Looking back on my Istanbul trip last week, it was too eventful to even grasp while I was there. Only on my flight back did I realize how fortunate I am and how far I’ve come to earn these opportunities. My work began in the summer of 2011, where I started my involvement in financial education and opportunities for youth. Since then, I have been working on multiple projects, but one got me to Istanbul. I have been working on financial inclusion for minors; gathering data on the minimum balances for minors, what they offer to anyone under 18, and the associated details that come along with owning a bank account at such an early age. As I gathered information, I noticed an inconsistent trend in financial institutions and the services they offer minors. Armed with the information I collected, I sent my reports to exploit the differences in opportunities, and how some institutions require a $100 minimum balance, while some only require $1. These differences needed to be reported, so I wrote a report on my financial institution survey and sent it to various contacts. That’s how I got invited to Istanbul, along with some other work I have been doing. But that’s what I was nominated for during the CYFI Youth Champion Award.
On my first day of the Summit, we did some get-to-know-you activities involving our local currency and what their value is in our country. We had gotten to know the other 130 invitees, with a majority of the countries represented. The next day, we rang the Opening Bell at the Borsa Istanbul, or the Istanbul Stock Exchange. During the opening ceremonies, I spoke shortly on my investing history and rang the bell hanging from press conference desk. Soon after, I met and talk with the President of the Borsa Istanbul, where he was surprised by my early beginnings, and asked how I had started. Along with the President of Borsa Istanbul, I met many other important officials associated with Child and Youth Finance International, the widespread international organization that had invited me to their Summit.
Along with our visit to the Stock Exchange, the youth participants split and worked in our presentations to policymakers, based on the topic of our choice (my group was Communication and Technology). We did our usual sightseeing, and we presented our work the following day to a group of interested officials and politicians, striving to make a choice in their minds and bringing in some much-needed youth representation and perspective. In the end, I won the Youth Award for my research in financial inclusion for minor banking. Winning the award was a huge honor, and I hope to return next year. Overall, my trip compares to no other experience I have ever had, and I’m proud to return the award back home.