“I realized that these annual conferences are also a time for us to grow and mature. As badly as I am afraid of public speaking, it was bittersweet to be forced out of my own comfort zone as well by having to give a presentation and leading some group activities.”
By Semhar Daniel
I have been attending YPFDJ conferences since 2008, and I found this year’s conference to be nothing less than a pleasant experience. With every year, there are noticeable improvements that set each conference apart in terms of content and overall quality. This one in particular impacted me in a way that past conferences did not. This time, I felt invigorated by presentations that were given by guest speakers and our bitsot, participated more in discussions and activities, and developed some of my own weaknesses into strengths-in-the-making. Being from the DC area, the hosting city for 4 out of the 5 YPFDJ conferences I’ve attended, and being involved with coordinating them doesn’t necessarily allow you to fully experience conferences the way our bitsot from other chapters do. Since this year the conference wasn’t going to be in our backyard anymore, we finally got the chance to travel somewhere new – 15 hours later, we made it there and dived right into the program for the day. Needless to say, it was a long day but at the same time, the tone and energy that our bitsot had was enough to keep me engaged and enthusiastic about what was to come.
What was more apparent to me about this year’s conference many of us were actively participating with the assignment/discussion at hand, where real thoughts and opinions on topics revolving around Eritrea and us as Eritreans living abroad were expressed and debated. Also, another component that was different this year was that it was open specifically to only YPFDJ-age attendees with very select Hidri allowed. This aspect had its pro’s and con’s, but it definitely catered the content of the conference to be more focused on topics that were more relevant to my frame of mind. Presentations from those such as Sophia Tesfamariam, Zemheret Yohannes, and Dr. Gidewon Abbay gave me deeper insight on aspects of my identity and on the global and local position Eritrea currently maintains. I’m very involved with Hidri from the DC area, so when one of them actually agreed to go up on stage to help present what our group discussed, I surprisingly got so excited and proud because I was seeing him grow. I knew that this was something out of his comfort zone, but he still went up and spoke. Seeing that, I realized that these annual conferences are also a time for us to grow and mature. As badly as I am afraid of public speaking, it was bittersweet to be forced out of my own comfort zone as well by having to give a presentation and leading some group activities. I also enjoyed the social aspect of this year’s conference. Up until this past winter, when I had the opportunity to attend the Nakfa conference, I didn’t really know many people in YPFDJ from other chapters. Seeing them again was like a mini-reunion – it’s amazing how we could easily pick things up from where we left them even though we are separated from each other so far and for so long. A lot of the cultural performances were varied and displayed a the incredible diversity reflective of Eritrea. In my opinion, this year’s conference was my favorite—I learned so much about my history, my identity, and how great my impact can be for the good of Eritrea now and in the future.