Summit Day 2 and 3

It was definitely hard to wake up for the second morning of the Summit. I had spent all of the night before staying up quite late studying for the upcoming midterms and essays due this week. After 5 hours of sleep, I woke up, an hour late for breakfast (which was planned ahead of time, so no I-woke-up-late induced heart attacks).

Arriving at the Hall for breakfast, I was only able to catch the last few minutes of the speaker’s presentation, so I am unable to comment on it.

We then moved back to the Rozanski lecture halls for the opening presentation. Joelle (Joey) Adler spoke to us for over an hour and I have a hard time explaining just WHY it was so inspirational. She is the CEO of Diesel Canada (the clothing line) and has two foundations, one for cancer research and one that helps those suffering from hunger and impoverishment across the globe. I find that what made her so inspirational was the significant lines she spoke; while the stories were interesting, she just had these wonderful statements that sounded like words from the mouths of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

After coffee break, we had to choose between six different presentations to attend. I chose one titled ‘Actions to Inspire Change’ which was designed to enable a panel of current volunteers and members of NGOs to provide starting points for university students who want to make a difference. I chose this one because I find that while I am often very inspired and passionate about humanitarian issues (which is why I am pursuing my degree), I find it very difficult to make small, but significant steps in making a difference while still attending university. While the panel was filled with many organization representatives, I found that they didn’t really provide any realistic ways for university students to make a difference. The main idea thrown out was to start an organization. Sure, that’s great, but what specifically do we do within the organization? And what about joining other ones? And the time limit considering we’re students? What I did find useful, though, was listening to their opinion on what the main problems were with NGOs…which was the fact that while they, in the large scale, are all working towards a very similar cause (whether it be ending hunger, or poverty, or HIV/AIDS), they are often fighting in the field (while volunteering, that is), trying to get their goals and mission ahead of the others’ and gaining the most attention. Joey Adler’s advice was this was to ‘check your egos at the door’; know that what you’re doing is not for yourself, and that’s a very important thing to remember.

Next, we had quite the lunch experience. We were the first group to officially try Campbell Soup’s new product, Nourish. It was specially designed to contain enough servings for a full meal, plenty of calories, tons and tons of iron, protein and zinc, and lots of vitamins. Also, it is made without water, which is ideal in emergency situations. Basically, it is a great food product in emergency situations, for the impoverished and for people going hungry. Anyways, the meal was accompanied by bread, salad, and an incredible dessert. Additionally, the lunch was introduced by a presentation by the CEO of Campbell’s Soup Canada, who was clearly very proud of this new product. To comment on the food itself, I had the chicken version, which was very good but I found it quite heavy. It had great flavour, though; lots of spices without being too hot. The vegetarian version was delicious.

We then headed to our next chosen sessions, and I went to the Role of Governments. On the panel were various members of USDA, CIDA, and a Canadian government member who heads the agriculture sector. I found this session very revealing, in that mostly it was the various panelists talking about the great things that they were doing within their own organization, but adding no comments to what the others said, and answering all questions by drawing attention to the wonderful incentives of their own work. Not unlike politicians. It was great to hear about the various projects, and while a few people who attended the session were frustrated after from a “waste of time”, I always find it interesting noticing biases and learning to critically analyze everything you are told.

President Alastair Summerlee led a wrap-up session after in which we made a large brainstorm on key terms that had been thrown around during the conference. We commented on what we liked, and didn’t like, and discussed challenges for the future.

Dinner was, of course, amazing. This time I sat with students from UBC, which was great to be with fellow Vancouverites. After several rounds of amazing appetizers, we were served dinner. I won’t go into incredible detail here, just simply recite the menu: golden roasted beets and micro green salad served with feta cheese and honey mustard dressing, chicken paupiettes with a shiitake mushroom stuffing, Yukon gold rosti potato cakes, sauteed cabbage, vegetable bundles, homemade breads with whipped butter (regular, roasted red pepper and basil flavoured), warm apple cake with vanilla ice cream, and then tea. Whew. I was full. Even cooler was the fact that all the foods served were developed, grown or followed sustainability growing methods developed by the University of Guelph. And, of course, all food and products served were grown within 100 Miles of Guelph again.

The last day of the conference, I skipped breakfast altogether, after having another very late night.

The Keynote address of the day was by Dr Ramiro Lopes Da Silva, the head of the United Nations World Food Program, which has its headquarter in Rome. I found that while the intentions of the program are honourable, I disagreed with a lot of the food distribution methods. Dropping bags of food out of a helicopter is not development. People don’t want hand outs. They don’t want to wait in line for free food their whole lives. They want to work, they want a job, they want to be able to take care of themselves. Nevertheless, his presentation was good and he made several valid points.

After a coffee break, we returned to the lecture hall to wrap up and make pledges. I admit that I can’t precisely remember my pledge exactly (it will be posted online soon), but one part involved doing random acts of kindness that relate to the areas of my passions and interests every day. If you know my passion, it’s development, and helping others, and building community (it sound so lame, but it really is something meaningful to me). Random acts of kindness include actions that may indirectly help someone else, such as using less water when showering (lessening my personal use, creating more for others to use), donating canned food, and other simple yet meaningful ways that can make a difference. I always believe that every little bit counts, and a good rule of thumb to follow is to consider, “If everyone in the world acted like I did, would the results be good or bad?”. I’ve borrowed this from Kant, and it really is a significant thought to consider when do you little things that could be much more hurtful or helpful.

The closing of the conference was definitely quite inspiring, and I was sad to see it end, but excited to start making changes in my life to personally make a difference in the world. What are you going to do to make a difference?

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