebrate, appreciate and experience the vibrant diversity of different cultural heritages and traditions.

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