Conference Spotlight

Solidarity Share - Environmental Sustainability

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

Phenny Omondi and Ryan McGuine
Kenya and Wisconsin, USA

PHENNY

"I grew up in a rural community in the western part of Kenya where charcoal and firewood are the major sources of energy. This means that the focus should be more on resilient forms of agriculture so that my community can plant more trees and conserve the environment.

Additionally, my hometown receives 12 hours of daylight for more than half of the year. This presents a possibility to harness solar energy, which would substitute charcoal burning and therefore tree cutting.  I wish there is more focus on educating people on alternative or resilient agricultural systems and renewable energy sources which contaminate less and are, on a long term basis, more economical."

RYAN

"And I was born and raised in Oregon, Wisconsin, a small suburb of the state's capital of Madison. There were really no forms of transportation besides driving and the seemingly infinite supply of energy came almost exclusively from burning coal. It's fair to say that American suburbs like mine are essentially based on emitting as many green house gases as possible.

Fortunately, my city is moving towards a greener energy grid. In recent years, Madison has switched all of its power plants from coal to natural gas, massive wind farms are now a staple in farm fields outside of town, and solar panels are showing up increasingly on top of homes."

 

Phenny: "All people of all nations have a right to lives of the same quality as those in developed countries. That being said, if every country followed the path to industrialization laid out by the United States--years of pollution followed by a transition to sustainability--it would be bad news for the environment. Ironically, those who have done the least to cause this mess stand to endure most of the pain."

Ryan: "And should they seek to improve their own lives following that conventional path, they will likely endure even more. Thus, by advocating a sustainable path to development in Kisumu, Kenya; Oregon, Wisconsin; and communities around the world, we can affect positive change that upholds the dignity of all people."

Phenny and Ryan: "Our struggles are your struggles."

Solidarity Share - Education

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

Photo by Lishabai Yi, Li Sun and Zhiyue Wang

Junyang Yin and Andy Jean


Yunnan Province, China and New York, USA

My name is Junyang Yin, and I am from China. In my community, education is a challenge. I was lucky to be born in the capital city of Yunnan Province. One day I was complaining about the bus commute from my home to high school. My Dad looked at me seriously and said, “Come here... Let me tell you something...” You know when parents are going to start the “When I was your age...” lecture, (sigh...) I volunteered in a hope primary school as a teacher in China. If it was not told by these kids come from remote villages as I saw their worn shoes with mud, I would not have never recalled my dad’s words: “When I was your age, I have to take care of 3 siblings and walk 3 hours on bumpy mountain road to school.” Yunnan is situated on the southwestern frontier of China. We have the most ethnic minorities, and they make up a third of Yunnan’s population. Those ethnic minority people live in valleys or hilly areas. For various historical reasons, they are economically and culturally backward. Therefore, to promote education in Yunnan is to focus on the education of the minorities.

My name is Andy Jean, and I am from New York State. In my community, education is a challenge. Education in New York City, whose public school system is the largest in the world, the most postgraduate life sciences awarded, with some of the best and worst performing public schools and the second largest recipient of funds from the National Institute of Health amongst universities, is plagued with problems. My experience with NYS education has more or less been satisfactory, however statistics beg us to “regress to the mean”, acknowledging that cognitive biases (Rèn zhī piānchā; Ren­G­pin­cha; 认知偏差) will skewer our perspectives about the problems of education in general. It seems that NYS’s urban minority schools in low­ income communities uniformly perform poorly. We also have the most racially and economically segregated schools in the US. Solutions are varied for many aspects would be needed to be taken into account.

Our challenges are your challenges.

Solidarity Share- The Importance of Community

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

Kendrick Okafor and Pedro Piqueras
Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA and Riverside, California, USA/Spain


My name is Kendrick Okafor and I am attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. One thing about my community that I have always enjoyed is that everyone loves sports. Whether it is basketball, soccer or football, everyone is passionate about one sport or another. I have always been passionate about football or basketball but I could never get really comfortable with soccer; I was never the most talented person with my feet! One thing that always sticks out with me is that my friends asked me to join their intramural soccer team. While I obviously was not the best player on the field, they accepted me for my skills and we had a great time the whole season, almost winning the championship that season! The sense of camaraderie and friendship is something I really cherished and will always be thankful for my friends for.


My name is Pedro Piqueras and I am currently a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside. As a hobby, I play the violin and I am a member of a professional symphony orchestra. In my circle of friends, we all love music and making music together as a group. We even make good amount money sometimes playing at gigs and concerts! We don’t just play classical music; we play a variety of genres and sometimes we even make our own music. The circle of friends that the orchestra provides goes beyond just playing music. It is a group of brother and sisterhood, in which we all support each other during hard times and cherish each other during good times.


Although our communities do not have the same interest in common, we both belong to a group that helps us grow and cultivate our passions. While this might not necessarily be a challenge within our own communities, it is a social phenomenon that shows that the sole purpose of joining different extracurricular groups is not just because we each like different things, but also because we want to be part of a community that cares about us… and that is what we both have in common.

Our joy is your joy.

Solidarity Share - Gender Equality

Supriya Sadagopan and Jasper Wieling
Raleigh, North Carolina and the Netherlands

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

My name is Supriya Sadagopan, and I am from Raleigh, North Carolina. In my community, gender equality is a challenge. Despite living in an educated and diverse area, gender equality is still a problem. Equality is visible until you look more closely, as it is furthered by people who continue to use microaggressions or underlying commentary to further problems like sexual assault and harassment. There are multiple resources for women, but these are only known about by select individuals-- many still refuse to see the problems of the gender gap, sexual assault, domestic violence, maternal health, and more. There are resources for men, but they are not aware of these or also just do not care enough to learn more about the topic, propagating the ignorance that lies in my community.

My name is Jasper Wieling, and I am from The Netherlands, but I study in the rural town of Canton, Missouri. In my community, gender equality is a challenge. In my schools Enactus team, we try to teach women job skills to empower themselves. We set up a couple workshops such as resume building, interview skills, and computer skills. One particular challenge in this rural community is that there are many teen moms who are not able to finish high school, and therefore are not able to join the job force to their full capacity. And this system continues to be passed down from generation to generation.


On a global scale, gender equality is necessary for progress to occur. This is not an issue of gender rights, but rather one for human rights. This is much more intrinsic to each individual, as everyone should be allowed to live their life freely and equally. Promoting and achieving gender equality is what truly allows us decrease the differences between men and women, increase the education level within families, and expand the status of women everywhere. This can only be achieved if we all stand together in solidarity,.

From both of our experiences we can tell you that the problem is often deeply seeded in communities. Regardless of your gender or the size of your community, gender inequality is a problem, one that we all need to solve.

Our fight is your fight.


MCC15: A Catalyst for Action in Global Development

By Srijesa Khasnabish, Delegate from Boston University

I initially wanted to attend the Millennium Campus Network Conference (MCC15) because I saw it as an opportunity to refuel my passion for global development. I’m a member of the Undergraduate Public Health Association (UPHA) at Boston University (BU) and during the academic year it’s easy to become engrossed in technical and tedious steps student organizations take to arrange events. It’s easy to forget why we’re passionate about issues like global health in the first place. MCC15 exceeded my expectations – it was the perfect balance of discussions, workshops, and keynote speeches to make me eager to implement the skills I’ve gained in my organization and capitalize on the connections I’ve made at MCC15.

MCC15 began with small group discussions revolving around themes deeply rooted in field of development, such as People vs. Objects. Prior to this discussion I didn’t realize how foreigners entering a community with good intentions could unconsciously objectify community members. Despite the best of intentions, objectification can cause community members to lose their respect for us and trust in us. This is not a solid foundation for a sustainable relationship. Another concept we discussed was Partnerships vs. Paternalism, which led to a conversation about the dynamics of the giver-receiver relationship. My group concluded that an ideal partnership should mirror a symbiotic relationship – one where both parties benefit and feed off of each other in a complimentary manner.

Following the discussions, students attended “Best Practice Workshops” that dealt with operations/partnership building, resources, leadership transition, and advocacy. Whether the workshop was led by a student from another university or a professional working for an NGO, I left the room with valuable skills and new connections. At “The Future of Fundraising” I learned about simple strategies on how to master bake sales to maximize profit. “Leading Leaders” was a fun workshop because it involved role-playing archetypal members of a student organization. Both workshops ended with a best practices summary, a resource that I will be able to look back at and share with others. The advocacy workshops forayed into topics ranging from how to craft the perfect elevator pitch to the pros and cons of slacktivism versus activism.

The climax of each day of MCC15 was the Keynote Plenary session, where we heard from highly accomplished and inspiring individuals from a diversity of professional backgrounds. This spectacle comprised of moving speeches, refreshing yoga breaks led by Movement Strong, spectacular performances by Flatline poetry and Alexander Star, and Solidarity Shares – where students from two different parts of the world discussed how their communities faced similar challenges and successes.

On day one Morgens Lykketoft (President-elect, UN General Assembly) spoke about the need for doers and not heroes and emphasized the interconnectedness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dick Simon (YPO-WPO Pace Action Network) explained how the term “them” has been “used to isolate, humiliate, and enslave.” Instead of looking at the giver-receiver relationship as an “us-vs-them” relationship, both parties should work together to create solutions. Shin Fujiyama (Co-founder of Students Helping Honduras) said: “With one twig you can’t start a fire. But with a bunch of twigs you can make a bonfire”. This metaphor resonated with me because when you are a student in a room filled with world famous individuals, it’s easy to feel intimidated. Fujiyama’s statement reminds me that we youth have power in our numbers and we can collectively make a huge impact.

The next day, five student-led campaigns were launched at the UN in the exact room where the SDGs were adopted. One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, who said “I have been working twenty years but you guys are just in your teens and you are accomplishing so much. Thank you very much and the world is looking up at you.” Dr. Yacoobi’s faith in our generation makes me excited to work on a campaign.

On the final day of MCC15 we heard from Jeffrey Sachs who gave us delegates a group take-home assignment due in the year 2030: the SDGs. Vanessa Kerry (founder of Seed Global Health) told us “Change will happen because you will not demand anything less and you know it’s possible.” Photographer Annie Griffiths explained how “media tends to be reactionary and covers disaster not success.” Through her incredible photographs she showed how empowering women in developing countries can have meaningful and sustainable impacts. It was inspiring to hear speakers from diverse academic background because it not only emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of global development, but also reaffirms my passion to blend my two interests: neuroscience and public health. At the end of the conference, I was not sad but rather eager to implement these new skills and vision in my organization and excited to come back next year to share my progress.

Solidarity Share - Health Care Access

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

Oussama Zekri and Jay Kumar

Tataouine, Tunisia and Brooklyn, New York, USA

This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.

 My name is Jay Kumar, and I’m from Brooklyn, NY. In my community, access to quality healthcare in low-income areas is a challenge. Residents in low-income communities suffer from disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Often times, they cannot afford to eat healthy--high-calories junk food is cheaper than the fruits and vegetables essential for a healthy lifestyle. And, in many cases, they don’t know how they can take control of their health. The lack of preventative health care services compounds this further, leaving the disease and sickness to be treated after they’ve occurred, not before.

My name is Oussama Zekri, from Tunisia/North Africa. In Tataouine county/ Deep south of the country, access to healthcare is a challenge. My community is home to a large low-income population with little access to speciality care. The city’s infrastructure is not suited to provide green spaces to breathe and walk-in paths to exercise. And like low-income areas in Brooklyn NY, my people lacks decent education to fully grasp the basics of health prevention and chronic disease management while embracing a healthier lifestyle. Another major issue is the need for my people to commute hundreds of miles away to afford better diagnosis and efficient treatments. In many cases, cancer patients are forced to commute all the way up north for rounds of chemotherapy.

 

Like Brooklyn’s hospitals, Tataouine's hospitals are understaffed when it comes to primary care physicians. This constitutes a handicap on resident’s ability to access preventative services.  Consequently, Tataouine faces higher percentages of multi-chronic disease patients, as Brooklyn does. Despite our differences, lack of resources in low-income areas, coupled with the lack of health promotion and education, makes health a significant issue both in Brooklyn and Tataouine.

Our struggles are your struggles