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Fund a Child -MUN Impact in Dar-Es Salam

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By Joon Alibhai, MUN Delegate from the International School of Tanganyika

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Our passport to understanding the complex world that we are part of - education - may be readily available for some. However, for others, it is a dream that almost never comes true. Due to the lack of opportunities for education, trying to navigate through this slippery world is a grueling, perplexing, and simply tragic reality for many. A basic human right is being denied to millions of children around the world, and despite the recent efforts for gender equality, over half of the children not in school are girls. According to UNESCO, over 31 million girls are not attending school, and the impact this has on their futures is extremely unfortunate.

Fortunately, educational pursuits such as Model United Nations (MUN) have successfully been able to foster youth leadership. Worldwide, devoted MUNers are establishing life-changing projects for the betterment of the world. One example of this can be found in the International School of Tanganyika, in Tanzania. Fund A Child (FAC) is an initiative started by a few students through the International Baccalaureate (IB) Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) program with the aim of fully sponsoring education for  underprivileged girls in the local area of Dar-Es-Salaam.

Head of Marketing for FAC, Vijay Krishnan explained that, “the self-sustaining service activity that works hand in hand with a local beneficiary, CHIPUA, has managed to donate money for the completion of secondary education of 7 girls (including textbooks, any needed stationary, tables and chairs) through sponsors and fundraisers.” Project president Veer Visaria said that “MUN has given me insight on pressing global issues, and taught me how to diplomatically lead a group of inspired young delegates.” This year the service group has raised $4000 from two fundraising activities, and now sponsor an additional six girls for education.

This #MUNIMPACT story demonstrates how much of a butterfly effect MUN really has outside of the conference’s annual bubble. Students like Visaria are continuously channeling their passion to create a better world, and THIMUN is helping them find their voice.

Student Initiative + Operation Smile= MUN Impact

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By Farah Nanji, Former MUN Delegate from The American School of Kinshasa

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[caption id="attachment_2869" align="alignleft" width="198"] Operation Smile provides free surgeries to repair cleft lips and cleft palates[/caption]

I am currently a freshman at UC Berkeley and attended the THIMUN Qatar conference in 2017 and 2016. I founded the Operation Smile Student Club in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo my sophomore year of high school. I had volunteered with Operation Smile years before the club was formed, but as it started growing its base in the DRCongo, the regional director reached out and encouraged the formation of a student club. I jumped with excitement at the idea of being able to help an organisation that I had seen literally put smiles on children’s faces. Given the opportunity to start the club, I reached out to my friends and other students at my high school who had similar interests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started by organising small scale fundraisers to raise awareness about the club and the NGO. At the end of the school year, we organised a large dinner gala for the expatriate community and government officials in the DRCongo, raising about $50,000 that year for the upcoming mission. The gala became an annual trend; we organised one in 2016 and 2017, improving the structure, entertainment, decorations, and organisation each time. Everything from making the brochures and tickets, to renting out the hall and calling photographers, to approaching companies to collect sponsorships was done by students while simultaneously balancing school work.

 

 

While my time with Operation Smile developed my professional development skills and taught me the importance of teamwork, it was most impactful in helping me learn about myself. Over the two and a half years I was president, I was able to realise that I am most passionate about international affairs, sustainable development, and working with children. I was also able to learn about my abilities as a leader, which developed over time through trial and error.

Looking back, my favourite part about the experience was that it wasn’t easy. The obstacles we were facing were not like the problems you face in a classroom where perhaps you didn’t do the reading for a class or didn't know how to solve a math problem. Rather, we were dealing with real people so it really had an impact on the way I cope with stress in and outside of school. The more I became involved with Operation Smile, the more my love for international affairs grew because I was able to connect much of the health issues the Congo faces to the broader political problems associated with it. The experiences I gained also gave me the confidence to then become the Vice President of the Service Learning Club at my school junior year and MUN president my senior year.

Operation Smile helped me with MUN as I was able to practice my public speaking skills and teamwork skills. Guiding a team to host an event facilitated the process of combining resolutions and discussing issues with strangers at the THIMUN Conference. Additionally, the two worked hand in hand to help me find my passion and realize my strengths as a leader and personally. Overall, the skills I gained through Operation Smile were relevant in every part of my life and still help me today in university. The experience taught me how to multitask, organise large scale events, manage my time efficiently, and reflect; skills applicable and necessary for any career path and any minute task. Even today, as a college student, in the interviews I’ve had, I speak about Operation Smile because I attribute much of what I have learned about myself as a person, leader, and my passion to my experience with the student club.

[caption id="attachment_2871" align="aligncenter" width="485"] Farah receives the THIMUN Qatar Peace and Service Award, given each year to a worthy delegate who has advanced, through service, the core values of the THIMUN Qatar Community.[/caption]

 

 

THIMUN Qatar hosts MUN Impact Student Summit

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THIMUN Qatar hosted its first MUN Impact Student Summit on March 17. The gathering of MUN leaders from across Qatar  met to plan ways that Model UN in the country could begin to focus on action in support of the SDGs, to move the words off of resolutions and into ACTION.  Thirty seven students spent the morning reviewing the mission and vision of MUN Impact, and exploring resources on the MUN Impact website.

 

 

Students were then randomly selected and put into groups of three and given an SDG.  Working quickly through the MUN Impact Planning tool, they step by step devised a hypothetical action plan with a generous and very hypothetical QAR 20,000 budget ($5,500 USD)  They had to locate and identify the Targets related to their SDG, then link one to an issue in their local community. They then brainstormed ideas on how a student-initiated campaign or project might lead to the development of a successful event, and had to identify obstacles, key stakeholders, permissions and timelines necessary for an event to take place.

 

 

After lunch, students self-selected themselves into groups around areas of mutual interest. The process of identifying a Goal, a Target and linking that to a community issue was repeated, with a longer opportunity to lay out a plan of action, which included spirited discussion on what the goal of a program would look like, necessary approvals and permissions likely needed from school administrators, and a step by step timeline on how the program would organized. This was the first in-depth opportunity to have students work with the MUN Impact Planning Tool, helping us to refine the tool as a user-friendly tool for planning SDG-related campaigns and projects.

 

After four hours of intense activity, participants circled back around to talk about the larger relevance MUN Impact might have in their club, and in the THIMUN Qatar community at large. And the room became electrified with discussions about action, inclusion and general agreement that everyone should be involved in promoting the SDGs in Qatar. The closing minutes reminded everyone that this generation, when given the opportunity, is a generation of ACTION, and in this case, ACTION to support the SDGs.

 

 

 

MUN Impact meets Empower participants

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Attendees at the annual Empower Conference, hosted by Reach out to Asia (ROTA), had the opportunity to learn about MUN Impact and to engage in some spirited discussions about how to develop an action-oriented plan of action to support the SDGS. Conference attendees, hailing from as far at Tansanzia, Palestine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nepal, Kenya and of course, Qatar, spent 90 minutes exploring the tools and resources on the MUN Impact webpage, followed by an hour of discussion of how to develop a plan of action to support a particular SDG and target.

Using the MUN Impact planning tool, teams of three or four students developed a plan of action tied to their SDG. They had to identify potential obstacles, necessary permissions and authorizations, who their plan would benefit, and how members of their team would be accountable. Through their discussions a number of initial ideas emerged, such as raising awareness around the issue of public sanitation and toilet facilities for migrant populations, to noise pollution affecting our marine environment in Qatar. Participants discovered that even simple, targeted issues had complex webs of interaction  and overlapping SDG targets. The conversations were rich and nuanced, and the participants, bringing their own diverse life experiences to the discussions, resulted in animated and spirited discussions.

This was the first opportunity for MUN Impact to share their planning tool, and we learned a lot about how our planning document could be improved.  Workshop leaders Lisa Martin, Emmy Josefson, and Fatima El Mahdi had a great time meeting the participants at the Empower conference and look forward to more opportunities to share MUN Impact with empowered youth in the region!

 

 

 

Salam Centre participates in SDG Festival

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By Albert Oliva, MUN Impact Press Writer

 

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Sustainable Development Festival 2018

The Salam Centre for Peace in Israel sent a delegation last month to the first ever Uttarakhand Sustainable Development Festival which was held in a small but sceneric city, Champawat. The Festival was promoted as the beginning of a movement for bringing together the people of the Uttarakhand district with the Government and the civil society for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goals or otherwise known as Global Goals have been established to tackle the most pressing and challenging issues our modernized society is facing. However can these goals be achieved and issues dismissed if only specialized institutions and organizations are fully alarmed of the extent to which they are affecting the society? The answer is fairly simple. No! This is exactly the reason why events such as the Uttarakhand Sustainable Development Festival are organized. The festival was prepared and organized by the Dais Foundation. This foundation has been immensely supporting educational facilities, NGOs, and governmental organizations to cope with the 17 Global Goals and to make a real and vivid IMPACT in the world.

The festival was composed from 8 major events, with the major ones being Uttarakhand Sustainable Development Goals Vision 2030 Launch & Unveiling of Uttarakhand SDGs Wall, Vision 2030 Website Launch, and Uttarakhand Satat Vikas Sankalp - SDG Pledge (#UKforSDGs). The first mentioned event, which in shortcut can be called the Vision 2030, is an online document which is accessible to all participants were information about the actions of stakeholders can be attained during the festival. Throughout the festival these actions were painted on the SDGs wall visible to all students, adults, and staff. The second mentioned event is closely knitted with the first as it is an establishment of social media platform about raising awareness for the vision 2030 goals.

After successfully traveling with students all around the world for prestigious Model United Nations, Salam Kedan, the founder of Salam Centre for Peace, took a totally different initiative and with the delegation of four students travelled all across Asia and later on India to reach this festival which changed their view on life as a whole. “It was such a thrilling experience. It was a totally different concept than MUN conferences but it was as enriching as students met new people and saw that even the poorest group in the society can make an Impact in our world” Salam commented after arriving back to Israel. She and four students arrived back home with a totally new outlook on life and Salam is sure that this experience will Impact their future. “I am glad that all students experienced the generosity of people who are living out from nothing. Moreover they saw that without action, sustainable development will not be dismissed, and with lot of them we have been closely connected while our stay in India: poverty, lack of clean water, hunger.

You might wonder, why Salam Centre for Peace received the support to travel to India and for an answer I have interviewed Mr. Akhil Kumar Pandey, an Advisory Board member.

I have been involved with the centre for quite some time now. My great passion is to teach kids about my culture and learning from them too. For the past few months I have been trying to teach them, that at the end of the day, we are all human beings and have a collective responsibility towards the world. So, the Salam Centre and I share the same vision which is to ensure that there is peace, love and compassion across the world. The centre has become more of a family for me and I wanted to personally take a group from the centre to get to know more about India which I’ll ultimately help them in formulation of new policies.“

Every MUN conference and festival which is connected with Sustainable Development goals leaves in every single participant loads of memories and values. My last question for Akhil was, if he could depict the main value of the festival for the Salam Centre for Peace.

It may sound like an exaggeration to some point, but when I first came to Salam’s home town in 2017, I was surprised to find out that I was the first Indian they had seen in real life! Their knowledge about Indians was limited solely to the Bollywood movies they have seen! My main aim was to show the delegation what term India, means culturally and socially. Moreover I also wanted to highlight the commonality we have in terms of our language and cultures too. I really hope the delegation was able to learn about India, its diversity, the pluralistic nature of the country and how hospitable we are as a nation.“ 

After talking to all students, who participated in the festival, I was left out with a feeling of great appreciation and gratitude as I could clearly see that it really significantly changed their outlook on life. “Regarding the best event during the festival, I liked the camping the most, as spending time with people who you barely know, but becoming friends with them, singing and talking together and playing various games was truly amazing”.

After asking the easiest but at the same time hardiest question, What did you like the most in India, Abed Majadly, part of Salam’s delegation, had to take a minute thinking about the answer. “The best thing in India is the behavior of the society. They are simple people, however their generosity was outstanding. They welcomed us in the best and friendliest way possible”.

Even though many people might claim that such events are just for those that are interested in political affairs and are updated on every news that struck the society, the truth is  complete opposite. The purpose of this festival was not to unite people, who are already determined to help and are already part of some initiative, but to raise awareness and globally inform people, especially young students.

“Students were able to witness how all of us can come together and do something for others. Even for the adults, it was a great experience as they saw that the youth wants to do something constructive. The festival made them realize that the youth is all for peace and prosperity for all.” Akhil Kumar added

Many students believe that due to their young age they cannot make an IMPACT and cannot influence their society, nevertheless that is absolutely not true. Students and young adults are the ones that can do the most, and I am glad that organization such as Salam Centre for Peace exist, as through them, one can find his own identity and role in our complex world. We need more events all across the world such as the Uttarakhand Sustainable Development Festival, as the society needs information and requires to see that only real action can create real IMPACT.

MUN Impact Zone debuts at TQ 2018

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By Sandev Ferdinando, Secretary General THIMUN Qatar 2018

 

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The 7th Annual THIMUN Qatar conference brought with it a new focus on what MUN should be. Through MUN Impact, we are now looking to make use of students’ increased awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, international diplomacy, and determination to enact change. The first ever ‘MUN Impact Zone’ was held to bring individuals and organisations closer to the students who are constantly looking for the tools with which they can begin to make a difference in their community.

The organisations and individuals at this Zone operated stalls that provided information on how they’ve used their knowledge in MUN and taken that outside of the tradition context of MUN and their journey to where they are today. I would like to thank the following organisations for their participation in the MUN Impact Zone

 

Conference attendees were able to donate to the EAA, a foundation that ardently protects the “right of children and youth to quality education”. At the HELA station, the iconic HELA lapel pins were on offer, as well as photos which illustrated the long journey that led to the establishment of the organisation. From its humble beginnings as an online club in 2014, to a large scale operation spanning every region of Afghanistan, with monthly MUN conferences held in a university premises and graduating students from a women empowerment course, HELA inspired everyone that came to the MUN Impact Zone.

The SCP stall exuded Palestinian culture: from snacks, to handmade goods and traditional tapestry, the sense of pride and national identity was evident. Delegates were able to know more about the organisations activities by leaflets that were distributed and supported this cause by wearing the merchandise on offer. At OMUN, the process of how to debate online was explained and the power that such technology has in MUN. The OMUN platform was what started HELA in 2014 and I am confident that this organisation will continue to be at the forefront of this ‘MUN movement’ where the social responsibility and outreach aspects of MUN are becoming more prominent.

Do you know of an individual or organisation that would be a good fit for future MUN Impact Zones? If so please get in touch with us, we’d love to feature them at THIMUN Qatar!

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

HELA makes History

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By Sulaiman Sulaimankhil, Co-founder of HELA

 

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History has been made! Five young Afghans delegates (three girls and two boys) along with their two MUN directors got the chance to take part in one of the largest and most prestigious Model UN conference in the world.  There were a lot of obstacles to overcome including securing financial support, visas, and preparing the resolutions and opening speeches, but those challenges were met head on by an eager and enthusiastic delegation from Kabul and in the end the group found tremendous success.

Ishadulhaq Siddiqi sounded very proud when asked questions about the experience.  “I had the privilege of representing Denmark at The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) in the Netherlands this past January. It was an honor to attend the conference for the duration of seven days where my greatest achievement was being selected as our country’s Ambassador”, he said.   He continued, “This experience was important to me considering my aim is to bring positive change into Afghan society.  This 50th Anniversary THIMUN conference helped me develop leadership through the planning, debating, public speaking, negotiation, organizing and execution of my team and through the relationship I developed with other delegates in the General Assembly. As the Ambassador I also had the opportunity to meet His Royal Highness the King of the Netherlands before he spoke during the Opening Ceremonies”.

Negina Shinwari commented “Attending THIMUN in The Netherlands was a huge experience in my life because it was my first time traveling to Europe and second time traveling abroad, because I have also traveled to Qatar for THIMUN Qatar 2016.”   Among the highlights of the trip Shinwari added, “one of the best part of our journey was going out with our friends from the John Burroughs School (JBS) in the US and Taipei American School (TAS) of Taiwan, because it shows strong support for our young program and a good relationship and globalization.  We can say that there are no barriers of language, ethnicity, and religion for any person because we believe that we are all the citizen of the world”.  Shinwari was particularly impressed with the workshop that was conducted in collaboration with JBS and TAS the day before the conference started.  She said it helped her gain confidence in speaking in front of a global community and really helped her strengthen her resolution and opening speech.

For Valy Siddiqi the conference was a life affirming experience.  “I am a new person”, he said. “I have changed lots of my opinions, yet still I am who I was before I came.  I will always try to make others view my country as the great country that it is.  So many dreams have come true for me through MUN.  There is no doubt that this dream of mine towards my country will come true, too.  I believe in myself, I believe in our new generation and I believe in HELA that things will change in a positive way soon enough in Afghanistan”.

[caption id="attachment_2394" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sidiqi meets with a delegate representing Afghanistan[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2396" align="alignleft" width="300"] HELA Founder and Co-founder with Head of THIMUN Qatar, Lisa Martin[/caption]

At the end it is very essential to thank all those who made this possible, first of all the THIMUN Foundation and all its Board members and conference management had a significant contribution and they helped HELA very much in making this experience possible. A big shout-out to the hard work of our advisors, Miss Lisa Martin, Mr. Robin De Zeeuw, and Mr. Andrew Newman for all their support for HELA.

More history to be made?  You bet.  HELA is working on the first ever MUN international conference that will continue to give opportunities and leadership skills to young women and young men in Afghanistan.

Sexual Harassment: an honest, open discussion

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By Evan WIlliams, MUN Impact Staff Writer and student from John Burroughs School

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On the morning of December seventh, the MUN delegates of John Burroughs, along with their press team and sponsors, gathered, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for breakfast and  dialogue on sexual harassment at MUN conferences, and at large. The goal was not to solve the issue of harassment as a whole, but to determine how the delegation itself could serve in the fight to mitigate such offenses. The groups, who were split into men and women, but will be convening as a whole later this month, covered issues ranging from men’s role in an issue that largely affects women, to the meaning and importance of consent. A note was passed around the room to kick things off. It read as follows:

That cheetah pant suit would look better on my (the delegate from Czech Republic’s) bedroom floor.”

An audible sigh of exasperation, of exhausted horror swept through the room—it sounded tired. This kind of note was all too familiar, all too common. While this article could recount the notes received by various delegates, to list those would be an act of futility—it’s not the point, it’s a symptom of a greater disease. The question which stood on the edge of each tongue in the room, ready to dive out was not “What other notes have there been?” The question was this: why do people feel empowered to send notes such as this?

When the query revealed itself in the middle of the room, the discussion seemed to take on a greater importance. Voices rose, suggesting a systemic issue. Take advertisements for example. Sex sells, right? Pretty women on billboards are a guaranteed means to sell a product—pretty women eating burgers in provocative ways—pretty women sitting in, on, and around cars—the list goes on. Why is it such a problem if companies wish to drive sales this way? It exploits the female form in a way which makes it merely an accessory, an object. Not only that, but it feeds a culture which normalizes such behavior—normalizes the subjugation of women to nothing more than eye candy.

The students in the room next took aim at the system itself, not just its branches. It’s undeniable that current events in the USA have revealed a gritty underbelly in American politics, one riddled with abuses of power. This year alone, five members of the House of Representatives, one US Senator, one candidate for a US senatorship, one former president, and the current president have been accused of sexual misconduct. There was a moment of consideration of these facts before the obvious point at hand was raised: what does it do to the psyche of young women to see high officials in government be accused of these acts? What does it do to the psyche of young women to know that the sitting president—the highest official in the land, has been accused by nineteen women of sexual misconduct in some form? Does it empower people like the mock delegate of the Czech Republic to send notes like the one above?

Fortunately, of late there has been a forced exodus of these types of offenders from public offices, largely driven by public opinion—by active protest and dialogue. Just like they see troubling societal trends, the delegates in that room in December are able to see opportunity to effect change. They are part of the solution to injustices like heinous, indignant notes—to injustices on a grander scale. It is important to note that they are not alone. The Secretary General of the THIMUN 50th Anniversary Conference  has placed the issue of harassment at the forefront, and will be working with members of the MUNITY press team to confront the problem head-on. This is a community, and its connective fabric is strong. No note will tear them apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Inspired: Sharing the Impact of Model United Nations

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By MUN Impact Writer, Si Yun Ee, Taipei American School

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When guest speakers extend an invitation to talk or meet with them after an MUN conference, I highly recommend taking them up on the offer.  From my experience I want to share here, they mean it and the lessons learned are invaluable.

While attending the Taichung Model United Nations (TAIMUN) last April I had the opportunity to meet the invited guest speaker, Ms. Rebecca Maxie, who is a campaign manager for Shot@Life in the United Nations Foundation. Shot@Life aims to ensure that children around the world have access to lifesaving vaccines.  After connecting with her during the conference and via email in the months following, it coincidentally happened that in July, I was going to Washington D.C. on a family holiday  so I took up Ms. Maxie's offer to visit her at work.

 

I was extremely nervous the morning of my visit.  I had so many ideas running through my head and so many initiatives I wanted to put into action.   Here I was with an opportunity to talk with a field professional in her office.  When I arrived at the United Nations Foundation I was amazed to see so many people in the office bustling with discussion and clicking away on their keyboards.   I was introduced to Wesley Rogerson, a Senior Associate of United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNAUSA).   UNAUSA aims to build understanding and support of the United Nations ideals and work to the American people. Mr. Rogerson and many others stopped to talk and impressed me with the passion with which they spoke about their work.  So many things I was interested in pursuing and they were actively engaged in the work.

 

When taken to the rooftop of the UN Foundation office (as seen in the photo above), with the landscape of Washington D.C., the center of politics of the United States before my eyes, I felt small only for a moment.   Surrounded by Rebecca and Wesley I felt empowered to start talking about a big idea I had in my mind for a long time. Nervous and not sure where to start,  I began by explaining that I wanted to develop the MUN program at my school (Taipei American School) into a program that is more than just participants visiting other conferences, or holding our own conference. Despite the importance in the accumulation of experience and knowledge in doing that, I wanted more. I wanted to kick-start the impact of our program from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but I didn’t know how. Wesley and Rebecca provided me with guidance and resources on how to plant the seeds of change.  Wesley works with University UN Foundation Chapters or Clubs in the United States that promote the work of certain campaigns of the United Nations. He had an online resource archive that he shared with me in building something similar to a UN Foundation Chapter. Rebecca gave me ideas on how to implement or embed ideas of certain campaigns by introducing them into the community using different approaches depending on their cultural or other factors that may affect the demographic view. Her experience in working with Shot@Life greatly impacted the different crowds that she has had to work with.  It was incredibly insightful taking their wisdom and experience and applying it to my understanding of the SDGs and suddenly having focus and direction for my idea.

 

With their suggestions and support, I brought that idea and inspiration back to Taipei and shared it with my MUN director, Mrs. Darby Sinclair. The idea I came up with is to focus on the impact factor of MUN, and to do so, I thought that by integrating MUN and different real world campaigns and organizations, I could induce interest and activism from participants on both ends. With the mindset on working with the SDGs, and my interest in the goal toward gender equality (Goal 5) I found a terrific match; the UN Foundation campaign and the Girl Up club at my school. We formed a connection and continue on the process of planning initiatives involving the two programs.  Currently in the works are the creation of an open board for people to state their views on gender equality as well as sharing quotes about empowering women. As a result of being appointed MUN-Girl Up Liaison, I can now see with more clarity how the MUN community can further impact our world.  With just a little more organization we can tap into an abundance of possibilities.

 

[caption id="attachment_2305" align="alignleft" width="300"] Rooftop of UN foundation Office July 2017, Rebecca Maxie (left), Si Yun Ee (center), Wesley Rogerson (right)[/caption]

To all my other peers around the world, don’t be afraid to search for opportunities. Speak up, ask, discuss. The power of sharing your ideas is incredible - and the possibilities that may arise are even more so.   It is easy to find the connection between our world and the SDGs. They are everywhere, and MUN serves as an outlet to reach these goals.    I am grateful to Rebecca and Wesley for their support and inspiration.  They opened a door for me and I sincerely want the MUN community to take a giant leap through it with me.  This experience at the United Nations Foundation confirmed for me that youth do have a voice and our ideas are worth putting into action.

Maharat Sewing Project and the Impact in Dhlail

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By Alya Al-Ammari, Co-Founder of Maharat Sewing Project

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In high school, Model United Nations was the highlight of my sister, Maryam, and I’s weekly routine. We waited patiently for Wednesday to come, the day we had MUN club. We would wake up at 5 am, travel an hour from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain to get to our school, sit through class, and hurry to our MUN advisor’s classroom when it got to three o’clock. We were were equally passionate about learning, debating and critically thinking about the different crises or current events each week with our classmates.

As school progressed, we each became presidents of the club, spending hours at home researching, making presentations and handouts, and creating games to test our peers on their MUN and world knowledge. Though we were in the thick of MUN, completely immersed in every conference and meeting, we felt removed from the events we were actually talking about. We’d discussed every economic, political, and social issue at length, but still felt like we were on the sidelines, looking over them but not engaging fully.

Problem solving is a core part of the MUN experience. The goal of each committee is to produce a resolution that mirrors those produced by the United Nations that offers solutions to pressing issues. Delegates have to answer every what, who, how, when and why question that is thrown at them during debate while staying sensitive to the values of the countries they are representing and so build valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills. These are the most valuable skills Maryam and I learned by participating in MUN and the skills that inspired us to step beyond MUN by setting up our charitable project, the Maharat Sewing Project.

 

Maharat targeted one of the biggest problems of our region at the time- the refugee crisis. A topic that came up time and time again in MUN, we couldn’t help but feel this was the most pressing issue to us. My sister and I, armed with our MUN knowledge, set off to Jordan to develop a small sewing center in Dhlail, near the Jordanian border with Syria, where Syrian and Palestinian refugee and impoverished Jordanian women would be taught how to sew. The women would be able to graduate from the sewing course with valuable and employable skills that would help them provide an income for their family.

We returned to Saudi Arabia with ideas flowing and the project already in motion. With her experience in sewing, Maryam was able to write a suitable and practical curriculum for the women to learn. I began organising fabric drives, football tournaments, and auctions to raise resources for Maharat. We returned to Jordan and in association with the Dhlail Women’s Centre, the Maharat Sewing Project launched in May 2014.

What began as a topic we had discussed in MUN, resulted in the launch of a charitable project that is on it’s way to becoming self-sustaining and has seriously impacted the community that it’s based in. The women that complete the course are able to come back and use our facilities to jump-start their own businesses, support their families, and most importantly, meet and befriend other like-minded and driven women in the same situation.

[caption id="attachment_2170" align="alignleft" width="196"] Alya, when she's not sewing![/caption]

Maryam and I have since graduated from high school and retired from Model United Nations. However, if it weren’t for our commitment to MUN and our constant exposure to the important events and issues around which it centres, Maharat would have never come to fruition. It was able to spark an interest which ignited a project that has far outlasted our days of MUN.

For more information go to http://maharatsewing.blogspot.nl/.