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Youths take on challenge to tackle global issues
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08:19, April 10, 2008

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More than 300 high school students from 40 schools across the globe gathered this week at the Western Academy of Beijing, one of the capital's leading international schools, to discuss how they can "change" the world by helping to solve global problems.

It is the first time an Asian country has hosted the Global Issues Network conference, which was set up in 2006 by teachers and students from six international schools in Europe. It aims to help students realize they can make a difference by empowering them to work with peers to develop solutions to global issues.

The idea for the conference came from the book High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them by Jean-Francois Rischard, former World Bank vice-president for Europe, which presents a series of challenges that can be solved only through global cooperation.

One of the participants at the conference was Austin Gutwein from Arizona in the United States, who was just 9 when he began raising money for children orphaned by AIDS.

In 2004, the junior high school student, now 13, launched the basketball-themed Hoops of Hope, which "charged" people in his neighborhood $1 for every basket he shot.

Since then, thousands of youngsters have picked up on the idea and helped raised more than $325,000 for the cause.

"It works because kids my age want a chance to do something great and be part of something like this," Gutwein told China Daily.

"I realized these kids weren't any different from me, except they were suffering and I wanted to do something to help them," he said.

With the help of non-government organizations, Hoops of Hope has built a school for HIV/AIDS orphans and a medical lab in Zambia in South Africa.

Another participant, Li Yeqiao, a 15-year-old student at Beijing Bayi Middle School who chairs the school's Roots & Shoots group, told the conference how the group seeks to improve the way electronic waste is disposed of, and encourages people to save water and care for animals.

"We have developed 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) living habits and are optimistic our initiatives will have a positive impact on the local environment," Li said.

British animal behavior expert Jane Goodall introduced the Roots & Shoots concept to China in 2000 to promote environmental and humanitarian education programs to children. There are now 300 of such groups in the country.

Source: China Daily

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