Monday, 20 July 2009

Meeting Gordon Brown and Eating Gelati with the Firemen of Rome!

My J8 Summit
By Sara Saleh, 16

I can’t believe how busy we’ve been since returning from the J8 Summit in Rome that this latest blog is now coming to you from London! We’ve all been so tired since coming back mostly because of all the fun we had meeting all the other Junior 8 participants from around the world. I guess we should have gone to bed early in Rome – but what would be the fun in that?

Our time in Rome was all about drafting and finalising our declarations – a set of points that we would present to the world’s leaders at the end of our week. We started each day at 8.45am in the planning room, hashing out the most important issues that we, as a group, thought our leaders would need to act upon.

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

First up was Climate change and our main concerns were that the Kyoto protocols were not being upheld. It’s important that governments find a way to cut their greenhouse gas emissions so one of the first points we put into our official declaration was -

  • Government funding should be made available for green technologies in both developed and developing countries;
  • G8 leaders should address the issue of black carbon (black soot), which accounts for approximately 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and is emitted through biomass cooking stoves mainly in developing nations.

At the official opening ceremony of the J8 conference at the beginning of the week, Mellika, Harry, Birzi and myself had the chance to meet the Italian Prime Minister at his official office in the centre of Rome - The Presidenza del Consiglio! It was nice to know that many adults had faith in us and were supporting us and made us really proud to be part of the J8 team.

G8Website/ANSA Photo: Maurizzio Brambatti

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

Next on our agenda was poverty and development with a particular focus on Africa which has some of the world’s poorest countries. One of the points that came out of our brainstorms was the issue of debt in the developing nations.

We felt really strongly, that if Africa is going to succeed in improving the basic health, water, sanitation and education in its countries, then national debt must be cancelled and more aid money should be pledged.

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

The final day of drafting our declaration was definitely the busiest and I was in the main drafting group! A major responsibility which meant that I had hardly any time to take any breaks (while the others were off playing table tennis!) But I didn’t mind, because drafting up the declaration was the most important part of J8 and we had to make sure our points were perfect for the world leaders the next day!

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

The 14 delegates who were set to meet the world’s most powerful leaders included our very own Mellika who would be meeting Gordon Brown in L’aquila where the main G8 Summit was taking place! We were all really excited for her and woke up really early to watch her get more and more nervous and excited! After telling her she’d ‘done us proud’. The rest of the J8 team – 50 of us in total headed out to the Italian Chamber of Deputies to present our declarations in Rome!

G8Website/ANSA Photo: Maurizzio Brambatti

In the afternoon, the children from the "Fondazione Tender to Nave Italia” gave us a presentation about working with children with disabilities. I was impressed with how much time they gave to the foundation and how passionate they were about helping people, something I want to do when I’m older.

The next day began with a normal schedule for the J8 delegates back at the fire-fighter’s institute where we were staying but but not for us! Harry, Birzi, Mellika and I had to travel to L'Aquila for a meeting with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. I was so excited as I thought only Mellika had the opportunity the day before! I thought the Prime Minister was lovely man who really cared what was happening to the world both nationally and internationally. The long drive to and from l’Aquila was long and exhausting but the time we had with Mr Brown made up for it!

Later that evening we were set for a culture night from all the j8 participants. It was one of the most fun and remarkable nights we ever had and it brought all the different groups even closer.


On our penultimate day in Rome, each country had to work on a list of action-plans that we would present to children and young people in our own countries. All of our ideas were presented in front of the rest of the groups and a final action plan was written.

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

By the end of the day I am sure most of us were feeling optimistic about raising awareness in our own community.

Our final day in Rome had crept up on all of us so quickly and the mood at the Fire-fighter’s Institute was quite downbeat. Although it was our last day we still had our early start and schedule for the day – no rest for the J8 team! Despite another fact-packed day (and a flight to catch in the night), Team One From Many went on their last sight-seeing tour in the wonderful city of Rome.

On our return still eating ice-cream (or as the Italians call it Gelati!) we had to get our bags ready and say our final goodbyes to the wonderful friends we made from all over the world and thank the firemen for their amazing hospitality.

This was by far the best experience we have ever had and not to be forgotten for a very long time!

UNICEF/Rome2009/Simone Caleo

Friday, 17 July 2009

Work Experience with the Youth Team

Rachna Vyas, 17

It would make anyone go cross-eyed to see the level of activity going on in UNICEF’s Youth Team. From organising Scout Jamborees and short listing over a hundred entries for the climate change competition to planning student conferences to Copenhagen and creating designs for Tagd t-shirts, I saw firsthand the theory of ‘multitasking being impossible’ being disproved.

I have to say that when I arrived here on Monday, I expected to sit at a computer bored out of my mind , resorting furtively to Facebook to keep me occupied. Suffice to say that was not the case. The Youth Team found a ton of stuff for me to do, not for the sake of it, but stuff that actually contributed to what they were doing! It felt great to be taken seriously like this. And I was determined to show it.

Looking back, my main task was to judge a mammoth-sized pile of entries for the Big Climate Callout competition. It was Christmas for the opinionated side of me. That’s not to say I set out to Simon-Cowell everyone. Actually it was rather inspiring to read (and view for there were some video entries) all those passionate views on climate change. Until now I really thought that I was in the minority of youths concerned about the near-irreversible damage being done to the planet so hearing from other 14-17 year olds who are on their school environment committee, or have ideas on dealing with climate change that are actually better than what world leaders have come up with felt really reassuring. Maybe our planet’s future is in responsible hands after all.
I think it’s safe to boast that my week here has made me an expert brainstormer. I’ve lost hands to count the number of flow charts and spider-diagrams I’ve contributed to. Brainstorming ideas for the Scout Jamboree was quite fun, because this was UNICEF so I could be as creative and ridiculous as I liked (proof: ‘Pin the Penguin on the World’ with an inflatable globe; buskers; spontaneous acting; an ‘Unfair Fair’). The point is, it got me to think beyond my horizons. Which is always neat.

Finally I got to suggest concrete improvements to make to Tagd. The Youth Team knew that as a website for young people, it would make sense to get young people’s ideas on it. Enter: me J. My audit came up with no massive red flags – it’s a pretty cool website! But I did get to come up with some questions to stick around the website to flare up some debates – it’s always fun setting the essay-type questions for a change! And as a reward, I get a by-line to this blog and also make a cameo in the week's newsletter!

A jam-packed week, it’s gone by so fast it’s left skid marks! I did a lot, learnt a lot (the J8 Summit sounds totally cool) and had a blast. So thank you.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Our First Blog from the Junior 8 Summit in Rome!

Saturday 4th July
by Mellika Myers

Not really believing we were in Rome after coming back from Barbados a few days ago, we woke up at 7 o clock expecting the food to be amazing, I soon found out that the Italians are not so famous for their breakfast! Hungry is never a good way to start my day as it usually makes me cranky but trust me, it didn't last long once we found out what we would be doing!

Our Team One From Many Outside the Colosseum
Rome UNICEF UK/Rome2009/Alice Bottini-Hall

We were all really excited because we were organising a media stunt at the famous Colosseum in the centre of the city. For those of you reading who don’t know what this is, a media ‘stunt’ is supposed to attract the public’s attention as well as all the local newspapers and television crew about the Junior 8 summit. Choosing a venue as busy as the ancient Colosseum was bound to work...wasn't it?

Birzi and I discussing our ideas for the giant ear!
UNICEF UK/Rome2009/Alice Bottini-Hall

We travelled to the Colosseum by metro, which was very different from London Underground – it’s so NOISY! When we finally arrived – the view was amazing – it was like being on the set of the film Gladiator – I really wish I was a gladiator myself! It was soon time to reveal our stunt….and I have to say, it was really cool! An artist made a giant papier m√Ęche ear and all the groups from different countries had to write a message to the world’s leaders, which we then put inside the ear.

All the J8 delegates shouting "Listen to us!"
UNICEF UK/Rome2009/Alice Bottini-Hall

Luckily, our stunt seemed to work as loads of press from all over the world were there and some of the J8 teams were interviewed by various journalists. We got loads of attention, not only from the tourists and Roman people who were all staring at us but from radio stations, television crews, newspapers who kept coming over to speak to us (we even made the Chinese press!) and we were featured in La Repubblica, one of the major Italian newspapers.

A J8 delegate being interviewed by an Italian radio station
UNICEF UK/Rome2009/S.Caleo

After our busy day it was finally time for dinner and we were all hoping it would be better than our breakfast! I can definitely say it looked amazing as it was prepared by the Italian version of Gordon Ramsey, Gualtiero Marchesi. The chefs serving us called it ‘concept food’, but to be honest, I did not understand the concept because it did not fill me up, or the others! Although the food was amazing, we were all definitely still hungry and fancied another dinner…maybe some good old Pizza or Pasta!!

Sara and I were waiting ages for our dinner by the Italian chefs!
UNICEF UK/Rome2009/S.Caleo

Hope you enjoyed reading my first blog from Rome!

Mellika x

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Our Very First Blog...From Barbados!

UNICEF UK/Barbados2009/Michael Cadogan

If you had the opportunity to tell the world's leaders what they should do to solve global problems, what would you say?

That's the question that the Junior 8, a group of young activists from Haling Manor School in Croydon will wrestle with as they decide what positions to present to the Group of 8 Summit of world leaders in Italy.

Harry Phinda, 15, Birzi Saleh, 16, Melika Myers, 16 and Sara Saleh, 16 won the Tagd J8 competition - - beating the competion by a clear mile.

UNICEF UK/J82009/Jessica Wright

"Going to a school labeled as being one of the worst in Croydon, we can see why young people don’t care about taking part in the world. Our team feels as though we have the world in our playground, as our school has so many different backgrounds and we want to be that representation of multicultural Britain. We are the future generation and we should be able to have a say on what goes on in our world despite the many problems trying to stop us.

When they work together, young people can be so powerful and we could build a better future but we can’t do it alone. We decided to take part in the J8 Summit because we saw the perfect chance for young people’s voices to be valued and cared for and we would be honoured to be a part of this opportunity."

Their first assignment was to visit projects supported by UNICEF in Barbados

But it's not all a cheesy honeymooners and 5 * resorts. Barbados is facing some real humanitarian challenges. From on-site visits highlighting the impact of climate change on the country’s delicate coastal system, to personal encounters with local people affected by HIV and AIDS to meeting the Prime Minister The Hon David Thompson, our intrepid team were able to see first hand the impact of climate change on the island’s eco system and learn about it’s effects for the economic and social development of the Eastern Caribbean.

See more here -

UNICEF UK/Barbados2009/Michael Cadogan