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