336. Musings from Rio and the World Youth Day
Over the next few weeks I will write a few blogs and columns about my two week experience in Brazil as one of the 2800 international volunteers chosen from across the world based on an application to help organize the largest gathering of young people – the World Youth Day (WYD). I saved my annual leave to devote these days so I could learn from and serve fellow youth from around the world. In one line I can easily say ‘these were some of the best days of my life’. New friendships that were forged and great experiences I was exposed to are the hallmark of this trip.
The World Youth Day is a once in 3 year gathering of young people from around the world. While the majority of participants are young Catholics as it is organized by the Catholic Church a number of non-Catholics attend as well and the event is open to anyone who wishes to participate without any restriction. Participants are called pilgrims and those who support the organizing team are called volunteers. The Pope’s presence is the highlight of the event.
I landed in Sao Paulo enroute to Rio de Janiero on 14th July. after a weekend in Sao Paulo I was in Rio to prepare, plan and train for the main days of the event which includes main events and special events. The best part is working with new people with quick turn around time in a new setting on various tasks ranging from logistics, communications, helpdesk, security, transportation. The only other 2 events that come close in terms of numbers are the Kumbh Mela and the Haj pilgrimage but these are monitored by governments and generally happen at the same venue. The World Youth Day is more complex and intense because of the age group and temperament of the target audience. The biggest hurdle is language as majority of the Catholics have Spanish as their mother tongue.
Three of the most interesting aspects for volunteers of which I was one is that we all pay a registration fee to attend. Nothing is free but everything is subsidized. Secondly, accommodation ranges from being hosted by local families (I was fortunate to be hosted by one and this is all organized by the main organizing committee) or staying at schools and institutions. Thirdly, the volunteers have better chances of seeing the Pope, something that most people who attend look forward to.
This edition of the WYD was special in several ways and my future blogs will touch upon what made it special. Learn more at http://rio2013.com/en
To check out some of the pictures from the event and my trip click here
If you would like to attend the next WYD in 2016 in Poland click here