Being able to attend the G20 Summit in Toronto was a life-changing opportunity.
I was ecstatic to be selected as the one of the two youth delegates to proudly represent my country, South Africa during the youth summit called My Summit 2010. This gathering was held alongside the G8 and G20 summits and was co-sponsored with Global Vision and the Canadian government.
My concern going into the meetings was focussed the lack of information about developing nations within the education system.
There was a tightly packed itinerary which began early in the morning and went late into the evenings. Coach buses escorted us to the various beautiful venues around the Toronto area. Due to the protests some safety precautions were in place which required us to take numerous detours and we were advised not to wear our identify card out in public, to avoid any risk of danger.
Everyday, we were meeting new people and learning new things from the guest speakers and from each other. That day, we also received our identification passes to attend the official G20 Toronto Summit that would begin the following day. We were informed that we even had a higher clearance than some of the ambassadors attending the event.
I had the opportunity to participate in panel discussions and listen to inspirational guest speakers from different walks of life. We got into heated discussions, interviewed other youth delegates from other G20 nations and discussed issues that society faces on a daily basis. During the summit, we were provided with great care and service and had deliciously catered meals during our sessions. When we weren’t attending the summit, delegates had a chance to do some sightseeing of Toronto.
The day the G20 started, we had to depart our residences at the break of dawn, take our prepared box breakfast on the coach buses and head to the venue. As soon as we arrived in the restricted area around the summit – which was in lockdown – we could see the intense security in place. The sight of the three-meter high fencing, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police officers from across Canada was intimidating. We had to clear two security checkpoints that were set up until we could reach the venue. This lengthy process took three hours until everyone cleared security. The venue was also completely covered with large drapes of fabric so outsiders could not see into the building.
I was one of the lucky 20 youth delegates, one from each country’s delegation, to get the amazing opportunity to personally meet their own country’s leader. The small group of us were escorted to a separate location, which required an additional security check, in order to meet the leaders. There were so many security men, photographers, cameramen and organizers around the world leaders in that location that everyone was literally shoulder-to-shoulder at that instant.
I personally was lucky enough to meet five of the world leaders and had the chance to glance over and see all the others. I met U.S. President Barack Obama, China’s President Hu Jintao, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, with whom I had a short personal conversation. This moment was an exciting and thrilling experience that will not be forgotten.
We are all thankful for this great experience and the opportunity to make many new friends. We all hope to make this society a better place for everyone.
Jessica Yiu is a third-year Industrial Design student at Carleton University.