It’s been a week since I returned home from the World Forum in Auckland and I’m still processing all that I learnt, felt and experienced. I spent ten days in New Zealand attending the World Forum on Early Care and Education which saw Early Childhood professionals and advocates from more than 80 countries gather to meet and share information on issues impacting children and families.

In 2016 I was nominated and sponsored by Educational Experience to be a Global Leader for Young Children and it was through this amazing opportunity that I was able to travel and attend the conference in Auckland. Before the conference began I participated in two days of training on advocacy and leadership with 30 other Global leaders from 24 different countries.

One of the most valuable experiences in these two days of training was having the opportunity to connect deeply with other Global Leaders and hear about their lives and communities. Many of the stories that I heard shocked me and moved me to tears. I felt sick to the stomach when I heard for the first time about critical issues in Africa such as child sacrifice. Whilst I think to some extent I’d heard about issues effecting children in developing countries in the media the surrealism is taken away when you can put a face and a person that you personally know into that context.

Whilst some stories were in high contrast to my reality other stories were too familiar. During one particular session I sat at a table with Global Leaders that represented the Romani communities in Croatia and the United Kingdom and leaders that identified or worked with Native Americans. As we went around the table each of us spoke about the many issues that our people face today and if you took away the word Aboriginal, Romani or Native American it was as if each of us were telling the others story. When we were done talking we all remained seated at the table in silence and as I looked at each of their faces I saw myself. We decided then and there to join the World Forums Working Group called the Indigenous Peoples Action Group.

Over the course of the conference we met with leaders of the Indigenous Peoples Action Group and again I heard my story on the lips of others. It’s through this group that my time at the World Forum wont remain in Auckland, to some extent I’m still at the World Forum connecting and learning with others.

At the World Forum I was confronted daily and feeling overwhelmed almost became my normal state of being. There are so many problems in the world where do you even begin? Mark Elliot closed our leadership meeting by saying “It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something”. Every challenge can and should be turned into an opportunity for change and for advocacy.