Prior to entering MMSY for the summer, I planned on just volunteering at my parents’ workplaces for the summer, and completing my summer assignments for school in my spare time. Volunteering at my mom’s workplace was somewhat productive, as I was able to get homework done during lunch breaks and learned about how the medical services at the UN worked.
When I first came to this program, I expected to learn much about the UN that I didn’t know, and simply verify/confirm what I already knew. However, MMSY program went above and beyond my expectations; I not only learned, but I also connected, and I not only took in information, but I also reacted to it and began to apply it to my life almost immediately.
For instance, when we went to the WHO, I learned all about the WHO’s programs around the world; especially the effort that the WHO is making in order to get rid of HIV/AIDS across the world for example in Africa. While I knew of such a pandemic (both in Africa and across the world), I did not realize the severity as well as the sheer amount of cases in many places, and the visit to the WHO helped put the problem in perspective, as well as what they are doing in order to help solve the problem. During the same visit, I also learned about the amount of other diseases within Africa, such as malaria and tuberculosis, as well as the efforts made by nations across the world in order to help handle the problem; however, I also learned that despite the efforts of many international organizations, some of the efforts to cure malaria in Africa have been ineffective simply because of cost issues.
Upon my visit to the United Nations Headquarters, I also learned about other efforts around the world, the outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, which I didn’t have any knowledge of before attending the program. I also learned about a certain peanut butter-like paste that only needs water to be added in order to properly feed a person. In addition to learning the average price of a mosquito net and the cost of sending a child to school for an entire year (which are both tremendously low compared to the cost of pretty much anything in a developed country such as the USA), I also learned that land mines have taken a large amount of lives annually in undeveloped countries, where mines remain undetected until exploding and ruining many lives.
After attending the panel discussion about gender equality at the UN, I also learned about efforts in order to stop the conditioning that occurs in countries that tend to stress male dominance over females, such as India. I learned that in order to counter conditioning from the countries’ cultures, people (especially boys) must be conditioned at a young age to treat their female peers as actual peers, and not inferiors.
After watching the movie The Day After Peace, I learned both about Jeremy Gilley and his efforts to make International Peace Day happen, as well as the story behind the day, and was inspired to go off and make a difference to the world on my own.
While the many other experiences I had while going to MMSY program were definitely worthwhile, and worth the price, such as the visits to the Korean Mission to the UN and the Youth Assembly at the UN, as well as the tour around the Tolerance Center, I think that the experience that remains in my memory the most, as well as taught me the most about different cultures and unity between cultures were the visits to the church, synagogue, and Buddhist temple.
At the church, I learned about the different saints as well as the different parts of the church, such as the confessional booth (and it was funny that it had to have an “escape hatch” in case of anyone crazy/murderous entering!), and the memorial dedicated to those lost in 9/11. I also learned more about the connections between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as corrected my views about them; earlier, I believed that the three conflicted much more than they agreed, and was thus the source of many problems between religions- however, I was wrong.
While visiting the synagogue, I learned about Judaism, as well as the Jewish people living in the area. I found it both interesting and somewhat inspiring to see footage of the same synagogue in the 20th century, and see all that it has gone through, as well as different traditions in Judaism, such as the “clothing” of the Torah, as well as the practice of not touching the Torah, simply because it is so holy. I also learned about how the synagogue itself was falling into disrepair, until a campaign to restore it successfully managed to do so.
What I took from MMSY program was much more than I thought I would. Not only have I gained new knowledge (and new friends), but I have gained a new insight. I plan to use my newfound knowledge to make people more aware, if even just by word of mouth, because the more people that know of a problem, the more likely they are to attempt to fix the problem, and the more efforts there are in order to fix a problem, the more likely it is that the problem would be solved more quickly. When I return to school I plan to do my utmost to make a change, because if there is anything that this program has taught me, it is that teamwork, as well as sheer will power, will help humanity accomplish everything that they put their minds to.
ALL human beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights.
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights