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Cristina Da Gama, a Tufts University student, attended the Global Youth Leaders Summit in Hong Kong. The Summit is organized by the University Social Responsibility Network based at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Henríquez developed a project called, “E-Libraries for Post-Earthquake Ecuador” to address immediate challenges following the 2016 earthquake in Ecuador. Watch a video about the project here.

Read her summit reflection below:

GYLS: An International Conference on Student Leadership

By Cristina da Gama

This summer I was invited by Tufts University to The Global Youth Leaders Summit (GYLS), a twelve day conference that takes places in Hong Kong and Beijing in the month of July. The event is an effort led by Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University and China’s Peking University to connect student leaders from all over the world working on development projects. The conference consisted of a series of panels and workshops aimed at training us how to turn our ideas into action.

I am a student leader for an e-library project I’ve been involved in since my first year in college. Our “Koombook” e-library is a small portable server that uses asynchronous technologies to provide remote and isolated communities access to web-based resources even without Internet. Our team, in partnership with the international NGO Libraries Without Borders, has implemented one digital library center in Coaque, an isolated and earthquake-affected region in the coast of Ecuador, and two centers in Minas, a severely under-resourced community in the outskirts of Quito.

At GYLS I interacted with speakers and students that inspired me to innovate ideas for projects of high positive social impact, and also encouraged me to take our e-library project into its next stage of development. The stimulating environment allowed me to re-think our team’s project strategy and vision, and incentivized me & all attendees to make our ideas tangible.  We had the opportunity to listen to incredible reformers such as Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and Vicky Colbert, a disrupter in the field of development and education in Colombia and around the world. We were also given the time, space and resources to exchange ideas about impact and sustainable growth, using the support of mentors and guided workshops to generate solutions that were both impactful and applicable.

Some of the inspiring people I met: Brody from Australia started a social business that exports coffee from Uganda with the aim of reinvesting profits into farmers’ communities. Patricha from Denmark dedicated her post-high school, pre-college life to serve female orphans in India through an NGO called Dansk Kherwara Mission. Other inspiring students I met included Iranian women developing a mobile app to support citizens in exploring the beauty, culture and lifestyle of Tehran, a Hebrew Israeli working on a research project aimed at empowering Islamic Israeli women to combat unequal female rights in the country, and a young female South African who has put dozens of rural students through college with a college preparation & assistance program she started in high school.

The opportunity to participate in this conference, and so many others that I’ve encountered during my college years working on the Koombook Program, are examples of Tufts’ real commitment to building a more humane future in the US and everywhere around the world. Tufts leverages the strong social consciousness so many students have have by providing us with spaces & tools we can leverage in order to enact positive change at all sorts of scales. I’ve experienced this through support from Tisch College, which gave us the funding needed to promote the Koombook Program on the summer of 2018. A competition also hosted by Tisch College, Davis Projects for Peace, allowed our team to triple the size of our e-library program. Support from the Institute of Global Leadership include: opportunities for travel and an amazing network of professionals dedicated to philanthropy and development.


I am incredibly honored to continuously be given the trust to represent Tufts through my work in our Ecuador program. Opportunities such as the GYLS conference allow students to reimagine everything from their local socially-oriented efforts all the way to their roles as challengers in society. These are the types of experiences that define our visions as we prepare to become responsible citizens in our communities around the world. And, importantly, they are some of many examples of how universities might contribute to shaping a kinder humanity.