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TASMUN 2018 & The Sustainable Development Goals

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By: Si Yun Ee, Delegate at Taipei American School and MUN Impact Staff Writer

 

In April 2018, I had the honor of serving as TASMUN’s (Taipei American School Model United Nations) Secretary-General. The ninth annual TASMUN took on a very experiential, bold, and unique approach to Model United Nations (MUN) to say the least.

 

Unlike the conventional MUN conferences, where committees ranged from the usual few that were similar and topics were repeated from conference to conference; my Secretariat team and I worked hard to place a strong emphasis for the conference, on something we shared as a common passion - The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year’s conference theme was MUN Impact. By having MUN Impact as the center of our conference, we hoped not only to shed light on the newly growing MUN Impact community and organization, but also to raise awareness regarding the purpose of a united community, passionate about global issues to solve the global goals (SDGs)  we have set before us. As such, each of our committees were named after a particular sustainable development goal that we found to be relatable to our participants or interesting and approachable to our general audience. Each committee, would therefore focus on topics related to that one goal and specialize in issues of that area.   

 

 

 

In addition, committee topics were inspired and sifted through Sustainable Development Goals targets and indicators, tweaked so that they were not overly complex or broad, but yet fresh and challenging enough for our conference participants. We hoped that by doing so, our participants would not only be more aware of the SDGs and their existence, but to gain a particular expertise or find an interest or passion in a particular SDG that may spur action, inspiration and impact.

 

Call it revolutionary, non conforming, different, unique or weird; a focus on the SDGs to such an extreme from committee names, or to specified topics. Over the two days of the conference, participants told us how much they enjoyed the specificity of topics they enjoyed, the knowledge they have grasped and gained expertise in; most importantly, an understanding of how much each SDG impacted our world. The SDGs were no longer just a far reaching foreign concept to them, it is now an action prompting question waiting to be solved.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Secretary-General for TASMUN IX, I hope to leave a message on behalf of my Secretariat team, to both our conference participants and MUN participants worldwide:

As we seek to evolve the culture of Model UN by assisting each other in understanding the value of action and activism especially in these tumultuous times, the focus of this year’s conference structure not only strives to promote impact through MUN, but also to evaluate and to take further consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals. In taking initiative to achieve the SDGs, the power of impact through MUN will be prominent - and that is what I hope we can all take away and share with those who have not seen what we, as a commu

nity is capable of changing. Let TASMUN IX be the first change, non conforming to the norms of what MUN may mean to you. Let yourself be the living and breathing impact of MUN, youths who contribute to our global community, and a team of activists capable of rousing change that we so desperately need.

 

 

Instilling a Health-Conscious Mind

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Yengkhom Hojai Naomi is a delegate and year 12 student at DPS-Modern Indian School, Doha-Qatar.

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I’m always on the pursuit of learning something new, which is why I joined MUN. I attended the MUN Impact Student Leaders summit which was held on the 14th of March. This summit and my own Model UN activity inspired me to hold a Free Diabetes Screening Camp in Silchar, a town of the Cachar district in the state of Assam, India.

I should mention that I have done MUN for quite some time, and this is the source of my inspiration. In March 2015, I attended my first ever MUN conference as the delegate of UK in Security Council, ODTC V at Doha College. As a delegate (MSMUN-Q 2015, THIMUN-Q 2016,2017), along with gaining knowledge, my diplomacy skills grew as well. DCMUN X (2017) is a conference that I’ll remember as the one where I, as an Advocate of Mexico in ICJ, along with my team, pushed myself to make the perfect reports and evidence packets. My experiences did indeed broaden my knowledge and horizons, which is why I was selected as Director MUN of the school student body of 2017-18 and 2018-19. I learned many a good thing from my experience as the deputy chair of GA6 (MSMUN-Q 2018) and I am currently a student officer for the Doha College Model United Nations XI.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease caused by inherited and/or acquired deficiency in production of insulin by the pancreas, or by the ineffectiveness of the insulin produced. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide. It occurs most frequently in adults. Construction workers and families of daily wage earners are unaware of the complications that can arise from their lifestyle methods. Since SDG 3 GOOD HEALTH & WELL-BEING states to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, I had held this camp to motivate them to become health conscious and make necessary changes in their lifestyle to lead a good healthy life.

 

Since it was my first time to hold a social service program, I started with a small group of 20 people who were between the ages varying from 25-90 years. During the first half of the day, their BMI (Body Mass Index) was taken as it is an important measurement to know for diabetes and weight management. RBS tests (Random Blood Sugar Level) were taken as well. Being a Biology Major student myself, during the second half of the day I had even taught them about the necessary actions they were to take to prevent diabetes, as currently the number of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is increasing at a staggering rate.

The people were taken a bit by surprise and were delighted to see a student holding a medical camp. A few of them, especially the elderly, invited me to their homes and asked me to visit them in the future. Seeing their appreciation and response, it gave me more confidence to continue and fulfil my dream of helping people with what I know and can do.

This was only the beginning, I started with a handful of people, but I plan to make it my lifelong project to hold such similar health awareness programs, voluntary works which’ll be expanded to neighbouring towns, villages and districts.

This experience enlightened me of the many things we can do with what we have learned from school and our own Model UN activity by putting our knowledge to use for helping and alleviating the world to a place where people can live healthily and lead a peaceful life.

HELA supports UNODC Mandates with biggest conference to date

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In August, Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan (HELA) hosted their largest MUN conference to date. Over 400 delegates participated in a two day conference, focusing primarily on UNODC mandate topics. We caught up with Sulaiman Sulaimankhil, Co-Founder of HELA, to get an update on the conference.

(HELA was founded by MUN delegates, who created the first NGO in Afghanistan devoted entirely to promote Model UN in the country).

Why did you want to do UNODC mandate topics? 

Following the start of the valuable program of E4J MUN, we at HELA organization consider ourselves to be one of the only implementing partners of UNODC in the project of E4J. Therefore, we believe we should carry the responsibility of spreading the program in Afghanistan on our shoulders, through increasing awareness about the mandate topics of UNODC. But most importantly we believe these issues are really crucial and need to be discussed and debated by Afghan youth; our country suffers a lot due to existing challenges, many of which are covered by the mandate areas

What is HELA's goal as far as supporting UNODC?

HELA is transforming itself into a big national organization that will operate in all the provinces of Afghanistan, and through this transformation, we aim to continue supporting UNODC with spreading awareness about their mandate topics and about UNODC  itself. In the upcoming years we will be able to provide Model UN opportunities to most of the provinces in Afghanistan. It is our goal to continue selecting UNODC mandate topics for our upcoming conferences because HELA strongly believes in the importance of promoting the culture of lawfulness in Afghanistan.

Did you use the E4J MUN guide in any way? If so, what parts and why was it helpful? 

After returning back to Afghanistan from the E4J workshop in Vienna, we started training our team using the E4J MUN guide. It was helpful because it clearly describes the right way of doing Model UN, using the mandated topics, and forming committees in our conferences. There were links for supporting materials and documents. It's a very valuable resource for us.

  

 

What topics did you debate? 

So far we have debated the following topics in our conferences:

  • The question of Human Trafficking and addressing migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean.
  • Effective measures to protect the rights of smuggled migrants.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system and developing alternatives to imprisonment.
  • Improving access to education during times of conflict.

Did you try to contact the UNODC office and get them to send a speaker? 

We contacted the UNODC office to ask them to send a speaker to the conferences but despite several efforts, we did not manage to get their speaker to come to our conference. We definitely would love to have their support in future events!

What major things do you think the delegates learned about UNODC mandates? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we mostly focused on the topics related to migrants, that is the number one thing they discussed and debated and they learned important things about their protection, rights and etc. But also, delegates learned new things such as crime prevention and alternatives to imprisonment and the rights of prisoners.

Do you have plans to debate UNODC mandates in the future? 

As mentioned in the beginning, we are planning to widen our activities throughout the country and we also bear in mind the idea of promoting the UNODC mandates, so yes we will have several conferences on the mentioned topics.

 

Distant elites, the Goals, and the future of MUN

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By Lisa Martin

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In March, I found my way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I came on a mission-to find an emerging MUN Club to collaborate with and bring to THIMUN Qatar 2019. Lebawi Academy's new MUN program had huge aspirations, and I wanted to meet the MUN Director and their students. The Lebawi Academy MUN Club did not disappoint, and I was treated to a spectacular day, meeting some incredible students, teachers and school administrators. By the time I left I knew I had located the perfect school with which to collaborate, and I will leave it to the Lebawi and Qatar Academy Doha students to share their stories as their emerging collaboration develops.

I spent the morning visiting different clubs at the school: meeting with the student government, the girl's empowerment club, the girls who code.  The morning was filled with incredibly engaged students sharing their projects and stories, and by lunch I was already overwhelmed by the positive energy. It was a day of many superlatives, from the excellent tour of the school to the amazing lunch, and a visit to the school's small special needs classroom, but there was one interaction with students left a profound impact on me, and has informed some of my thinking on MUN Impact moving forward.

Gathered in a small classroom, I listened to this articulate group of young women explain project after project they were working on. From maternal health and FGM to access to higher education and technology innovation projects they were working on. I began to see a pattern...each of the projects they were describing were related to an SDG, and in almost all cases, a specific target. I finally stopped the conversation and said  "Do you REALIZE that what you are doing, all of these programs, are supporting the SDGs?" And after some silence I asked "How many of you know what the SDGs are?" A few tentative hands were raised, but generally speaking, this was a term that had little currency with the group.

I went on to explain that quite unknowingly, they were part of a huge global movement, an international commitment by the United Nations to address multiple complex issues that underpin sustainable development. Did they know they were part of something that was actually a massive global undertaking? They had not, they told me, but a current of energy pulsed through that room in what teachers know to be those exquisite, teachable moments. And when I asked if they wanted to be connected to this larger movement, and to act as role models within it, the answer was 'Of course'.

In my final meeting that day with the school leadership, I shared my observation on this unintentional SDG alignment. I commended them on the service ethic that seemed to be a part of every aspect of the school and suggested that there might be real value in taking a closer look at their programs and searching for further SDG alignment. But it was the Assistant Dean of the School who put this SDG discussion into context. He said the the average person in Ethiopia saw the SDGs and something designed by distant elites, something that had little relevance to the average person. And yet, ironically, the entire school, with its service ethic, was deeply committed to those very goals and was working to solve them every single day!

It led me to ask myself a number of questions. How many young people were engaged in supporting the Goals without knowing it? How many school programs could be linked/aligned directly to the SDGs by simply evaluating their programs? Is simply knowing that your work supports the Goals of value in and of itself and is there synergy that comes from identifying your initiatives as part of a larger movement? How could this enormous chasm between local action and goals formulated by 'distant elites' be bridged? Was there a role for young people to play in narrowing this gap,  making the Goals accessible in some kind of meaningful way to local communities? Could students mentoring students be part of this solution? Could MUN be a vehicle for delivering SDG awareness and a space for young people to engage in UN mandates (content), their communities (through action) and by collaborating with one another to bring the change needed to make the Goals attainable?

I think Model UN has an enormous role to play in bridging this chasm. This high school aged demographic, eager to work to support the Goals and larger mandates of the United Nations, seems to be both underutilized and only minimally engaged by the UN itself. When the different rules of procedure and the false dichotomy of what makes MUN, well 'proper MUN' is removed,  and the competitiveness gets stripped away from conferences, something very different emerges.  This is what MUN Impact has discovered: a groundswell of enthusiasm for 'doing something' with the knowledge gained through MUN participation. If we can purposefully connect MUN delegates around the world to ask these bigger questions about successfully attaining the Goals, and to facilitate opportunities to work together, something powerful will emerge.

The future of MUN will be found in places like Lebawi Academy. With the help of MUN Impact, this club and others like it can pivot together into something more powerful than just debate. This is a global community ready to lean in and support the UN through action. Now is the time to take words off a resolution and apply them to the challenges we face. I think our delegates are ready for this challenge.

    

 

 

 

Taipei American School Girl Up Leadership Summit II

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By Janice Yang, Annabel Uhlman, Vivian Wang, Niralee Shah

MUN Impact Press Writer: Si Yun Ee

 

On April 7, 2018, the Girl Up Club in Taipei American School (TAS) hosted our second annual Leadership Summit.  Our high school club is registered as a chapter of Girl Up which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations Foundation.  As we reflected on the intent of the club’s founding and began our work in hosting a summit that would attract over 100 participants, we realized the significance of our journey and how closely it aligns with MUN-Impact’s process of Inspire, Dive In, and Impact.

Our chapter’s founding two years ago was inspired by the recognition of a lack of discussion and awareness of gender issues within our community.  The Girl Up organization itself closely aligns its mission with Sustainable Development Goals number 4 and 5: Inclusive and Quality Education for All, and Gender Equality and Empowerment of All Women and Girls. Girl Up’s five pillars of action to cultivate areas such as girls’ leadership, education, and health were all missions that inspired us.  We were energized to be part of a change.

The “Dive In” component of our initiative involved converting all our dreams into reality, which often required all things related to logistics more than anything else; learning about the paperwork necessary to start a club, defining and then executing a club leadership structure, and learning how to connect with the larger UN Foundation Girl Up network. Of course, there were also many other smaller yet even more important things, like getting members to show up for meetings, or deciding what content (of the infinite possibilities) we wanted to talk about at each meeting.   All the logistical steps that would eventually lead to the impact stage also included discovering and attending the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington D.C.. At this Summit  we were in contact with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Rosie Rios and model Ashley Graham. We also got the opportunity to lobby with U.S. Congresspeople to pass legislation related to girls’ education. The Summit in D.C. further inspired to take what we learned and to maximize such a valuable experience to make an Impact within our own school community.

 

The following year we simulated the experience of the Leadership Summit in D.C., bringing it to a broader audience of youths and peers at TAS. Our summit was targeted for those who did not have the opportunity to attend the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., to encourage discussion and advocacy of gender issues, and to promote the notion to many on campus that pursuing gender equality should not be discouraged.

While the summit held at TAS was modelled after the summit in D.C., the event catered to the key issues commonly experienced by our school community and its audience of mostly youths. The overall theme pertained most relevantly to SDG 5 of Gender Equality and Empowerment. Specific workshops, many of which were interactive or discussion-based, explored more nuanced aspects of the topics, ranging from Self Defense to Matrilineage to Women’s Leadership and Amplification.

Through the two years of our running this summit, our participation numbers jumped from 60 to over 100, including both student and faculty workshop presenters and event attendees. Most recently, we were also able to invite speakers such as the Ambassador of Belize, as well as women leaders of law and technology firms Paragon Legal and Intel to talk about how gender issues are tackled on both the global and the personal level.

 

Although MUN Impact had not been established when we started this journey, reflection as we prepare their next journey to college reveals how closely the process of impacting our surrounding community through issues we are passionate about aligned with the goals of MUN Impact. This whole project has taught us that yes, it is indeed possible to create something from nothing, and reach hundreds of people with our passions through the process. From a small community here at TAS, we can find the same goals and passion to implement impact, parallel to the reason for encouraging youth to take action - exactly why MUN Impact was established.

 

Connecting the dots: SDGs and Extracurricular Activities

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By Maria Manacheril, Teacher and co-MUN Director at the American School of Doha

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On the morning of October 20, 2017, I was standing under the spider sculpture at the Qatar National Convention Center with a furrowed brow, looking over the catalog of speakers at the 2017 Qatar Leadership Conference and trying to decide which of the many alluring workshops I wanted to attend.  A panel titled "Behind the Scenes: The United Nations and the SDGs" caught my eye, so I headed to the theater to check it out.  I had no idea that what I was about to hear would have such a profound impact on my role as an educator.

The message from Natabara, Sean, and Sergio that stood out to me was that we need to get the word out about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and raise awareness about the work that is going on worldwide and inspire others to contribute.  I realized that my school, the American School of Doha, is involved in many service projects that directly support many of the SDGs, but we are not doing our part to spread the word.  I felt very strongly that we need to do a better job of educating our teachers and students about the SDGs and getting them excited about working towards achieving them.

I teamed up with Chi Shang, the high school learning service coordinator, and Yasmine Samadi, a junior who also attended the SDG panel at the 2017 QLC, to discuss potential steps we could take.  One of the most effective suggestions was around SDG video introductions.  Every month our school hosts one guest speaker from an NGO, embassy, or organization who has dedicated their life to service.  With the help of video production students, Yasmine created short videos to introduce each speaker and connect their work to the relevant SDGs.  The videos are a powerful tool to raise students awareness of the SDGs.  Our next steps include doing an SDG inventory (courtesy of MUN Impact) of all of our service clubs and using SDG and MUN Impact hashtags on all of the school's social media posts related to service.  We are looking forward to covering even more ground in our SDG awareness campaign in the coming school year.

[video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="http://munimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Melissa-Diamond.mp4"][/video]

A MAD Idea in support of SDG4

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By Shane Hynes, Student, St Andrews, Dublin

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Every year the THIMUN Qatar Peace and Service Award’ is given to a student deemed to have done outstanding humanitarian work in their community. MUN Directors attending the conference are asked to nominate one of their students for the award, and then the best student/delegate is unanimously chosen. It is presented at the closing ceremony of THIMUN Qatar. This year, 17-year-old Shreyas Rajesh, from the American Embassy School in New Delhi, received the award for the incredible work he has done in his school, but also in his country.

In his own words ‘The THIMUN Peace and Service Award is a recognition of community service work that students – and delegates – do to advance the goals of the United Nations. It recognizes that young people are capable of implementing change in a meaningful way, and I am incredibly grateful to be this year’s recipient.’

Shreyas initially got involved in community service with the schools MAD (Make a Difference) programme because he ‘felt a responsibility to give back’. He has spent the last three years doing volunteer work with the MAD Program teaching English and Social Studies concepts to slum children from a camp adjacent to AES. Many of these students have gone on to attend university. He has also written his own sophisticated curriculum to deliver the above education with such professionalism that it is going to be presented at the World Teaching Conference in Atlanta, Georgia under the title “Empowerment Can Create Genius” As well as that, he has volunteered with many NGOs such as Chirag, Mission Smile, Indian Head Injury Foundation. Interned with The Public Health Foundation of India for 6 weeks and is a Board Member of the Make-A-Difference Organization in AES. Described as a ‘humble, articulate, competent and socially aware student’ by his MUN Director Robert Givitch, Shreyas is a beacon of inspiration to all of those around him.

Shreyas was Deputy Chair of the First Human Rights Commission at THIMUN Qatar this year. He had no idea that he had been nominated for the prestigious award by his MUN Director, and was shocked to hear when Johann Bambino, Deputy Secretary General at THIMUN Qatar, mentioned the MAD Club in his speech before naming the 5th recipient of the Award.

‘I was very much in shock; going up I remember almost tripping on the stairs. I was just so excited and thrilled, but with all those people clapping and really bright lights, I was mostly just surprised and shocked. I had no idea I was going to win; it really took until the flight back home for it to kind of settle in.’

When asked about why he does Model United Nations, he said he ‘originally joined MUN for the same reasons that many middle schoolers do – to wear a fancy suit and travel to a new place. What made me really stay with the activity were the people I met and debates in which I participated.’ For him, MUN is all about ‘helping people become better public speakers, learning to recognize and accept different perspectives, and to work cooperatively while still ensuring their priorities as representatives of global countries are met.’

Out of all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, Shreyas thinks Goal Number One is the most important; ‘No Poverty’.  He believes a world without poverty is a world where everyone is entitled to their basic rights and can live comfortably. Shreyas also thinks Goal Number Three is crucial, Good Health and Wellbeing. Most of his work with the MAD Club is in this sphere and that it is one of the SDG’s that we all can help accomplish.

 

Shreyas has made a huge impact on the lives of the many impoverished children that he has taught, worked with and secured a future for. He hopes to become a doctor, and to continue the amazing work he has been doing. He is truly MAD (Making a Difference), and an SDG 4 champion!

 

EDEN Hope in Motion and the SDG Inventory in action

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By Albert Oliva, MUN Impact Press Writer and SDG Innovator

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The SDG Inventory is a newly established tool from MUN Impact which aims to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. You might wonder that everybody in our modern and industrialized world is fully aware of the 2030 agenda and that when setting and establishing a school club occurs it is always with a vision to tackle one of the goals, nevertheless, opposite is the truth as we can hear from MUN Impact director Lisa Martin.

“This past week I had the opportunity to visit a Leadership Academy in Addis Ababa. I met with several club leaders as they shared their activities and community outreach. Each and every one of them were engaged in actions to support the SDGs, in most cases some very specific Targets. These students were only vaguely aware of the SDGs. The Dean of their school told me later that the most prevalent view of the SDGs is that they were something designed by elites and had little direct relevance to common people.“

In order to raise awareness of the goals, and change the attitude of many about them, students around the world were encouraged to use this SDG inventory tool to map one club at their school and track their SDG progress and raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals which are being tackled by this club.

After thinking for a while I have chosen to be for the past two weeks in contact with a MIT Launch initiative led by Novy Porg students called EDEN Hope in Motion. Five brave students took the chance and risk of establishing a new organization in a very short time and promoting it on an international level during the last year and during the last week MIT session which was held in Brussels. EDEN Hope in Motion is aiming through its activities and online app which can be accessed on Android and hopefully very soon on apple, to spread awareness of urgent social and environmental issues and to connect the society with charities and NGOs, all around the world. It’s most recent aim is to organize events and trips which will support jeopardized communities all around the world.

Even though, all 5 students which established and launched this project are aware of what Sustainable development Goals are, they did. Ot really realize to what extent they tackle some of them. Throughout observing their actions and talking with the organizers of EDEN Launch, I can conclude that most three fundamental SDGs tackled by this organization are 12th- Responsible consumption and production, 13th- Climate Actions and to some point of an extent 1st- No Poverty.

And what about future of this organization? We have asked Kristina Savchenko, one of the 5 key figures, which made this idea come true.

In the future, our aim is to make EDEN, more international and establish international routes and trips through which our app will help millions of in need. Currently we are thinking only about conducting trips to Indonesia, however slowly but surely we would like to visit and make beneficial trips to all continents of this world.”

Even though this organization is new and was established just couple of months ago, it has made a tremendous progress and supported solutions to before mentioned Sustainable Development Goals. There should be a greater demand for such organizations and I strongly believe that slowly but surely students will initiate and realize more of their ideas and desires.

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]