By Sarah Bach

On this day, International Youth Day, I would like to you to take a minute to consider the old clichés – “youth are the leaders of tomorrow” or “the youth is our future” – or any variation thereof. Because I’m going to share an experience that, to me, clearly highlights the truth behind these clichés.

A few years ago, I was working with small, rural villages in Yucatan to promote innovative social solutions to local problems such as vandalism, alcoholism, unemployment, and community hygiene and health.

Now, these are complex problems, and you may be thinking that teams of experts with several PhDs would be required to solve them – I know I would, if I were reading this. Which makes this next piece of information all the more delightful:

The teams identifying these problems, analysing them, and coming up with real solutions were young people aged 12-15.

As a relatively young person myself, I am often told that I need to listen to my elders and learn from their experiences. While that may be true, I would really like for us all to listen to young people and start learning from them. In Yucatan, those kids saw an obstacle, they analysed it and understood it, they developed solutions, and they asked for help to make them happen.

Overwhelming complexity

How many adults would be bold enough to propose a solution to unemployment or rampant alcoholism? Or to ask for that help? I would venture that most adults would be so overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues that they would not be able to solve them at all. And yet kids were able to find workable solutions that at times extended far beyond their communities.

So today, on International Youth Day, I encourage you to learn from people who are younger than you, and fully engage with their spirit and their uninhibited power to see opportunities and solutions where most adults only see obstacles. That innocence and that energy is truly inspiring and, by embracing this, we can work together to develop sustainable, innovative solutions that will advance the humanitarian cause we are all committed to.