Youth of Today, Leaders of Today: Interview with CYO President
01 July 2011 – [CG Note: The 6th Conference of CYO (Chin Youth Organization of North America) is to be held in Indianapolis, USA on 1-4 July starting tomorrow, with participants from other parts expected to arrive in the venue today.
More than 2,500 youths will take part in the two-day programs involving a series of discussions concerning the works of CYO and competitions as well as sports. Formed in 2001 during the first Lai Seminar held in Battle Creek, Michigan State, CYO has extended its existence in a total of 15 regional areas up to date.
In this interview with Chinland Guardian, Salai Lairamthang, President of CYO, talks about the current conference, challenges of Chin youths in North America, the organization’s activities and future plans.]
Chinland Guardian: Tell us about the conference.
Salai Lairamthang: The main aim is to encourage the Chin youths to have patriotism, to safeguard our culture and language, to grow up and improve based on a ‘united’ spirit and collaboration, and to protect our national identity for generations to come.
In the early years of CYO, we used to organize an annual conference. But with the formation of CBCUSA (Chin Baptist Churches USA) and its annual conference, we decided to take turns to have the gathering every other year.
Since we live in different areas of States in the US, it is very difficult for us to meet and see each other. Therefore, this kind of gathering actually creates a platform for the Chin people to understand each other better, to strengthen our communication and unity, and to have stronger relationship and love for our nation. Furthermore, we clearly see this putting us together in the event of the ‘good and bad’ days among the Chin communities in North America.
Chinland Guardian: What are the responses from the youths as well as the parents and leaders regarding the conference?
Salai Lairamthang: What the Chin youths in the US get excited about and look forward in great eagerness to is this CYO Conference. We strongly believe that it has brought various positive benefits if we make our evaluation in terms of national unity and patriotism especially among the youths despite its large amount of expenses and cost incurred. It has also got many young people out of communication back to the Chin communities.
Chinland Guardian: Have you got any estimated figures of Chin youths in North America? And how many are expected to participate in the conference this year?
Salai Lairamthang: We estimate that there are about 5,000 in the USA and about 1,000 Chin youths in Canada. More than 2,500 youths from 15 regional areas of CYO are expected to take part in our conference this year, with fewer participants from other areas where CYO has not been formed. The majority of participants this year are likely to be from a Hakha-Chin speaking community.
Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about the challenges that Chin youths in North America face.
Salai Lairamthang: Culture shock. Since we are new immigrants, we have difficulties in adjusting ourselves to the locality and integrating into a completely new environment. We have problems with the language, at work and schools. These are the things that the Chin youths are currently facing. And it is the very reason why a meeting venue like the CYO Conference where people can talk, share and encourage each other, and training as well as guidelines on various issues can be given is seen necessary and important.
Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about the activities of CYO in the past.
Salai Lairamthang: Among many others, CYO takes part in various activities such as providing social services on occasions of celebrations and grievances. In some regional areas, CYO plays a very active role in organizing the Chin National Day celebration. It also makes contributions for other works associated with the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), churches, culture and communities, refugees and construction of Hmandaw roads.
Chinland Guardian: Has CYO made any official partnership with Chin youth groups in other countries?
Salai Lairamthang: We haven’t been able to establish proper fellowship and partnership with other Chin youth groups outside North American even though we have plans to do so and work together in the future. We also have some thoughts about forming a wider organization like the Global Chin Youth Organization.
Chinland Guardian: What are the most challenging and rewarding moments?
Salai Lairamthang: Financially, CYO is weak as it has not got a regular income or fund. And we find it most challenging when we are not able to work and do things as much as needed and we wish due to lack of money. However, the constant motivation, enthusiasm and contribution of the Chin youths, despite all difficulties, have always been our strength and the most satisfying feelings we have.
Chinland Guardian: How do you want to see CYO in the next ten years’ time?
Salai Lairamthang: We would like to see CYO having its branches established in regional areas across North America, and standing as an organization like a strong working NGO in the next 10 years’ time.
Then, it is our dream that an umbrella organization such as the Global Chin Youth Organization committed to bringing together Chin youths all over the world and functioning as a reliable and unifying platform for our people and nation is formed. We would like to see the global youth group being actively engaged in various development projects for the Chin people and Chinland.
Chinland Guardian: A message to Chin youths across the globe.
Salai Lairamthang: It is highly important that we do not lose our national identity no matter where we are. We must not forget our homeland, and must work hard to protect and promote our culture and language. Let’s contribute as much as we can towards helping and developing our native land. It is equally important that we are a good citizen of our dwelling country, and strive to become an ideal like a star in the sky shining for our people. We must not forget that the future of our nation will take shape from the condition of the Chin youths at present. Let us, the youth of today, try to be the leaders of today rather than that of tomorrow.
Interview by Van Biak Thang