Young Observer

My moving visit to UN headquarters

  • Amazing experience: from left, Mrs Gretta O’Kelly-Lynch, Emma O’Donnell, Emily Watson, Annika Kuruvilla, Calais Darrell, Freyja Kermode, Jackie Costello, Shanyce Morris, Mr Robert Higson

Walking into the United Nations is a surreal feeling. There is an undeniable presence in the building of all the influential leaders who have walked the same path I was walking.

Each step I took represented the one step closer I was to making a difference.

When I stood at the podium in the General Assembly in New York, where people such as Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama once stood, the sense of importance was palpable.

The experience of being surrounded by people from all over the world, who were all interested in the problems concerning migration, was truly awe-inspiring. The issue of migration is a very topical one, and this UNIS Conference allowed me, along with hundreds of other students, including students from Saltus, Warwick Academy and CedarBridge to learn varying perspectives, and hear about individual experiences from six speakers.

One speaker who made a profound impression on me was Victor Flores, a refugee from El Salvador, who scarcely avoided death while being human-trafficked within the US by organised crime. Victor, at the age of 17, left El Salvador along with his younger brother to avoid the overpowering presence of gang activity.

As Victor said: “In El Salvador, you are either killed by gang activity or killed because you don’t want to join a gang”.

He shared his personal account of being trapped in a room with about 20 other people while he and his younger brother were being held for ransom. Victor revealed that his brother was what pushed him through every day; Victor had to protect him at any cost. They are now living in the US and are working towards graduating high school.

Victor’s hope is to one day become a doctor so he can help people who are in need. When Victor spoke, the room was silent; the meticulous details he used in his story kept everyone spellbound.

The only woman speaker at the conference was Angy Rivera, a grassroots activist in New York who campaigns on behalf of undocumented workers and is the creator of “Ask Angy”, an award-winning undocumented immigrant advice column. She is a Core Member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented youth-led organisation who fight for immigrant justice through leadership development and community organising.

During her speech, Angy discussed the challenges that she had experienced as an undocumented immigrant and a survivor of sexual assault.

As a young woman, I found Angy especially inspiring. She touched on the prejudices against women and the daily struggles that accompany these prejudices.