Yup.ACSian/Scout/NJCian/Debater/University of Birmingham/UNA/University of Cambridge/Darwin College—all rolled into one.
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine"--Rick Blaine, Casablanca
"Some men see things as they are and say why; I dream things that never were and say why not"--George Benard Shaw
Ecclesiastes 3:1: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"
Philippians 3:14: "I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus"
Isaiah 40:31: "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wing like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint"
Isaiah 2:4: He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
UNA: It's your world *
2009-06-14 10:14 p.m.
I should have gotten this entry up a long time ago. Might as well get it done now especially since no one wants to take me in as their intern/volunteer. Dear NGOs, this poor soul is willing to sacrifice everything to server you in any way—campaigning, fundraising or simple admin work….
It was around three years ago that I was caught in a sea of individuals and a cacophony of voices. It was the societies fair for Fresher’s Week 2006 and of course I was the green Fresher looking for the ideal society to join. With four year’s of Scouts and two years of Debating on my record, the easy way was to got for either type of activity. The debating booth, if I recalled, was there but not as prominent as a blue background society which at one glance identified itself as the “UN Soc”. The materials revealed the obvious—it was a society on UN issues, debating and campaigns. “Register your email here,” the girl whom later turned out to be the President Carly pointed at a labtop. (It was also the first time that I encountered the British keyboard where the @ symbol is not at the number 2 key but in another corner. It took me five minutes to figure that out.) My contact details down, I left with little thought of what I threw myself into.
It must also be noted that I signed up for the Econ Soc that day and later in the week I witness what University Debating was like immediately disliking the British Parliamentary style of debating. My next encounter with the UN Soc was via an email l from them regarding an introductory party. I arrived late (not sure why) but Carly was kind in enough to run through what just happened. The next week (or was it the week after) I found myself witnessing my first model UN session. “Session” would be a more appropriate term than debate. In fact, it immediately dawned upon me that Model UN held (and holds) more finesse than normal BP or World Schools debating. You don’t stand up there against a trio or dup—you stand there defending a country’s viewpoints against a multitude of other countries and you don’t come with any prepared speeches, you “fire away” with contemporary facts. The disappointment son came as Model UN sessions clashed with my timetable.
The alternative was the Campaigns side, an activity which I had no experience with and not a single clue what it was all about. The meeting was in a rather cozy environment—the upstairs bar of the Guild—and Sam Carpenter was the Campaign Manager. With a group of twelve (or was it fifteen) we were given a choice of topics and I picked the North Korean nuclear crisis (since the regime had been rattling sabers back in 2006). The vote went to the Millennium Development Goals, a topic which I then had not a clue about. Ok, the objective was to campaign and possibly raise funds to support the eight goals.
The term went on and campaigns meetings were held almost every week with small progress and smaller attendance. I would soon discover that Model UN was the more popular activity—well if you’re inclined towards discussion and debates. The MDG campaigns ideas started big and gradually decreased in size and we somehow couldn’t get space in the university to hold the event. The idea of donation was sadly scrapped but help came in that other societies like People and Planet and Oxfam were willing to work with us on the campaign route. With dwindling membership on the campaigns side, part of me wondered what I was doing.
I stuck on with Sam (who was a final year IR/Politics Student) and with two other girls. The event was finalized in the second term on my first year at a tucked away pub named the Bristol Pear and Sam had booked the top room. All was well planned until he (or we) forgot about our side of the contribution—information. At t he last minute, I volunteered to tackle Goal One: halving poverty and extreme hunger by 2015. At this point, the most I knew about global hunger was the Make Poverty History posters on the internet and the efforts by U2 member Bono. Also, I was not convinced that that dream was ever possible but researchg I did and I came up with several power point created posters enlarged on A3 size paper.
Sam added his part with lots of UN related stuff and the society’s flag and off we went to the Bristol Pear. A dimly lit area was the best short description for the place—almost like those bars/pubs in spy movies. There was a music team that Sam found and the other societies were already set up. Armed with half a packet of blu-tack, I treid in vain to stick my posters to the tables and walls only to have them dirtied later by drunk outsiders. Even so, I continued the effort trying to teach the passing students about the first goal and later venturing over to the other stalls which in my view were far more organized and detailed than mine. It was my first time signing petitions to the UK government about carbon emissions, ethical trade and other issues I would soon encounter in my studies and in my time with the UN society. A few hours later, it was all over but a sudden light shone on me, telling me that this was certainly the correct activity to chose.
UN Soc’s plans were haphazard after that event mainly since the committee members were all third year students. Carly the President and Braphus who was suppose to be the Model UN coordinator managed to start up one or two other Model UN Sessions which I could finally attend. I picked Malaysia but didn’t say much but again was captivated by the nature of Model UN, especially to speakers who later turned out to Shab and Marek. Following that session, there wasn’t anything else until near the end of term—elections.
If you read my entry on scouts, there was slight teacher and colleague opposition in my appointment as a patrol leader. With NJC debate, there was clear teacher opposition which resulted in me gaining not a post and instead being ridiculed when a later comer was given the position of research head. For this UN Society, I was determined to let nothing stand in my way. Adult supervision as you know is non existent, especially for overseas universities so I didn’t have to worry about that. My main worry was which position to take. Campaigns had geared me up but I visioned the comfortable post of secretary (after all I always wanted the Scribe post in scouts). Luck (or I’ll say God’s will) was that only me, Marek, Shab and Jonathan (see my previous entries) entered on the day of elections. Shab wanted secretary so I took campaigns and Jonathan picked treasurer. Our “boss” or what I called him henceforth was Marek.
Vale Festival was the next term that hit us or rather me. We weren’t informed on our participation until pretty late which irked me much since we could only prepare after our exams and thus were given a window of a few days. UNA (United Nations Association)-UK gave us no support so again I went about with my power point skills and churned out posters and information sheets on Climate Change, something I cam across when I was in primary school. Again, it was a topic that wasn’t close to my heart but soon was as I hurriedly looked up information on it. I’ll cut the story short as you can read the Vale Festival 2007 entry but yes that was my second major campaign.
Across the summer, Shab and I were in charge of a video for Fresher’s Fair 2008. My video making skills were again limited to Microsoft’s programmes and as Shab remarked, you won’t get members if you play Michael Jacksons’ “Heal the World”. Oh well, we did come up with something and you can see the results in this entry. Almost immediately after, we started planning how UNA Birmingham would proceed with in 2007-2008. We changed the name to UNA Birmingham (University) as it sounded more official (though that was never officially changed).
Campaigns for 2007-2008 was on asylum seekers although I wanted to open it to a vote. The first meeting was packed full but as I suspected, half of them mistook it as a Model UN meeting. Unlike Sam, I set a timetable of meetings once every week and again I was surprised with an email about an invitation to a STAR (Student Action for Refugees) event down in London. Disappointingly, only two members, Jenny and Josie signed up and Marek joined in, making it a quartet.
STAR conference 2007 was a small eye opener into the area of refugees (not so much asylum seekers) but despite our attempts, no one was willing to come to Birmingham to support our event. Further campaigns meetings saw members slowly disappear and déjŕ vu was setting in. Part of me said it was the Model UN-campaigns divide as again the majority of members were lured under the “spell” of discussing UN issues rather than championing the course. My brief break was the UN dinner at some multi-cultural restaurant at the end of Autumn term 2007 were part of the proceeds were set aside to donate to the UNHCR UK.
Membership continued to dwindle as the Sprign Term opened and what was forecasted as a major event with music and bands performing dropped down to a small awareness event. My brief joy was that the UNHCR UK posted me a box of pamphlets and materials for free, saving me from burning holes in my pocket (like I did for the STAR conference and another taxi ride).
That ended campaigns event number three and the end of my position as Mugdha took over. She wasn’t the perfect candidate but certainly the most eager and my only advice to her was to make campaigns as popular as Model UN. Both committees had a dinner at another multicultural restaurant (which personally wasn’t that great) and ended up at Sissi’s (President 08-09) place for well wild fun.
Returning for my third year, I still signed up with the UNA, helping to man their booth at Fresher’s Week 2008 and joining in for the multicultural night which Mugdha co-organized with other societies. Time sped on faster than I imagined and Sissi had to hand over to a new lot of faces that was as international as my bunch and Sissi’s group.
If it was “A Scouting Light of Mine” and “Point Sir!” for debate, then UNA/UN Society opened a multitude of many dimensions for me. While not directly affiliated with the UN, everyone was eagerly engaged with global causes and problems and was willing to make the difference for the world. It is in the UN Society where so many different ethnic backgrounds, so many religions and so many nationalities held by a single individual are set aside under a common banner and a common objective. UNA activities, especially advocacy and fundraising will be forever in my blood. God Bless UN Society Birmingham.