To the young leaders of today – we salute you!

Today, 12 August 2020, is International Youth Day. Just like many of these international days, it is a day to be mindful of certain issues that exist, thrive and need nurturing in equal measure throughout all 365 days of the year.

In small and large ways, Watipa scholars, their peers, and many young people are achieving great things within their communities. Today is a day to recognise and celebrate those efforts, and take solace in the prospect of better and brighter things in the future as the young leaders of today take their ideas, vision and new perspectives to an even greater scale in times to come.

COVID-19 has challenged us all this year, and has posed barriers for young people in many facets of life – pursuing studies and gaining work experience, accessing new skills and mentorship, engaging in civil and political debates virtually to name just a few. Closer to home, family structures have been disrupted with many young people no longer able to care for or share daily in-person interactions with elder relatives for fear of risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The true impact of the disruptions to these inter generational relationships and cultural expectations has yet to fully come to light. However, the potential negative impact of loneliness and isolation on the mental and physical health of elderly relatives could have been accelerated during the pandemic. Perhaps too reduced tacit learning and other mentorship moments for young people, no longer as readily available from familial and societal elders, could have delayed learning opportunities for young leaders. The strain of COVID-19 felt by some families directly affected by ill-health likely has been greater for extended families living together or remaining in close contact during periods where there has been high risk of transmission.

Many areas are still yet to be understood about the true impact of COVID-19, and how it will affect young leaders today and into the future. Within the Watipa community, we are reviewing with scholars their progress this year, and how they are responding to the challenges that have emerged. Watipa is committed to sustaining support to young leaders through our scholarship and mentorship programme, and are exploring if or how best to pivot to best respond to the evolving needs of our members this year and beyond.

2020 certainly has been a year that brought unexpected challenges for young leaders, and us all. As with any challenge, there comes a silver lining – that is, an opportunity to ‘dig deep’ and be (and become more) resilient, self-reliant, visionary and creative in finding ways to support others during these unprecedented times.

Now more than ever – today more than every other day this year – we salute young people. Young people are contributing to solving the challenges of 2020, and have the unenviable task of ‘building back better’ to avoid – or at least be better prepared for – such perilous challenges in the future.

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