UN event showed young people are doing amazing things in their communities

By A World at School Global Youth Ambassador Brownie Ebal from Uganda

As a Global Youth Ambassador for a World at School in Uganda, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on August 6-8.

It was organised by Friendship Ambassadors Foundation and brought together about 500 youth from around the world. The conference was supported and endorsed by permanent missions, UN officials and the NGO community formally affiliated with the UN.

This year, the lead host was the UN mission in Romania. It was represented by Madame Ambassador Simona MIiculescu. In her opening speech she urged us to discover, explore and dream.

The purpose of the event was to promote youth-led development in support of the Millennium Development Goals. It focused on the post-2015 era and how youth can actively contribute to the new MDGs policy-making and implementation. It also focused on uniting youth through arts, culture, sports and travel for the development of the post-2015 agenda. 

The conference engaged young people with civil society in real and meaningful ways while training them to initiate their own grassroots initiatives when they return home. This conference was truly a mind-blowing event!

Through its distinguished panel, their stories inspired and ignited in us a sense that we can achieve anything and we are never too young to change the world.

Many of the speakers were between the ages of 15 and 30 and were all incredible people doing great things in their community.

Gerardo Porteny Backal, He for She campaign consultant, was only 15 years old when he decided to ask his school to change their uniform to pink in order to support women against breast cancer. This shows that no matter what age you are, you can be able to change our world for the better by starting with your community.

Kate Otto, founder of Everyday Ambassador organisation, reminded us of what is important in life. In an ever-increasing technological advanced life, human connection is dwindling. She believes that we should stay true to what is relevant and that is humanity.

We should feel empathy for our fellow humans and this can only be achieved through reducing time spent on our cell phones, laptops and Facebook and actually have an honest conversation with the people around us. We as young people should use technology not to make us farther apart but to bring us closer together. We must not forget what is important and that is human connection.

Chernor Bah, chairperson of the Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initative, is truly remarkable. He was able to make a difference in his community in Sierra Leone amidst war.

He told us to ask ourselves, “why not?”  Why can't we as young people shape our future better? We are the future and therefore have the power to change it.

A group called KCPeace made me realise that even amidst all the chaos we can still make a difference. This organisation brought together people from Israel and Palestine living in the Gaza strip.

It advocates for peace through exchanging dialogue between the people from these areas by enabling them understand their differences. Even amidst the fighting, war and chaos going on in Gaza, this organisation brings hope and shades light that anything is possible. The future can be peaceful between these two nations as the next generation is not interested in violence.

Something that Patrick Sciarratta, Project Director of the Youth Assembly at the UN, said in his closing speech stuck to me. He said: “The future is always bright when you look forward.”

This means that amidst all the challenges in the past, we as youth can still have hope by looking forward.

We as youth have the advantage of having more years ahead of us, so we therefore have a vast future ahead of us filled with unlimited possibilities. We are the shapers of our destiny and therefore should shape it right!

Inspired by this conference and what others are doing, I felt not only compelled but obliged to go and do something in my own country, Uganda.

I have just started an initiative, the kitabu-buk project, which will aim at giving primary and secondary school children in government schools, a chance to gain access to text books, novels and educative magazines. Please join me and donate any used and new textbooks and reading novels for this age group.

Let us as a community help each other. Please contact me for more information about this initiative.