By Preeti Lilaram (YES 2019-2020, Pakistan, placed by IRIS in Cresco, IA)
When I signed up for the YES Connects Conference, I expected the sessions to be classroom-style lectures, however, that was not the case. The YES Connects Conference was a two-week virtual conference with 40 YES alumni that was entirely led by alumni. Participants led sessions on mental health, media literacy, poetry, and more!
During the two-week conference, I was amazed to learn about the diversity of work that alumni are doing. The expertise that they shared at the conference was tailored to beginner perspectives, which is something that is rare with online learning platforms.
The facilitators and the attendees were extremely collaborative, especially in the African Wildlife Conservation session. Mardia Adams (YES 2018-2019, Ghana, placed by PAX in Appleton, WI) was the facilitator and did an amazing job explaining the causes and effects of the current situation regarding wildlife in Africa.
At the beginning of the session, we mostly discussed endangered species, statistics, and human impact. By the end of the session, we came up with ideas to solve some of the problems that we identified. A few solutions that we came up with were: vertical farming and hydroponics for forest and land conservation, welfare programs and new policies to decrease poaching, employment and housing upgrades, and much more. Mardia started the session in a simple manner and ended by sharing all of these new solutions with us. It was a complete circle, which she wonderfully constructed.
Once the session ended, I was keen to find out more about wildlife in my own country and I was surprised by the results. I found out that there were once tigers, lions, and even one-horned rhinoceros in Pakistan. There was so much more wildlife than I ever knew about!
I have a newfound respect for people who dedicate their lives to save the planet, and I think that's something that we all should be doing and learning about. Being among the wonderful people of the YES Connects Conference, including the new friends that I've made from it, has given me hope for the future and for the people in it, and I think that's what matters.