By Rudina Vojvoda
What motivates young activists – and what empowers them to drive for change? This episode of Beyond School Books features two young people who are working to build bridges between different communities.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 26 July 2013 – Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history, and young people have positioned themselves as a vital force of economic and social progress. But what motivates young people, and what empowers them to ‘be the change they wish to see’?
Listen to the Podcast in Streaming MP3 Format
In this episode of Beyond School Books, UNICEF podcast moderator Alex Goldmark spoke with two young activists who are working to build bridges between different communities. Mia Tsang is in Grade 8 at Rhinebeck High School in New York state. In collaboration with the Sunshine Comes First Foundation, Mia and her school organized an exchange programme with the Madagascar town of Ranomafana, aiming to provide financial support for the town after a devastating hurricane. Harrison Chung Wing-fung works with the Young Envoys Club at the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF. He is an advocate for the rights of ethnic minority children, including their right to education.
“Without the first step, we can achieve nothing”
Harrison’s motivation to work for the right of children to education in their own language came from his own family. “My own grandfather, who was an emigrant 60 years ago, had a similar experience, but the problem is that he didn’t know English back then…so that’s how I started it,” he said. Talking about some of the roadblocks he has encountered in his path as a young activist, Harrison said, “It isn’t easy to make change at the very beginning – but, if we don’t start, these changes won’t come. The best thing that we young people should do is to start thinking about what we can do. That’s the first step, and, without the first step, we can achieve nothing.”
Mia agreed that it’s not easy to make a change as a young person, in part because young people aren’t necessarily taken seriously by world leaders. “But, if we work together, it will be easier for us,” she said. Sharing her experience in engaging young people in activities and progressive initiatives, Mia said, “It’s easier for other kids to talk to other kids…I guess, if you’re closer in age, you know what would grab their attention because you remember what’s like to be that age.”
Both speakers agreed that being an activist has enriched their experiences and taught them valuable lessons. Mia said that, during her work with Ranomafana, she learned a lot about Madagascar’s culture and the education system. “The kids there are so happy to be going to school, and it’s so different from what you see here. The kids in my grade really realized how much of a privilege going to school was,” she said.
Through his work, Harrison got to know his city better. “By meeting some of the ethnic minority children and listening to their stories, I found out how diverse our society is and how many people find this place, Hong Kong, as their home. I guess our work is really meaningful, and it deserves to be done because they deserve the education that helped shaped Hong Kong’s past – and probably the future,” he said.