More than just an accent

When I chose to serve in the Peace Corps, I had no fears or doubts about meeting Ukrainians, but I had plenty about meeting Americans. I spent the first 18 years of my life in New Jersey suburbs, I worked in local politics, I suffered through Thanksgivings, I occasionally stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. I have a passport emblazoned with an eagle holding arrows and olive branches, proclaiming proudly: e pluribus unum, out of many one. My ancestors have been in America so long that when people ask for my ethnicity, I have to uncomfortably shrug and identify as “white American” – the most generic, a-cultural, and obfuscating term, obscuring inevitable ancestors with more melanin. If I have a few drinks, I magically acquire a Jersey accent, tawking about dawgs swimming in the wudder.

But when I’m sober, I can often sound more like Jane Austen, smoothing vowels, ending questions with slightly ironic down-tones, even occasionally dropping “haitches.” I haven’t lived in the United States since I was 18. I did my full undergraduate and postgraduate education at Durham University. In the UK, everyone knows Durham: a poor post-mining county with a posh and ancient university in a castle. In America, conversations go like this: “I went to school in England, in Durham. No it’s not in London. It’s five hours from London. The closest major city is Newcastle. Newcastle, like coal mining? No, not Wales. It’s close to Scotland, by Edinburgh. Edinburgh. Eeden-burg.”

Americans can ask me: What was it like? How was it different? I haven’t the faintest idea how to answer. It was like moving to the moon.

Americans can say to me: My uncle’s from Manchester. I studied abroad in London for a semester. The accent is so hot! And I know they’re being characteristically American: friendly, open, attempting to connect and converse. And I’m too neurotically aware of the dynamic, and I retreat into being more British than I am, saying, Yes well, I see, well you know, oh how interesting. I laugh self-deprecatingly and don’t make eye contact, scanning the room for a socially acceptable exit.

They used to call people like me “Trans-Atlantic,” back when American elites educated young women at boarding schools in Sussex and Kent. The hint of an accent was an affectation, a point of pride, and a class marker: “I’m not an American Redneck; I recite Wordsworth and have the inflection of Queen Victoria.” And Americans still often associate England with aristocracy, Kate Middleton, Downton Abbey, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Every time I hear a bit of Britishness in my voice I cringe and expect the Americans near me to loathe me for my pretension.

I carry around a complex formed by navigating contrasts. What’s polite, interesting, or cool in America is crass or bizarre in Durham. What’s polite, interesting, or cool in England is socially awkward or strange in New Jersey. When I visit my family and friends in America, I’m shocked by vast grocery store selections and obscure pop cultural information that everyone seems to know but me. I’m appalled by the crowd-sourcing of American healthcare costs; I catch myself thinking, “Where I come from, healthcare is free!” But of course, it isn’t, because I’m not from Northern England. I’m from New Jersey.

– – –

Here’s what I lost: a firmness of nationality and identity I hadn’t known I possessed or valued, an acceptance of American errors as the norm, a place I felt I unquestionably belonged in, a peer group who understood where I was coming from and could relate to my laments and joys.

And here’s what I gained: a certain level of inhibition, an ability to code-switch, a tea addiction, a new way of seeing, a greater understanding of the world I had always lived in but seen so little of. Integrating into a foreign culture felt like learning to rotate my mind at a ninety-degree angle, twisting the perspective of a picture.

And here’s the thing: the Peace Corps Volunteers I have met have been (mostly) wonderful examples of the best of my native culture and country. I sound more American these days, the British bits only emerging when I meet new people or feel stressed. Coming to Ukraine has made me believe that I could go home again.

And now? The person I talk to most every day is my Ukrainian boyfriend, and I’m picking up his lack of articles and Slavic errors: “I very want sleep,” “It’s red house on right side street.” And he reflects me, talking about wudder and dawgs, and occasionally saying, “I’m not keen, it’s a bit shit” in his Best British Accent.

Duality

Before you know anything else, you should know that my mom served in Peace Corps, in Senegal. She’s the reason I’m here now in Peace Corps Ukraine. After her service, she went to work in Israel as an archeologist. She met my Palestinian dad in Jerusalem and they got married. I was born in Palestine.

We immigrated to the US when I was 11. I grew up with a seemingly irreconcilable duality in me. Palestinian and American. I was a child in Palestine, an adult in America. It’s complicated. I graduated in 2015 with a degree in international relations and I decided that going back home would help me figure out the direction of my life.

So, in September of 2015, I packed my life into one suitcase and jetted off to the Holy Land to work at an organization called the Tent of Nations, located on my family’s farm. I arrived in the midst of a dust storm that persisted for a few days before letting up. Then I headed to my farm where I proceeded to spend the majority of the next nine months.

The farm is the kind of place you never forget. At any point in time, there can be anywhere from two to fifteen volunteers working there. Volunteers come from all over the world and stay for different amounts of time (or as long as the visa allows). Everyone works together to get everything done. For example, one volunteer could help out in the kitchen while one volunteer waters trees and another feeds the animals. There is a pleasant communal environment and everyone gets along well. There are annual harvest camps for grapes, olives, apricots, and almonds, as well as an annual children’s summer camp (which is a lot of fun).

My family created Tent of Nations on our farm in 2001 in order to protect our land from confiscation. Long story short, we have been battling the Israeli courts for over 25 years to prove ownership of our land (bought in 1916 by my great-grandfather). Even though we have all the necessary ownership documents, the Israeli court hasn’t ruled in our favor and as a result, my family has taken on more than $170,000 of debt in court expenses. Thousands of visitors come to the farm every year and hear our story, and many go back home and raise funds to help us pay the court fees which, ultimately, allow us to hold on to our land. International support and solidarity is crucial for us to peacefully resist the occupation.

My official role on the farm was that of a communications coordinator. This means that I was in charge of coordinating volunteers and putting out various updates on the legal situation. Before it got cold and rainy, we slept in tents and took one three-minute shower every week. We woke up when the sun came up and made bonfires every night. Some volunteers would play their guitars around the fire and it was peaceful. Sometimes we heard not-so-distant gunshots but we knew that, for the most part, the farm was safe.

When the rainy season started, the flow of volunteers lessened considerably due to our lack of available indoor space (because Israel prohibits us from developing our farm). There were many cold days where I was the only one on the farm besides my uncle, who helped me pass the lonely minutes with stories of his childhood, our family, and the long years of occupation. The conditions on the farm in the winter were harsh; fierce winds, persistent rain, and no relief from the bone-chilling cold. In addition, there was an upsurge in violence between the Palestinians and Israelis, so security was tighter than ever and I oftentimes felt suffocated.

I began to wonder how I could continue to exist as this duality. If I showed my Palestinian passport at the checkpoint, I would be harassed and rejected from entering Jerusalem. If I showed my American passport (and the soldier didn’t look closely enough at my place of birth), I would be let through without a second thought. My passport might change but I don’t. I am still Mathilda. Does our passport define us? If so, which passport defines me? I still don’t know.

I have written, it seems, endless poetry about this conflict. As I get older, I’ve begun to wonder what I can do. Do we as people really have any power? Do I, as a Palestinian? Do I, as an American? I have to believe that I do, that we do, or else everything would be lost.

Camp Model UN Ukraine Announces Countries

Camp Model UN Ukraine staff has been working around the clock to prepare for August. One of the things that we had to do was to finalize the countries to be included in the simulation. All campers have been notified of the country they will represent as delegates! After careful thought about our topics and the current global political environment we are proud to announce we have selected the following countries: 

1. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

2. Kingdom of Belgium

 

3. Federative Republic of Brazil

4. People's Republic of China

5. Republic of Costa Rica

6. Arab Republic of Egypt

 

7. French Republic

8. Federal Republic of Germany

9. Republic of India

9. Islamic Republic of Iran

10. Republic of Kenya

11. Federal Republic of Nigeria

13. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

14. Syrian Arab Republic

15. Republic of Turkey

16. Ukraine

17. United Kingdom of great britain and Northern Ireland

 

18. United States of America

 

19. Bolivian republic of Venezuela

20. Socialist Republic of Vietnam

 

 

Forced Displacement: A Global Overview

This article was originally written for Humanitariman.com

What if the entire population of Thailand or the United Kingdom was forced to leave their homes or country due to violence, persecution, or conflict?

Refugees arrive at the small Greek Island of Lesbos after making the dangerous trip From Syria. Thousands of people have died trying to cross into Europe in search of a better life. 

Refugees arrive at the small Greek Island of Lesbos after making the dangerous trip From Syria. Thousands of people have died trying to cross into Europe in search of a better life. 

In the wake of the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, a result due in large part to xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment, and the rise of nationalist anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment across the globe, it has never been more important to examine the extent of the Refugees, IDPs, and Asylum-seekers globally. As of 2015, 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, an increase of over 5 million from 2014 statistics. To put that into perspective it is as if the entire population of Thailand or the United Kingdom was forced to leave their homes or country due to violence, persecution, conflict, or human rights violations. Of the 65.3 million, 40.8 million are classified as Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs), meaning that they have not crossed an internationally recognized border. These people continue to reside in their native country, many without a home, or adequate access to food, water, education, or healthcare. Still 21.3 million are classified as refugees, currently living outside of their national borders and 3.3 million are asylum-seekers, meaning their status within their current host country is undetermined.

The 2015 figures are the highest recorded in the history of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), a United Nations Organization that began collecting statistics on refugees in the 1950’s. This trend, however, is not new. In 2011, the UNCHR announced a record high of Forcibly Displaced People at 42.1 million, a number that has increased dramatically in the past 5 years. In 1996 the rate of Forcibly Displaced Peoples was around 5.5 per 1000 world population, a number which has almost doubled in the past 10 years to nearly 9 per 1000 world population. One in every one hundred and thirteen people is displaced from their home today due to violence or persecution. According to the UNHCR 24 people were displaced every minute of every day in 2015. That rate is down from 30 people per minute in 2014, however, it still remains a staggering number continuously adding to the number of globally displaced people. In 2015 12.4 Million people were newly displaced, 8.6 million classified as IDPs while 1.8 million people crossed international borders to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Two million more people applied for asylum, their status yet to be determined.

A young woman stands among the housing structures in the largest Refugee camp in the wold, the Dadaab Refugee Complex in Kenya. This May, Kenyan officials. have announced its closure amid concern of terrorist activity within the camp.

A young woman stands among the housing structures in the largest Refugee camp in the wold, the Dadaab Refugee Complex in Kenya. This May, Kenyan officials. have announced its closure amid concern of terrorist activity within the camp.

The number of forcibly displaced peoples continues to rise due to both new and ongoing conflicts around the world. Syria and Afghanistan, the most widely known and covered humanitarian conflicts and crises, contribute the highest amount of refugees and IDPs, followed closely by Somalia. According to the UNHCR these three countries account for 54% of all refugees worldwide, with Syria accounting for 4.9 million refugees worldwide. Of the 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 11.7 million, or nearly 18 percent, are Syrian citizens. While the Syrian and Afghani conflicts have seen the most media attention and worldwide concern, other unresolved or newly ignited conflicts, like those seen in Burundi, Nigeria, Niger, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as widespread violence in Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has contributed to the rapid increase in displaced persons. Of the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide, the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Columbia, Nigeria, Iraq, and Somalia each accounted for over 2 million people.

Despite unprecedented coverage of the European Refugee Crisis, Sub-Sharan African Countries continue to host the most refugees globally at 4.4 million. Just 5 countries, DRC, CAR, South Sudan, Sudan, and Somalia accounted for over 80% of these 4.4 million refugees, as people continue to flee these conflict heavy countries. Currently Europe hosts slightly less than 4.4 million Refugees, the majority of which reside in Turkey who hosts the most refugees (in Europe and the world) as of 2015 at 2.5 million, followed by Germany at 316, 000 people, Russia at 314, 000 people, and France at 273,100 refugees. Three of the top five countries hosting the most refugees are in the Middle East (Excluding Turkey). As of 2015, 3.7 million refugees reside in Lebanon, Pakistan, and Iran. Lebanon itself now hosts 186 refugees per 1000 native persons or roughly 19% of its current in country population has refugee status. Despite misconception it is important to realize that 86% of refugees reside in “Developing Countries” and over half of them are under the age of 19 years old.

Iraqi refugee children in Syria

Iraqi refugee children in Syria

Almost twice as many people are internally displaced than have refugee status. Around 40.8 million people are estimated to be internally displaced. Over half of all new internally displaced people reside in Yemen, Iraq, or Syria. However, a significant number of new IDPs are also currently residing in Ukraine, the DRC, Afghanistan, and Sudan. In Yemen, 2.5 million people were displaced in 2015 alone. In Columbia, where the highest amount of IDPs reside, 6.9 million people remain internally displaced, while 6.6 million and 4.4 million reside in Syria and Iraq, respectively.

The sheer size of this problem calls for immediate and collective action. Displaced people often lack adequate access to food, water, healthcare, education, or legal protections. The cost of displacement is enormous. Displaced peoples face a substantial loss of livelihood, purpose, security, access to education and shared prosperity that not only affects people and communities in the interim but also continues to affect them for generations to come. Solutions will require cooperation and open-mindedness on the part of all countries and cultures. The world has to rise above nationalism and nativism and decide to put humanity first. To take in refugees should be a point of pride for countries and their citizens that they are willing lend a hand to others regardless of their nationality or race. As Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda stated earlier this year “For the last 20 or 30 years, Uganda has been shouldering half a million refugees…Uganda is proud to do this and we would like to see all other countries play a role.” We all have a shared stake in the prosperity of others whether in our home country or abroad, whether as a country or as an individual. In these times of crisis we cannot afford to close ourselves of to others. We should all take pride and responsibility in helping our fellow man, it’s the only way we can solve the issues we face

Why is Corruption Dangerous?

To begin with I would like to say that our world is facing tremendous challenges now. And in recent years we have made a lot of efforts in order to overcome these issues. But there are still a number of challenges that we have to cope with. World’s economy has substantially weakened with the latest events that our globe has witnessed.  Refugee crisis, IDP, Ebola, various conflicts and the last but not least Brexit are inevitably ruining world’s economy.  

But the key threat that I would like to focus my attention now is corruption and how it destroys our world. The history shows that every country, every nation has ever faced this problem. But the key question or challenge that rises is whether they succeeded in finding the practical steps on how can corruption be tackled?

Without exaggeration one can claim that corruption has been long recognized as a global phenomenon of the last centuries. According to the United Nations Secretary-General's message «Corruption is a global phenomenon that strikes hardest at the poor, hinders inclusive economic growth and robs essential services of badly needed funds. From cradle to grave, millions are touched by corruption’s shadow."  And the world’s efforts to kill the corruption is the number one priority nowadays. But what exactly does corruption bring to our fragile and unsteady world?

First, corruption undermines government revenue and, therefore, limits the ability of the government to invest in productivity-enhancing areas. Where corruption is endemic, individuals will view paying taxes as a questionable business proposition. There is a delicate tension between the government in its role as tax collector and the business community and individuals as tax payers. The system works reasonably well when those who pay taxes feel that there is a good chance that they will see a future payoff, such as improvements in the country’s infrastructure, better schools and a better-trained and healthier workforce. Corruption sabotages this implicit contract.

Second, there is solid empirical evidence that the higher the level of corruption in a country, the larger the share of its economic activity that will go underground, beyond the reach of the tax authorities.  Not surprisingly, studies have shown that corruption also undermines foreign direct investment since it acts in ways that are indistinguishable from a tax; other things being equal, investors will always prefer to establish themselves in less corrupt countries.

Third, corruption discourages private-sector development and innovation and encourages inefficiency. Budding entrepreneurs with bright ideas will be intimidated by the bureaucratic obstacles, financial costs and psychological burdens of starting new business ventures and will either opt for taking their ideas to some other less corrupt country or, more likely, desist altogether. In either case, economic growth is adversely affected

Fourth, corruption contributes to a misallocation of human resources. To sustain a system of corruption, officials and those who pay them will have to invest time and ffort in the development of certain skills, nurture certain relationships, and build up a range of supporting institutions and opaque systems, such as off-the-books transactions, secret bank accounts, and the like.


Fifth, corruption has disturbing distributional implications. It also distorts the tax system because the wealthy and powerful are able to use their connections to make sure that the tax system works in their favor.


Sixth, corruption creates uncertainty. There are no enforceable property rights emanating from a transaction involving bribery. The firm that obtains a concession from a bureaucrat as a result of bribery cannot know with certainty how long the benefit will last. The terms of the “contract” may have to be constantly renegotiated to extend the life of the benefit or to prevent its collapse. Indeed, the briber, having flouted the law, may fall prey to extortion from which it may prove difficult to extricate himself. In an uncertain environment with insecure property rights, the firm will be less willing to invest and to plan for the longer-term.  A short-term focus to maximize short-term profits will be the optimal strategy, even if this leads to deforestation, say, or the rapid exhaustion of non-renewable resources.

Seventh, bribery and corruption lead to other forms of crime. Because corruption breeds corruption, it tends soon enough to lead to the creation of mafias and organized criminal groups who use their financial power to infiltrate legal businesses, to intimidate, to create protection rackets and a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Well as you see, there is really no limit to the extent to which corruption, once it is unleashed, can undermine the stability of the state and organized society. In this article we have looked through some critical points and some areas where corruption might possibly take place. Corruption proved to be tremendous challenge to the world whose outcomes no one can surely predict. The only thing that is known is that we have to start working now in order to make the world better and more transparent.

- Pavlo Cherchatyi

Camp MUN Ukraine Staff Member

Why Attend Camp Model UN Ukraine?: Applicants Answer

Camp Model UN applications are now closed. We are proud to announce that we had applications from inspiring and active youth from every Oblast in Ukraine! Unfortunately we will only be able to take 60 students, yet we are both inspired and encouraged by every single applicant we heard from.

Why do students want to attend Camp MUN? We could tell you what we think but why not hear it straight from some of the applicants!

“One of the major reasons that made me apply to Camp MUN is definitely a great desire to get such an incredible and useful experience”
”I really want to feel like a someone who can change the world, to solve global problems that bother many people.”
“Because it would be an incredible chance for me to work on finding and solving problems of world we live in. And also, get more experienced, meet people I will change the world with.”
“i am deeply concerned about problems that are destroying our world. So i would like to contribute to helping, take part in distribution of information, and through this camp i would learn how to do it.”
“The camp is exactly what I've looked for. It's not a camp, it's a dream. I want to be a part of this camp because I want to express my thoughts, my views on life”
“I want to know more about the whole world, think globally, see the things from different points of view”
“This camp can help to find people who are the same as me and who are ready to create something new. We can establish an idea and make other people to follow our ones. If there are many people, we will overcome and solve global problems.”
“I want to try MUN again, because when I visited Camp MUN for the first time it was very difficult for all of us. But now, I think I will be able to help someone by sharing my experience and I think a lot of people will be able to help me in the same way. Camp MUN turned my outlook upside down, and I have understood that our world is not as perfect as it seems.”
"In 2013 I had an opportunity to be a participant of Camp MUN in Ukraine. It changed my life completely. Due to knowledge and experience I got there, I decided to develop my career in the sphere of international relations. After camp I am going to spread ideas of equality, peace and voluntarism, use writing and critical thinking skills and try to implement a Model UN in my community."

Sixty students from all around Ukraine will come together to talk about global issues, learn about different countries and cultures and increase leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and public speaking all while building lifelong networks!

Want to see Camp Model UN Ukraine succeed? We still need your help! Head over to our donate page or click here to donate

Thanks everyone!

-Camp Model UN Ukraine Staff and Counselors

Visiting the United Nations in Geneva!

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Geneva, Switzerland for the second time in my life. Geneva is home to the second largest of the United Nations offices (New York City is the Main Headquarters, and there are offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Vienna, Austria). Geneva is an amazing city with a remarkable international atmosphere. Here are some photos from both of my visits to the United Nations in Geneva!

This is outside the United Nations. Each of the 193 member states flags are flown here! #Collaboration #UkrainesFlagIstHere

This is outside the United Nations. Each of the 193 member states flags are flown here! #Collaboration #UkrainesFlagIstHere

United Nations sign! Huge global decisions are made here! #ThisCouldBeYouOneDay

United Nations sign! Huge global decisions are made here! #ThisCouldBeYouOneDay

The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room in the United Nations in Geneva! The room was donated by the Spanish Government at a cost of 20 million Euros. The ceiling was made by artist Miquel Barceló who was quoted saying the "All of it is a sea upside down, but it is also a cave, The complete union of opposites, the ocean surface of the Earth and its most concealed cavities." It reminds us that although cultures are unique and different, we must ultimately come together as humans to solve issues that arise in our world. Not surprisingly, the Human Rights Council meets in this room, as does the Alliance of Civilizations, a group of experts who aim to explore why different cultures are polarized.  #HumanRights #WeAreOne # Humanity #UN

The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room in the United Nations in Geneva! The room was donated by the Spanish Government at a cost of 20 million Euros. The ceiling was made by artist Miquel Barceló who was quoted saying the "All of it is a sea upside down, but it is also a cave, The complete union of opposites, the ocean surface of the Earth and its most concealed cavities." It reminds us that although cultures are unique and different, we must ultimately come together as humans to solve issues that arise in our world. Not surprisingly, the Human Rights Council meets in this room, as does the Alliance of Civilizations, a group of experts who aim to explore why different cultures are polarized.  #HumanRights #WeAreOne # Humanity #UN

Meeting room within the UN Offices in Geneva! Members of the UN General Assembly meet here to discuss important issues and vote on resolutions aiming to solve those world problems! #WorkTogether

Meeting room within the UN Offices in Geneva! Members of the UN General Assembly meet here to discuss important issues and vote on resolutions aiming to solve those world problems! #WorkTogether

The old door handles from the League of Nations, the precursor organization to the United Nations #History #InternationalCooperation

The old door handles from the League of Nations, the precursor organization to the United Nations #History #InternationalCooperation

This chair sculpture was created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset and built by carpenter Louis Geneve. This amazing monument sits across from the UN Office Building in Geneva. It stands as a reminder to the abhorrence of land mines and cluster bombs reminding delegates to think before they act. #Peace #Delegates #LetsChangeTheWorld

This chair sculpture was created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset and built by carpenter Louis Geneve. This amazing monument sits across from the UN Office Building in Geneva. It stands as a reminder to the abhorrence of land mines and cluster bombs reminding delegates to think before they act. #Peace #Delegates #LetsChangeTheWorld

One day you could represent Ukraine as a delegate in the United Nations! But why wait? Get some practice now! Apply to be camper by downloading our application below & sending it to campmodelunukraine@gmail.com or by going to our home page and clicking the apply button, filling out the application and submitting it.

Camp Model UN Ukraine Camper Application

Have questions? Email us at campmodelunukraine@gmail.com

-Casey Mohrien

Camp Model UN Ukraine Co-Director