Our Experience in New York

It sure felt empty as we took the vaporizer train all the way to the big apple!

But the people were there and our colour me green campaign trip sure worked well – we persuaded literally dozens of people of the need for vaporizer over cigarettes. Just out of interest we thought that the home vaporizers would be the most successful but in fact the portables were by far the most loved out of all of the products.

Monkey Smoking
Monkey Smoking

So this could be a thing of the past – wait for the next post of a monkey getting to grips with a magic flight launch box!

Hello there! Its been a while since we got back from New York, about three weeks. We had such a great time at the World Summit Youth Awards, meeting people from all around the world and getting inspired by projects initiated by other youths. Besides, New York is an amazing city to begin with.

A little about the World Summit Youth Awards (WSYA). This award recognises the innovative use of technology for projects started by youths that work toward the UN Millennium Development Goals and we won this award in the ‘Go Green’ category.

Here’s a summary of our experience there.

Day 1: Traveling and Arrival
It took us more than a day to arrive there including transit where we spent a good 8 hours at Schiphol Airport. Nice airport though buying breakfast in Euros isn’t the cheapest thing to do. A slice of pizza+drinks=8 euros which is about Rm 40! But it helped that we had internet (which we paid for…in euros) so I spent most of my time catching up with some tv shows. How I Met Your Mother anyone?

The flight itself was good. I had TONS of movies and tv show to watch so I’m happy. Its pretty cool actually; you watch a movie, you eat, you sleep and before you know it the plane is landing!

Travelers in the morning light.

Good in flight entertainment and food helps make a long flight bearable
We arrived about 3 in the afternoon, bursting with excitement and enthusiasm. Aside from an incident where we almost got conned by a driver all was well as we made our way to the hotel. It was interesting noticing how different everything was. The roads are on different sides, so was the driver who by the way was yakking the whole way through on his hands free, like how you see it in the movies.

New York City cab driver

View from a Yellow Cab
Day 2: Stand Up New York
The World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) winners headed to the streets for this event which was a rally against poverty. That Sunday morning we gathered to decorate our t-shirts and make posters.

One of the posters by the creative WSYA winners

Rafaela, a WSYA winner from New York busy at work
The event was held at the Lincoln Center. There were tons of international organisations there championing their causes and various leaders in the fight against poverty gave talks. The crowd as alright but I was expecting a little more. Which is why more people should be aware of the MDGs!

A group of awesome people taking a group photo

The Lincoln Center

Najeeb Ullah, a fellow WSYA winner giving a speech during the event.

Baxter Stapleton, from Ohio posing for a photograph
We had an evening of presentations that evening at the Hard Rock Cafe. This is where all the WSYA winners gave a presentation about their projects while having dinner. This is where I got to see what other youths have been doing in their communities. Their projects were good, some even amazing because its been developed over a considerable amount of time.

Peter Bruck, the World Summit Awards Chairman giving his welcome speech

WSYA WInners listening attentively to the presentations. From the left: Natalia, Anush, and Shasheen
Day 3: WSYA Winners Award Ceremony and Media Exchange
We headed to the Roger Smith Hotel for this ceremony. Nice hotel with lots of interesting art pieces all over the place. There were a number of dignitaries and sponsors of the WSYA, and it was talking to the people who made it possible for all of us to be there in New York.

I really liked the balcony outside the event room. So nice! Plus it gives you a very nice view of the busy streets of New York. It reminds me a little of the little balcony in ‘Friends’.

Ivo Ivanovski, Minister of Information Society, Macedonia giving his speech

Winners of the ‘Create Your Culcure’ category.

New York streets from the top of the Roger Smith Hotel

With friends from Paris, Jeanne and Baptiste!

New York pizza! It took a while to get used to how big one slice is but I ain’t complaining.

Eman, enjoying her slice of heaven.

Anshul, enjoying his slice of heaven.
After that we had a media exchange with Bloomberg, where we were given a tour around the premises. Its cool how they make identification tags for you on the spot at the reception, with pictures and all. Too bad we could not keep them after that. We were given a tour around the headquarters. One thing for sure the entrance we came in does not do the building justice. We entered through a normal looking entrance along a street but inside it was just massive!

Our forum with the heads of department; television, web and mobile was good as well. I thought that it was a good session with a lot of questions answered, some dodged.

Their pantry was very impressive. So many varieties of snacks it looked like a mini supermarket.

Day 4: Media Exchange and Workshops
This time we went to Wunderman, an advertising company. I thought this session was particularly productive because we got to present some of our projects and we were given feedback by these professional on how to improve our interface, in other words the ‘geeky’ stuff.

Using advertising principals to make our projects more effective!

Natalia, from Azerbaijan presenting her project called the Women’s Forum
Later on were workshops where all of us winners had discussion on how to collaborate and talk on general stuff like what kind of approach work and basically how to overcome challenges people like us face in developing our projects.

Matthias and Stephan, last year’s WSYA winners conducting one of the workshops

Amina, presenting our group’s discussion on education
Its our final night and we had a good ole American barbecue at our hotel’s patio. It was a little chilly but the company was good. We made some good friends there so that was our last chance to hang out and take pictures. The food was good but everything finished rather quickly because everyone was hungry.

The team from USA went all the way to New Jersey to get all of us a cake from Cake Boss which was really good plus we had it with some ice cream.

Sebastian and Adam working the grill

Everyone chillin at the patio

A photo of Baxter and Amina who’s magically grown taller

Our mexican friend, Rafael with Amirul

People oogling at Baxter’s iPad
Day 5: Last Day and Goodbye
We all had breakfast together before leaving. By the way, the breakfast at our hotel, The Verve Hotel is amazing by my standards! Waffles, doughnuts, bagels, scrambled eggs, sausages; typical New York styled breakfast. They serve the same thing every day so it almost made it to the overkill zone but I liked it anyway.

Then we had our last session with guys from the UN Global Alliance of ICT and Development (UN GAID) before leaving. Most of the winners left New York on that day but for some of us, like me and Amirul it was when our holiday began.

from left: Eman, Stanley, Amirul, Najeeb, Yvonne

from left: Arsan, Najeeb, Jeanne, Stanley, Yvonne
Final thoughts
It was such an honour to be able to fly halfway around the world to meet these people. I find it comforting to know that there are people out there who are taking step to making changes within their society. I really do hope we keep in touch because I really did enjoy their company for those 5 days.

To everyone else reading this its never too late to start taking action on something you feel passionate about be it poverty, the environment or even music! Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you’re idea is too big or too crazy because that was the exact thing that most of us faced while working on our projects. Keep believing in your ideas and plan your way properly towards achieving those goals and you should be fine.

Do check out the projects of this year’s WSYA winners.

This year´s World Summit Youth Award Winners are:

Category 01 – Fight Poverty Hunger and Disease

“ANTI HIVIRUS” by Leung Chun San, China
http://vir.us/

“The Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio” by Ikegwuonu Nnaemeka, Nigeria
http://www.smallholdersfoundation.org/

“Nahrani.com – Improve your vocabulary and provide food to people in need” by Stanev Nikolay, Bulgaria
http://www.nahrani.com

Runner-ups of Category 01 are: