At just 18, Victoria Chok will be among the youngest delegates at the 2012 Global Youth Summit, taking place Nov. 25-Dec. 1 in London, England. And she knows she’s in for a whirlwind week.
“This will be an unparalleled experience because not every day do you get to collaborate with people from around the world,” the first-year Biomedical Sciences student said.
The Global Youth Summit is an initiative of the British Council, comparable to the United Nations, directed toward connecting youth around the globe. The summit brings together 60 individuals aged 16-21 for workshops and sessions in which they collaborate and create action plans to address global issues and bring about positive change in their communities.
“Around the world, youth have great initiatives but geography is the barrier that really separates us. We have a great voice and as long as we are passionate about something, we can make a difference,” Chok said.
From more than 3,000 applicants, Chok was selected as one of 100 finalists, and, finally, selected as one of 60 global youth who will meet next week. She believes her entrepreneurial drive and passion for the arts made her stand out and helped her make the final cut.
Back home in Markham, Chok co-founded a charity when she was in Grade 9. Called Markham Getting Together, the charity gives opportunities to artists, musicians, dancers, etc. to showcase their talents through talent shows and showcases while raising pledges for charitable causes. It gives artists much needed exposure, while raising funds for local and international not-for-profits.
“Artists don’t get the opportunity athletes do. I feel like we’re the underdogs in society, not heavily funded. The only way an artist can get out there is to have an opportunity to showcase themselves,” said Chok, a professionally trained ballet dancer.
Chok and a friend started to put together talent showcases in seniors’ homes, hospitals and other venues, while the artists raised pledges for charitable organizations, among them local shelters and a project to build a clean water well in Malawi, Africa. Markham Getting Together is now a registered charity, with a new branch in Kingston and other local youth taking up the torch Chok left behind.
“I thought that if I could provide impact on a local level, why not collaborate with people across the world on a bigger project,” she said of her motivations to attend the summit.
“I want to work in my existing charity and I’m really interested in social entrepreneurship. I was thinking of expanding the charity to a national level, and from (the summit), I want to collaborate with youth internationally.”
She looks forward to meeting other likeminded and driven youth, who will be divided into workshops to focus on issues ranging from global health, policy, education and entrepreneurship. She is excited to hear their ideas, make connections and share resources to bring about change at home and across the globe.
Chok is also part of Nspire Innovation Network, a group of young leaders passionate about business and technology. The organization aims to foster Canada’s next generation of innovative leaders in the two fields and here, Chok, an aspiring entrepreneur, says she feels alive.
“Entrepreneurs disrupt mindsets. It’s about breaking boundaries. Entrepreneurs solve problems by thinking in a different way to find solutions, and by creating your own job, you get to make a change you want to make. My ultimate goal is to start something of my own,” she said.
“The best way to learn is to do things on your own. People can give you a to-do list, but you don’t learn from that. You learn from doing and from your mistakes. And for the summit, I’m just so excited.”