The United Nations hosted the 68th UN Civil Society Conference from August 26-28, 2019, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The International WeLoveU Foundation participated in the conference by hosting three exhibits as well as a workshop focused on youth empowerment. More than 30 WeLoveU Foundation volunteers attended the conference from chapters in more than 10 states and from South Korea where WeLoveU’s headquarters is located. Nearly 5,000 participants from more than 700 civil society organizations and 120 countries also attended the conference.
More than 200 exhibits were on display in Halls 2 and 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The United Nations Civil Society Conference allows international civil society organizations to place a global perspective on specific issues and time to share best practices at the international level through networking and participation in thematic sessions, organization-led workshops, and diverse exhibits.
It also brings together senior UN System officials, academicians, private sectors, public opinion makers, governmental organizations, and international media to discuss issues of global concern. (Featured above: UN Chief of NGO Relations Jeff Brez and Former Under-Secretary General for the UN DGC Allison Smale)
The #BrightHaiti Experience
WeLoveU’s first exhibit out of three was the #BrightHaiti Experience. In order to create sustainable communities and enable students to study and work in the evening, WeLoveU Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah donated 3,000 solar-powered lanterns to students of the Wharf-Jeremie Vocational and Technical Training Institute in July 2018.
More than 500 guests went on a journey to the Caribbean, experiencing a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student in Haiti without steady electricity. At first, they attempted to read a textbook by candlelight while seated in a replica of a small house in Haiti. Exhibit guides discussed the current status of the developing nation, which supplies electricity to only 25% of citizens.
Once the solar-powered lantern was turned on, guests right away exclaimed, “Wow!” or “Oh!” because of the overwhelming difference between reading with candlelight and by lantern. They witnessed first-hand the impact of the #BrightHaiti Project and how it benefits students to achieve quality education.
The #BrightHaiti Experience wrapped up with participants reading testimonials from the students who received the lanterns. Six months after the donation ceremony, students shared that the #BrightHaiti Project reached far beyond the 3,000 recipients. Up to 10 students in their communities were gathering in one house in order to study using the light of one lantern.
#StartDoingGood Graphic Novel Exhibit
The next booth brought visitors on an exciting adventure through WeLoveU’s original graphic novel, #StartDoingGood. Leopold, an avid WeLoveU volunteer, takes his friend Kai on a global adventure to teach him about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and save a sick planet, Mr. Earth.
The graphic novel is a fun, engaging, and creative way to familiarize oneself with the goals and learn how to fulfill them. It’s also an effective tool to teach youth about the SDGs. At this exhibit, participants were also able to take a memorable photo with life-size characters of the SDG novel, Leopold, Kai and Mr. Earth.
(1) Center, Political Presenter for Ariana News in Afghanistan Hamdard Ghafoorey. (2) Fourth from right, Actor and Environmentalist Luke Mullen. (3) Center, Yinka Lawanson or his stage name, Lamboginny, Nigerian singer who advocates for prison reform.
Learning About #WeLoveU
The third booth allowed guest to learn more about the WeLoveU Foundation initiatives and projects throughout the world and learn more about the SDGs. Visitors played “spin the wheel” which landed on one of the 17 SDGs. After learning some of the targets and dimensions of the SDG, participants made a personal pledge as to how to fulfill the goal in their daily lives. Guests posted their pledge on the 8-foot pledge board along with an SDG sticker to create the “WeLoveU” logo collage with SDG stickers by the end of the conference.
Empowering Youth to Fulfill the Goals Workshop
On Tuesday, August 27, 2019, the WeLoveU Foundation hosted an engaging workshop entitled, Empowering Youth to Fulfill the Goals. Over 100 guests attended the workshop, which featured a panel-style discussion with WeLoveU’s Vice President of Global Communications John Power, Red Cross Representative Sherri Van Bibber, and WeLoveU Youth Volunteer Representative Cassandra Todd.
Panelists discussed the challenges preventing youth from volunteering such as juggling school and work or establishing their careers.
Mr. Power provided some insight as to what youth empowerment looks like while Ms. Sherri Van Bibber provided examples of the youth’s impact in society. She described a recent modification to blood donor age regulations allowing young adults, as young as 17 (formerly 18), to participate in life-saving blood donations—a revision which was initiated by young adults. Youth representative Ms. Todd emphasized the importance of instilling volunteerism in youth from a young age to encourage the next generation to regularly participate in community service as a lifestyle and speak up for what is good.
Workshop attendees enjoyed the family-like atmosphere of the event, which was informative and sincere, yet fun and light-hearted. One guest called the workshop the “highlight of the conference!”
Until Next Year, #UNCSC ♥
All in all, WeLoveU board members and volunteers enjoyed attending thematic sessions and workshops throughout the course of the conference to gain insight on global issues. In this way, they can learn how the WeLoveU Foundation can address these concerns through international volunteer services. Members of WeLoveU established many networks in order to partner with other NGOs to work towards fulfilling the Global Goals.
Volunteers are eager to apply what they’ve learned through the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference through community service activities and give hope to their neighbors. By sharing the love of a mother and treating the whole world as a global family, WeLoveU contributes towards building sustainable and inclusive communities and giving hope to the world.