My name is Nathanielle Morel; I am 25 years old and currently studying my undergraduate degree in Beijing, China. Prior to attending university, I worked as an assistant protocol officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approximately two years. I was not involved in any non-governmental organization before joining the UN youth Seychelles, unless you consider liking a page on Facebook part of an NGO. I got interested in world affairs mostly during my time working at the ministry. I believe in making the world a better place which in turn heavily influenced me to my field of study and joining the UN Youth Seychelles.
I first came across the UN youth Assembly through Facebook. I contacted Miss. Annarose Clarisse directly and asked for more information. The UN Youth Assembly is a unique platform where youths from around the globe gather together and obtain the opportunity to engage in discussions and stimulate new ideas in ways to achieve a sustainable future for all. UNYA delegate is an individual aged from 15 to 29 that is part of and attends the assembly. I decided to apply and take part in the Assembly.
Having the opportunity to participate in one of the world’s most recognized youth’s event is a once in a lifetime chance not only for the exposure but also to truly learn and grasp an understanding of how it would feel to be part of the United Nations. I was hoping the experience would enable me to grow and become empowered by giving the youth of my country a voice, to raise awareness towards sustainable development and show them that the Seychelles islands are as much involved in world affairs as many other countries.
Applications for the 22nd Youth Assembly were done through their online website whereby we had to answer a few questions regarding the sustainable development goals and which one I was interested in. In order to attend the conference, you need to apply and be selected by the organising team called Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (FAF). After receiving your acceptance email from FAF, I had to find my own means of funding. Since UN Youth Seychelles is a non-for-profit organization, businesses could provide sponsorship and the amount they sponsor could be deducted through CSR tax payments. Luckily, I managed to get sponsorships to cover my package fee and airfare.
There are several programmes you can attend. I chose to attend the Premier package which was 3300USD in total fees and the trip would last for almost 2 weeks.
Visa: sadly, the nearest American Embassy is in Mauritius. They have an online application form; however, an interview is also required as part of the procedure.
Summary of the Programme:
The programme would take us to 3 major cities in the United States.
Our first destination was New Jersey. Due to our flight schedule we arrived late Monday evening at the Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham campus. After a couple of calls and asking a few wandering delegates for help later, we were finally greeted by friendly staff in the lobby where we collected our name badge, UN pass, documents and toiletries. After the long hours of travelling and the fact that we had to wake up at 7am the next day, we headed straight to bed.
I believe it would have been best if we had arrived a day before and stayed at a hotel close by. That would have helped with the jetlag and tiredness. We resided there for 3 nights. It gave me great insight to what college life in the US would be like.
All attendants were obligated to create a Social Venture Sustainable Development (SVSD) project and compete against each other. During the 3 days, we met with our assigned peer mentor who helped provide guidance on our Social Venture project for Sustainable Development, which our assigned groups have been working together on since before we arrived in the US. We also attended lectures on social entrepreneurship, delivered by the university professors, which was very inspiring.
In New Jersey, we went on two field trips: 1) Novartis Corporation Visit (where we taught how to corporate in the business sector, sharing social responsibility and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals) and 2) the CITI GREEN VISIT (where we taught food systems and about how the community is contributing to the development of sustainable green city).
Alvania Lawen (my Seychellois colleague who was also attending UNYA) were placed by the FAF in a group alongside other African members, Uduakodong Etukondo from Nigeria; Michele Kouamelan from the Ivory Coast and Vanessa Dove-Nicol from Sierra Leone.
Our group decided to focus on SDG 4 quality education, SDG 8 for good jobs and SDG 5 for gender equality. Our project was called Goals 4 Girls, which aimed at providing internships for young girls from Sierra Leone.
To really have an impact on what we were trying to, we had to come up with a logo idea.
This is the logo we chose for our project. The logo was designed by Miss Juliette Zelime, a Seychelloise artist graduate whom specialises in graphic designs (a Master Graduate in Graphics and Design from CAFA University in Beijing China).
We had to do a great deal of research and really work as a team to gather our ideas for our project. In the end, we all had a common goal, to have an impact on people’s lives, to provide ideas and solution to help make the world a better place. So, it’s easy to say, we connected so well as a team because our hearts and mind were in the right place.
We focussed on Sierra Leone because the statistics proved to be more drastic. However it is an idea that can work in every country. We spoke of the importance providing internships to young woman, to enable them to find jobs after secondary school.
We had to do give a 15 mins presentation and was given feedback from the judges. The award for best project was given during the afternoon before heading out to our next stop New York.
It felt amazing to be standing in-front of so many influential youths and experts delivering our presentation. Many were impressed by the points we made.
Our project ended up winning first place for the SVSD competition. We being the first Seychellois to win at such an international level, as an African team, were regarded as high importance.
In New York, we resided at Pace university dormitory. The campus is in the heart of lower Manhattan and had the exciting and exhilarating feel of the fast-paced city life. Our dormitory room was faced just opposite of the new twin tower (world trade centre) which was magnificent. However, we only figured that out during our second night stay there.
During our stay in New York, our main activities were the official opening ceremony of the UN Youth Assembly, visits to the United Nations Headquarters and also some visits to some on New York’s Ivy League Universities.
The first visit was to the United Nations Headquarters, as we arrived at the UN visitor’s entrance, we had to produce our photo ID as well as our badges and previously allocated UN pass. After we’ve passed through security check-in and screening, we were given a guided tour inside the UN Headquarters.
After the tour, we walked to the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations. Proceed to Grand Central Terminal for some leisure time with your YA Representative. Meet your YA Representative and transfer to Hunter College Assembly Hall by Subway.
Usually the opening ceremonies are held within the United Nations Headquarters; sadly we didn’t get to experience that mainly because the UN was under renovations for the upcoming General Assembly held every September. Therefore the organisers had the 22nd Session of The Youth Assembly opening at the Assembly Hall of Hunter College which is part of the City University of New York in Midtown Manhattan.
The opening ceremony was a success! I was personally impressed by all the influential personals who attended the ceremony, especially Professor Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor of Columbia University, Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Special Advisor on the SDGs to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres. Professor Sachs was one of the leading architects behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
Delegate speakers discussed the concept and process of creating their own social ventures, while highlighting The Youth Assembly’s commitment to the SDGs and youth led action.
It was so surreal. I truly felt like being a part of something greater. When listening to the young leaders/innovators speeches, I felt as though I was finally in a place where my ideas were welcomed or will they be laughed at. That was important to me.
After the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony we had the option to head back to the University dorms or go on a New York City Tour. We chose the latter.
Picture: Alvania Lawen and myself in Times Square.
Throughout our stay in New York we spent our day at New York University, attending breakout sessions and workshops.
The 22nd Session of the UN Youth Assembly covered some of the major contemporary challenges to sustainable development, including environmental issues, such as climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources, international migration and the rise in number of refugees and displaced persons, rapid urbanization, and censorship. These sessions focused on ways in which young people can contribute in tackling these global challenges, and ensure that the world they inherit will be one that is equitable, and that preserves our planet for generations to come.
There, I attended several sessions and workshop panels on subjects such as “Empowering Youth to end poverty”, “the climate reality project: youth taking action to tackle climate change” “taking action on environmental challenges”, “closing the gap: building gender equality in leadership” “the World Bank Group” and many more revolving social, environmental, educational and youth discussions.
It was truly fascinating to attend these breakout sessions. Here I thought I knew quite a lot regarding these topics, but I since then realised just how much I didn’t know. It was truly an eye opener for me. It made me realize how important it is for the youths of today to be aware, be expressive of their views on world matter and why they should keep pressing on the issues and take action.
After winning Best Project Proposal (Social venture for sustainable development seminar) in New Jersey, we were asked to attend and present our project at the Youth Assembly Impact Challenge, which was held at the New York University (NYU) Law School. This was an opportunity of a life time. Winner of the impact challenge would have been awarded with seed funding and will continue to be connected to resources, receive mentorship and support from Friendship Ambassadors Foundation to help launch their vision into action. Our team was led to a private hall in front of a panel of judges and compete for the prize.
Sadly, we did not win.
Finalists at the UNYA Impact Challenge.
Washington was our last stop on this trip. It is known as the governmental hub of USA. A place I have always wanted to visit. The atmosphere there was completely different than that of New York. It is by far my most favorite city out of all three that we visited. We stayed at the Crown Plaza Hotel which was super close to the Washington Post Newspaper office.
The City is Beautiful. All of the historical sites and buildings were remarkable. Our visit was to the National Mall, though the name is quite misleading as it isn’t a mall but an open park consisting numerous museums and famous landmarks.
During our stay in DC, we had visits to United Nations Association of the United States of America and attended a seminar there, where we gained insight to the missions of UNA-USA, followed by Q&A. we also attended seminars at an organization called Sustainable DC, where we learnt their plans for sustainability, climate adaptation plans, as well as their energy and waste program. We also had the opportunity to visit the World Bank, as well as the IRF. We also had a visit around the George Washington University and that was the end to our journey in the US.
The experience has been amazing; the premier programme I was engaged in included seminars and project developments in New Jersey, the UNYA in New York which also included a variety of side events at universities such as George Washington University to New York University, as well as community work, and finally workshops and sessions in Washington DC at places such as the World Bank Headquarters, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Senate and House Gallery.
The programme is extremely bulky and exhausting but in a way that excites you, engages you and empowers you to continue doing good and advancing in your field with better knowledge, capabilities and material to bring back home.
The workshops and breakout sessions were most often deliberated by youth who share their success and failure stories, and how to get back up when you fail, as well as their perspectives of how the organisations they are part of work which helped a lot. The seminars in DC were an eye opener and really clarify a lot.
What I envision for the youth of Seychelles is to create a platform for them where they can voice out on issues that affect them on a daily basis and as such, are integral to achieving effective and enduring solutions. Any efforts made to empower the youth to participate more fully in society and decision-making processes ensure their engagement as partners and their investment in their own futures and those that come after them. Thus, we need to encourage them to use their knowledge and voice to help shape and work towards a more inclusive society, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals for a more sustainable future, and not to be discouraged by thinking their actions are too mere to make an impact. I want them to see that the youths are as much involved in world affairs as many other countries are.
This programme allows us to grow and become empowered to make a change. All the knowledge gathered from the programme will be of great use to me in school and the future endeavours such as my career, projects and volunteer work.