Jamaica Gleaner / “The future belongs to progress,” said Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, to a group of youth, recently, “and modern or cutting-edge technologies will eventually increase productivity and improve the environment in which we live”.

Time is the only constant, it is said, and evolution is the way of life, which was reaffirmed and reiterated at the XIX World Youth and Students Festival in Sochi, Russia, recently – a confluence of 20,000 participants from 150 countries.

Eight Jamaicans got the opportunity to participate in the Youth Festival in this Black Sea coastal city and host to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The experience, according to all of them, was “life changing”. Being among a diverse group gave them the opportunity to learn about their peers from distant lands and get a “one up” on the Russian culture and practices.

The largest country on the planet, which for decades had been clad in the ‘Iron Curtain’, has come a long way, overcoming some stereotypical notions associated with it.

Back home, they shared their Sochi experiences, which, for all of them, were full of revelations.

“It was a totally different Russia that I saw,” said Kenene Senior. “It is modern, hip, and very vibrant”.

The youth festival gave the participants a fresh perspective on issues facing other countries, and crucially, how to address those – collectively.

For Krystal Ball, Sochi was life changing.

 

MEETING PUTIN  

“I was very nervous and a wee bit scared,” said the young Jamaican artist.

Her emotions did not emerge waiting for a surgical procedure in an alien land – they were the manifestation of the mere thought of sitting across the table from Putin.

Ball was one of the students and young specialists from Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Jamaica, the United States, India and Zimbabwe chosen to meet and interact with Putin.

“I could not believe it,” she said. “I still feel I was dreaming.”

Putin listened to participants as they voiced their opinions and concerns, the primary among them being tackling climate change, keeping the oceans clean, and global warming.

Ball spoke on climate change affecting Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

“Jamaica is an island, and our beaches are eroding,” she said, voicing concerns on addressing natural disasters in the wake of rising temperatures.

“My people are constantly living in fear that one of these hurricanes will just come and we will lose everything,” Ball said.

“I came to Sochi to meet young people and young minds to find ideas,” she continued. “Because it is a global issue, it is not just Jamaica, it is the entire Caribbean. We are all going to be affected by this eventually. It is just that it is more urgent for smaller islands.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Afroz Shah from India.

“I work in a sector that is long forgotten in my country,” Shah said. “Picking up garbage from the ocean.”

Shah, who is a lawyer, believed that there are laws and regulation in motion but no tangible results.

“What was required was ground action,” he said. “And there seemed to be too few activists in my country, so I said, ‘I am going to use my two hands as my best tools’.”

Putin offered his country’s help in tackling these issues.

“Russia supports any initiative to preserve nature,” he said, adding that it was imperative that youth collaborate, populate innovative ideas, and implement them.

“This is how it always goes when you live and work for the benefit of others. It always pays off in spades. As they say, this approach will always benefit you, stimulate, help you develop, and make you more successful and evolve as an individual, and will open many doors for you,” Putin said.

“Even though you are young, you have already achieved something in life as you have shown your worth, conducted yourself with dignity, benefiting both yourselves and the people around you,” he added.

 

CONNECTED WITH TECHNOLOGY  

Back in Kingston, at the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Jamaica Vladimir Vinokurov called on the participants to take a leaf out of their pages of interactions and experiences in Sochi and keep working in their respective fields.

“We are living in a world that is connected with technology, presenting opportunities for collaboration like never before,” Vinokurov said. “You are the present and the future of the world, and your ideas are very important in how the world is shaped in the years and decades to come.”

American environmentalist David Brower once said, “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

His quote sums up the fragility of the only planet we have. Our actions today are having implications – grave, profound, and, unfortunately, some, which are irreversible.

It is about time that we leave behind better legacies and help the younger generations to build upon strong foundations.

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