International friendships developed as youth parliament heads meet at Edinburgh College

The heads of the youth parliaments of Scotland and Panama came together at Edinburgh College to praise work happening locally to create opportunities and raise aspirations for young people in each of their countries.

The youth parliament leaders spoke about the opportunities and challenges facing young people in their respective countries to a group of students, college staff and MYSPs at an event at the college’s Sighthill Campus. The event was a celebration of the strong ties between Edinburgh College and Panama.

The President of Panama’s Youth Parliament, Febe Rios, is one of 16 young Panamanians on a 16-week English-language development course at Edinburgh College. This is the latest in a series of education programmes and exchange projects between the college and counterparts from Panama.

At the event, Febe spoke of the challenges in Latin America associated with skills shortages in young people and the dangers of working in the informal economy. She said that, through improved education and strong values, young Panamanians have the opportunity to overcome these challenges and the country as a whole has the opportunity to prosper.

And, supported by her MYSP colleagues, Suki Wan, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, gave a speech highlighting the important work being done locally by members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to make positive change in communities across Scotland. She said this was ensuring young people’s voices are heard in local and national decision-making procedures.

After the speeches, MYSPs and the group of students from Panama were given a chance to discuss the issues raised, share their thoughts and talk about life for young people in their respective countries.

Suki Wan MSYP, Chair of SYP, said: “I was delighted to be able to meet with Febe Rios, President of Panama’s Youth Parliament. It’s always wonderful to meet with other young people from across the world to find out more about their lives, the challenges the face, and the ways in which they’re effecting change for their peers.

“I’d like to thank Edinburgh College for hosting the visit, and for inviting us to attend what was a very fun and engaging afternoon. I’d also like to extend the very best of wishes to Febe and the Panama Youth Parliament from all of their friends at SYP!”

Her Panamanian counterpart Febe Rios said: “My colleagues and I were delighted to get the chance to meet members of the Scottish Youth Parliament today and to share our experiences of life for young people in Panama.

“It was interesting to see that many of the challenges and barriers young people face in Panama are also present in some ways in Scotland. At the same time, there are also opportunities for young people in both countries, especially, I believe, if we focus on strengthening our education systems. There is a lot we can learn from each other and today’s event was a great opportunity to do that.”

The event was chaired by Dr Fiona Riddoch, a member of Edinburgh College’s Board of Management.

She said: “Today’s event has been a great experience. We heard two fantastic speeches and these led on to some really detailed discussions about the issues at hand.  For both the Panamanian and Scottish students, the exchanges added new perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for young people today.

“Edinburgh College is a global, outward-looking and forward-thinking college and we greatly value our international partnerships. Today’s event was a great example of what these international partnerships can do in terms of enriching life at Edinburgh College.”