I know some students like Jennifer Wright and Steven Wang were UNICEF Youth Ambassadors in New Zealand. What was the experience like?
Hi Jeffrey, thanks for reaching out. I’ve been a youth ambassador for two years (there’s an option to reapply after the initial year is finished). Overall, I had a fantastic experience in my Youth Ambassador role. I would say I took away three key benefits from the experience.
Greater awareness of what’s really happening in the world. Because of the intersection between environmental sustainability, economics and human rights with children’s rights, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of many world issues and speak with the people leading change.
The people you meet. The people who gravitate to UNICEF are very motivated and passionate about positive change. It’s great being in an environment that is so supportive and positive.
Ability to work closely with key members of UNICEF NZ. There’s a youth-led perspective at UNICEF where the staff really believe in engaging young people in high-level decision making. This means that not only was my perspective taken seriously, but I was able to be very involved in things like the creation and actualization of high-profile tasks, like a shadow report representing children’s voices that was sent to the United Nations and presented in parliament.
Hi Curious George,
I was a UNICEF Youth Ambassador for two terms, starting in 2012. The program was relatively new when my first term started and this meant that my Youth Ambassador team were able to work closely with the UNICEF team to shape how the program looked. The program operates under the mandate of informing Kiwi kids about Children’s Rights globally and uses the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCROC) as a framework.
There were many highlights that I experienced during my term, two of them stand out that I will share. The first was being part of organising and attending the UNICEF annual UNCROC conference. The conference brought together globally minded, socially aware young students who had a ton of raw passion to raise awareness and create positive change and internationally recognised experts in the fields of human rights, climate change, health and education. The conference was structured in a very interactive way and almost every session that was held allowed for direct skill building and two way knowledge transfer. I enjoyed learning from and networking with people who had been at the forefront of international change and research and learnt a great deal about global advocacy. Mike McRoberts, the well known New Zealand journalist, was one of the experts that attended one of the conferences I was involved with. Hearing his stories about reporting on the front line and learning his passion for story telling and knowledge sharing was a truly inspiring experience.
The second highlight of my two terms was working closely with my Youth Ambassador team. The six students that were selected came from very diverse backgrounds and all had been quite heavily involved in their local and regional youth leadership groups. Now, five years on from the start of my first UNICEF term, it is fantastic to see that my peers from UNICEF are some of the great young change makers in New Zealand who are pioneering in creating awareness and change in areas ranging from environmental sustainability through to education and children’s rights.
Hi Curious George,
I was a Youth Ambassador for a year and it was a very valuable experience. Last I heard, the program this year is undergoing some changes, so I’m not sure when the applications will be re-opened and whether the program will be changed much.
However, I think Sharndre and Jennifer have covered a lot of the key points with regards to what the experience was like. For me, it also showed some of the tangible realities of work in NGOs and gave me an idea of whether I’d be suited to it or not, which is super valuable for future knowledge.
One thing I will say is that a lot of it comes down to yourself. The UNICEF staff will support you as much as possible and link you to the contacts that you require (and they really pull through!), but it is a very independent programme – they don’t have an agenda in mind for you so much as they will provide you with the resources to carry out the projects that you wish to execute. So you’ll definitely get out of it what you put into it, and everyone’s experience varies depending on what they choose to do within the program!