In late August 2015, YHA sent three volunteers to Amiens, France, to take part in the Hostelling International youth Conference.
The conference brought together young people from across Europe to discuss WW2, the concept of peace, and how young people today would like to shape the future. Theo, Cerys and Toni were fantastic volunteers and did a great job.
In this blog, Theo tells us about the conference and how the experience affected him.
Bonjour! My name is Theodore Guye. I am 21 years of age and a student of the LSE who participated in an intercultural conference in France titled From Remembrance to Peace. I was hosted at the grand Youth Hostel of Amiens where, together with fellow young citizens of five European member states, we explored remembrance and peace “within the framework of the centenary of the Great War”.
Given that it is the United Nations’ official International Day of Peace, I want to share with you the open letter I wrote walking in the shoes of a soldier during WW1. It was written during a session with the History Teacher, Ms Delphine Labeau and I recited it to various benefactors and stakeholders at the closing ceremony of this project. It reads as follows:
They call you a menace.
For what cause do you wage war against me?
In my homeland, they say it’s for the nation.
They proclaim the cause is greater than the self:
For family, land, sovereignty, monarch and good over evil.
Yet we are puppets,
Making menaces of ourselves.
Bombarding the very nations and territory we fight to conquer and protect,
Firing upon the men, husbands, fathers, brothers and sons of the families we hold dear.
These trenches of the Somme do not vary with the seasons;
Stalemate and occupation occupy us.
Only life and death are in flux.
Only the Sun rises as men fall.
This is no man’s land,
For brothers in arms.
I take a life,
You avenge it.
You take a life,
I mourn it.
Only unto God are bodies known.
Only unto Earth do poppies grow.
No Entente or Alliance will triumph.
There is no glory to be had.
May generations remember.
May they never experience repeat.
P.S. British Comrade
The conference lasted from August 25th to September 5th with the purpose to understand peace as the result of an active citizenship through involvement in democratic life.
I had an unforgettable experience visiting memorials, museums, the archive centre, engaging with elected officials and my British, French, German, Spanish and Serbian peers. The highlights of the exchange involved eating frog’s legs, visiting the European Parliament in Brussels, being a Parisian for a day, creating a comic strip and celebrating my 21st birthday.
Now, more than ever, I am a messenger of peace!
Have you had a fantastic volunteering experience and want to share it with the YHA community? Do you want to have your own fun volunteering adventure? Get in touch! Email [email protected] or call 01629 592 562.