World Congress of Families IX: New generation of advocates learning about challenges to family life

Allie Hamilton
Youth delegates at the World Congress of Families participate in a session geared specifically to them. Some 300 young adults from different parts of the world received scholarships to participate in this year’s event. (Allie Hamilton)

This week’s gathering of the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City is the first time the event has taken place in the United States. While many delegates and presenters have attended the Congress during eight previous gatherings in other parts of the world, the American event has ignited excitement among its youngest participants.

The Emerging Leaders Youth Scholarship Foundation has given about 300 students worldwide the opportunity to come to Utah and participate in the convention.

Berit Gatoloai, from Germany, is studying graphic design at BYU-Hawaii. One of her friends told her about the World Congress of Families and she said she wanted in.

“I know this was the best thing I could have done for the whole week. I have learned so much,” Gatoloai said. “It’s been an amazing ride, to be motivated to make a difference in the world. To make a change, to help especially people that don’t have connection to other families that are successful so they know that families and marriages can work.”

Brooklyn Davidson is a student from Alberta, Canada. Her church told her about the unique opportunity. She applied and received an Emerging Leader Youth Scholarship.

“It’s been really interesting to see people coming from different faiths, and it’s cool to see how much we agree on the importance of the family. To see us unite together with our belief systems to really make a difference in the world,” said Davidson.

Francesca Tavares is a law student in Jamaica. She is part of the Love March Movement, a youth Christian organization dedicated to the defense of sexual purity and family friendly laws. She said she loves the conference and what it stands for.

“I’ve been meeting friends from all over the world. The networking opportunities are endless and the learning opportunities, it’s just phenomenal,” said Tavares.

Like other emerging leader scholars, Tavares is articulate and extremely passionate in the manner she expresses her excitement to make a change in her own community.

“I don’t have to wait till I’m older to get involved with politics,” said Tavares.

Tavares said she learned many things at the Congress, but one stuck out in particular. “It’s okay to get married young,” Tavares said. “Man, there are so many babies here, oh my goodness! It’s great though, it’s great!”

Garry Soronio was born in the Philippines and is studying philosophy and history at the University of California Los Angeles. He said he came to Salt Lake City because he wants to fight for the rights of the traditional family.

“The family is the basic unit of society. It’s very important to the preservation of the civilization,” Soronio said. “The family is a pre-institution. It is not something determined by the state or by any religion, but rather it is a natural institution. It is something that should be recognized,” said Soronio.

Damaris Mccolgan came from the United Kingdom to be a part of the pro-family event. She is originally from Switzerland and represents the United Families International group.

“I’ve never been to the United States before. It’s really great to see and meet so many people that care about the same things I care about,” said Mccolgan.

The Emerging Leaders Scholar mentors make sure the students get the most out of their experience.

“I’m quite amazed how much they pack into our schedules. We are really busy but it’s really good,” Mccolgan said.

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