I was so excited for the first day of the MMSY Program- I couldn’t wait to meet different high school students and college students from around New York City and not only learn about their cultures, but teach some of them about my own.
Before coming to the program, I have always been a very sociable and relatable person. I had and still have no problem introducing myself to other people and make that first step in breaking down any awkwardness that first time meetups can have. For example, on the first day of the program, I didn’t know anyone. Emily looked closest to age as me; I immediately stepped up to her and started a conversation.
When we first walked into the United Nations, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But listening to Juliana’s presentation of what the United Nations was and how it functioned was a fantastic way for me to learn more about something that I only had read about in my history textbooks. I had so many questions about the effectiveness of the United Nations, how the power of the “Big 5,” didn’t interfere with the powers of the 193 total member states.
My favorite part of the UN-tour though was the stop where the paintings of the 30 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The paintings were done in such a simple way that a third grader could understand them. I thought that simplicity was very beautiful as that’s what these human rights should be: universal and simple rights.
Possibly one of the most eye-opening moments of the whole MMSY program was about the presentation of the human right’s officer. This human right’s officer’s story was incredibly inspiring, as he left high school and dove straight into a war zone to help out. But as he detailed the work of a human right’s officer, I realized that much of what the United Nations does, in terms of his department, is recording the deaths and destruction of a tragic event AFTER it happened. That seemed counterintuitive to me as I felt that the United Nations should be doing more preventative work. But sometimes, as the officer explained to us, that politics and diplomacy can get in the way of doing something that is morally correct.
One of my favorite days was the day when we visited the Museum of Tolerance. This Museum was unlike any other that I had visited before as it was very interactive.
We went through and discussed a large numbers of leaders, both good and bad, and it was a little scary how these leaders all shared the same characteristics that allowed them to persuade massive amounts of people to do as they said. We also looked at different propagandas that were sexist, racist, and just plain wrong. It was shocking to see that some of these types of propaganda were still being used in the 21st century. It was also quite disturbing to see propaganda geared specifically towards children- it just goes to show how vulnerable a child’s mind can be!
During our MMSY program we had so much dialogue and we all really opened up to each other as we talked about our experiences of being victims of bullying, knowing someone who was bullied, or times where are mental and emotional healths were not very high. It was incredibly revealing to see how these past events of bullying, or suicidal thoughts shaped the way all of us have become. In a way, sometimes we need to thank our bullies, or the people who didn’t believe in us, because without their tauntings or scornful comments, we wouldn’t be the determined, successful people we are today.
I absolutely loved the cultural day. The whole day was wonderful, from the singing that we did in the morning to eating all the food that we brought to share with the group. I was able to share to everyone what it meant to be Hakka and what made it special, for example the food, languages, and values, are all completely different than any other Asian culture. The women are strong, capable, independent women who, as a result of not binding their feet, worked and are considered to be equals to their male counterparts in their communities. The food is salty and preserved, as the Hakka, migrating people had to eat food that could last a long time without refrigeration. At the end of my presentation, I was so proud of the people, who I come from, and my culture and heritage that I identify so deeply with (without even knowing that I did.) Listening to the other presentations, it was wonderful to listen to some of Mahroo’s experiences, what it was like to live in Lithuania from Dovile, and eat some of Katrina’s delicious purple Pilipino cake.
Another favorite day was, when we explored the different religious places of worship. We visited the Mosque, a place that I had never been before. It was very strange to walk around covered with HIJAB (scarf on your head) but I wanted to be respectful and tolerant to the rules of the Mosque and to the followers of Islam. Although I didn’t completely agree with all of its different standards, especially when it came to what women and what men were allowed to do, being at the Mosque, and listening to its leader was incredibly eye-opening and a one of a kind experience. I was especially impressed to hear that leaders of a Christian church and a nearby synagogue all congregated together once a month to discuss about different issues. Visiting the St. Francis of Assisi. I was just awed by the church’s beauty and how peaceful the church was. Eating the lunch that the church served to the homeless every day in the morning was incredibly humbling, it was just a strange feeling to have to depend on a church’s kindness for a can of juice and a sandwich. The synagogue that we visited was also quite interesting to visit as our tour guide stressed how important a synagogue is to orthodox Jewish people. I really enjoyed all the different details of the synagogue, such as the indents on the floor made from people’s feet as they rocked in time to the beat of different prayers and hymns, the detailed stained glass, and the stars of David that decorated the walls, ceilings, and chairs. I loved how next door to the synagogue was a Buddhist temple. It just goes to show how people of different faiths can live peacefully in harmony with each other. Going to these three very different places of worship, I realized that religion is supposed to be simple- it’s just a way of life- but people make religion complicated. There’s no need for that.
Also it was an incredible experience to be a 2014 United Nations Youth Delegate at the Summer Youth Assembly. I met so many different youths from around the world, and it was cool to not only listen to what the panelist’s had to say, but to also have the opportunity to challenge their ideas, offer some of my own theories, and ask so many questions! It was good to not only share my culture with other delegates, but to see everyone being open and receptive to something that made me different from them. The overall experience from this program, allowed everyone to embrace and accept their differences, creating a safe haven that unfortunately cannot be found everywhere in the world.
I’m incredibly grateful for two weeks in August. I was given so many opportunities and chances that not every child can say that they were given. How many people can say that they spoke at the United Nations, challenged different representatives from UN agencies, and was a 2014 Youth Delegate? As I move forward in life and continue to grow, I know that I will take what I’ve learned from my time with MMSY and keep that in mind as I continue to shape who I am and who I want to be. Wherever I go, I know I will be cultured, respectful, tolerant, brave, intelligent and open. I only have the interns, other students, and of course Mahroo to thank for that.
ALL human beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights. -Universal Declaration of Human Rights
ALL human beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights.
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights