As a college freshman, I led a project running small business ventures that raised money for 50 impoverished single mothers in Guatemala City. My friends and I traveled there and invested the money in businesses that these women started to support their families. My trip to Guatemala was the most life changing experience I’ve ever had because it showed me the impact a group of college students can have on a community.
This wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed poverty. I was born in Bolivia, a country where over half the population lives below the poverty line and where economic mobility is rare. When I was seven, my parents moved to the US in search of better education and brighter opportunities for my brother and me. I vividly remember saying goodbye to our family and friends and arriving in Miami with just a few suitcases.
Life in the US was hard. I saw the worry in their eyes as my parents struggled to make ends meet and keep their marriage alive. I saw how tired they were after long days of working multiple jobs. I saw their frustration when, due to the language barrier, they couldn’t help us with our homework. But above all else, I saw the hope they had for my brother and me. I will never forget what my Dad said to me on the day of my college graduation: “Nicol, it was worth it. We made it.” My family’s story is our own, but not unprecedented. America is home to over 42 million foreign-born people, each with their own struggles and successes. Still, many deserving people around the world will never have access to our opportunities.
My first real involvement with the United Nations happened when I moved to New York City for my first post-college job. I didn’t know anyone, and I wanted to make friends while also doing something meaningful. One night, with a cup of coffee in hand, I literally Googled: How to volunteer for the UN. I discovered the UN Young Professional’s program, emailed the listed address, and started meeting new people and learning more about the UN. We discussed global issues and helped set up events to educate others on the UN’s work. The more I learned, the more passionate I became, and the more I wanted to take concrete action.
Could you be the next Youth Observer?
Those were the words I read on my computer screen and would continue to contemplate for the next few days. Could someone like me really be the next Youth Observer? I didn’t grow up discussing international affairs at my dinner table. I didn’t really know what the UN was until I was a junior in high school, and I didn’t study international affairs in college. All I knew was my immense desire to help provide wider, global access to the opportunities I’d been so privileged to enjoy. So, I sat down and applied. I was interviewed, made it to the last rounds, but wasn’t chosen. While disappointed, I vowed to find another way to contribute. I became a UNA Blogger Fellow, I took on a bigger role with the UN Young Professionals Program, and I continued to educate myself on global issues.
I tell this story because I know many people will look at my picture on social media now and feel like they could never be in this position, or a position like this one. I felt the same way. Never give up on the issues you’re passionate about. Anytime I face a big obstacle, I remember the women and children in Guatemala City. They also deserve access to the basic necessities we so often take for granted.
As US Youth Observer, I am excited to learn more about the issues that young people in America care about and bring them to the table at the United Nations. We are in a pivotal time in history. It’s an election year in the US. There’s a full-blown global refugee crisis. We're already feeling the impacts of climate change. Violence and corruption have caused political and social instability around the world. The unequal distribution of financial resources continues to affect the 800+ million people living in extreme poverty.
As Youth Observer, I am a resource to get you involved in these issues and others that drive you, and I will also use this platform to elevate the work that young people are already doing. I plan on celebrating our successes and also our failures because they’re the ones we learn from most. Let’s learn together and find concrete ways to take measurable actions.
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