Making a Difference

November 27, 2003, vol. 28, no. 7
By Marianne Meadahl



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African young people may soon have a greater voice on issues that effect them, thanks to the efforts of a team of Canadian counterparts who produced a series of recommendations following last year's G-8 summit on Africa.

Mark Masongsong (left) was one of them. The fourth-year political science student's involvement as one of eight federal government national youth representatives on youth issues in the G-8 and the New Partnership for Africa program, is just one of many balls he is juggling while completing his studies at SFU.

Volunteering his time and growing expertise on international aid and development issues has become a way of life for Masongsong. It began following his graduation from air cadets. That involvement encouraged him to make use of his leadership training and experience as he carried on through life.

With an interest in international relations and youth issues, Masongsong first became involved with the Save the Children organization a few years ago. He has since grown to become a member of several programming and comm-unication committees with such organizations as the Red Cross and War Child Canada.

In March, he was one of five young Canadians chosen to attend the Model Organization of American States conference in Queretaro, Mexico, to discuss inter-American issues with youth representatives from North and South America, as well as Russia.

Earlier this year he flew to Ottawa for the Just Act! Leadership conference of War Child Canada, which focused on international justice issues.

In November, he helped organize a Lower Mainland conference on war-affected children, an event sponsored by a variety of organizations, including Amnesty International.

While such endeavours take up his time, they've also become part of his larger classroom. At the same time, his input is making a difference.

“There is satisfaction in not only getting involved, but in being taken seriously,” he says of his presentations before senators and ambassadors and other high level officials, who frequently attend conferences.

Masongsong, a volunteer leader with SFU's student orientation program, is currently preparing for a Queen's University conference in January to discuss Canadian policy issues. He'll be part of a group of SFU students attending the event.

Masongsong's efforts have been widely recognized. The recipient of a 2002 Queen's Golden Jubilee medal and an ICBC community leadership scholarship, he graduated from high school with a national defence cadet post-secondary scholarship and the Lord Strathcona medal.

The same year (2000) he was also named top senior air cadet in B.C.

Masongsong is organizing a conference at SFU on Dec. 4 to focus on the benefits of getting involved and finding the right fit.

The event is also part of a nationwide effort to remember a colleague and fellow student volunteer with War Child Canada, Liz Tremblay, who died in October. Dec. 4 would have marked her 18th birthday.

His message will be simple. “Anyone can be doing this,” he says. “All it takes is a desire to make a difference. Once you become involved, doors open and opportunities appear. There are many possibilities out there.

“In all of this, I am part of a larger team,” he stresses. “It's gratifying to be recognized for your efforts, but equally rewarding to see the results of working together with others to bring about change.”

For information on the conference contact Masongsong at mmm@sfu.ca.

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