Friday, February 5, 1999

Youth conference to chart
course for next century

By Crystal Kua


Punahou junior Theresa Engel is looking forward to setting priorities for the next millennium with her peers from around the world on issues such as hunger, poverty, human rights, environmental conservation and world peace.

Engel will be one of an estimated 1,000 youths from 193 countries to gather in Honolulu for the Millennium Young People's Congress from Oct. 21-29. "We care about the future and we care about Hawaii," she said.

Dignitaries and organizers used the Hawaii Convention Center, where the group will hold meetings and discussions, as the backdrop to announce Hawaii as the host site for the event, sponsored by United Nations organizations and Peace Child International.

The youths will be setting priorities for the 21st century. They will be asked, for example, to think of ways to create food for the world's population without permanently damaging agricultural systems, and to discuss hunger and poverty. Their ideas will be put into a book titled "Rescue 200," which will be presented to each child's head of state, community and business leaders. Famous mentors to the youths will include Vice President Al Gore and navigator Nainoa Thompson.

Youngsters from Hawaii can participate in various ways. Youths 15 to 18 years old can apply to be a delegate or young leader and persons 16 to 20 can serve as volunteers by being a delegate, young leader or volunteer. Applications can be picked up from schools or the Hawaii Community Services Council.

Organizers are also looking for families who would be willing to host these youngsters in their homes.

Mae Mendelson of the Hawaii Host Committee said children around the world are getting excited and looking forward to representing an entire generation.

"We can think of ourselves here in Hawaii as helping the young people of the world navigate into a new millennium," Mendelson said. "I know they will chart the course with energy, vision and enthusiasm."

Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau President Tony Vericella said that Hawaii is the perfect place to host such an event because it has emerging industries to tackle the subjects that will be discussed by the young people. "We can be on the forefront of those issues." He said Hawaii's multicultural population also makes this place an ideal setting for an international conference and the youths will also be discussing sustainable travel and tourism.

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