Implementing the Chapter’s Strategic Plan to Act Locally, by Lisa Nguyen
60 million. That is the current number of refugees in this world as of today, and that figure continues to grow with each passing year. Over half of these displaced individuals are children who are often times unaccompanied. No home. Lack of security. Plentitude of uncertainty.
With the current number of refugees at its highest since World War II, UNA-USA is calling all chapters to focus its efforts on the refugee crisis. As a child of Vietnamese refugees and former employee of a refugee resettlement agency, I can honestly say that I have mixed feelings. There is a sense of sadness, because these efforts only mean that conflicts abroad continue to eject people from their homes at a seemingly increasing rate. Yet at the same time, I am happy that there is unification across the nation and world to better assist individuals subjected to such dire conditions that my parents similarly experienced.
At the 2016 Leadership Summit, almost every session addressed the refugee crisis. Presenters shared statistics, somber stories, virtual experiences, and ideas on how to make a difference. Regarding the lattermost, UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley presented on a new initiative which I immediately knew will directly impact the efforts of YP over the next two years. In partnership with UNHCR and USA for UNHCR, UNA-USA is launching an initiative to empower children with much needed basic education in refugee camps across the world. With over half of refugees being children as previously noted, education is more important than ever. Through this initiative called “Adopt-A-Future,” chapters across America have the incredible opportunity to adopt a classroom expansion in one of 61 possible sites identified by UNA-Geneva. By raising $30k over the course of two years, a classroom expansion will provide basic education to at least 40 refugee children and will have a life-span of approximately 10 years. In support of this initiative comes the launching of the Night of 1,000 Dinners. Through small, concerted efforts in collaboration with local GenUN chapters, UNA-OC YP plans to hold fundraising dinners and events throughout the upcoming years. One-hundred percent of funds will be donated to the expansion of not one but two classrooms, as all funds raised will be matched by Educate a Child Fund (based out of Qatar?).
UNA-OC YP is dedicated to this initiative as we will be carrying out our Chapter’s mission to inform and mobilize our community. Recent activities offered through the Chapter have focused on educating the public, but now we can and must move beyond the statistics. Yes, it is critical to inform community members about the refugee crisis and the basic needs they are deprived of. However, we must empower them by providing opportunities to take action. Letting members and volunteers know that their efforts will yield a classroom at a refugee camp site will undoubtedly capture their interest. Knowing that our Chapter is working toward something as concrete as this provides members a sense of ownership in a national movement. Being proud of their contributions to such a worthy cause will increase motivation and engagement overall in the Chapter. These outcomes will increase a sense of value to Chapter membership (UNA-OC YP One-Year Strategic Plan, Goal 1). As addressed in last year’s annual meeting update, the YP strategic plan was developed to bolster that of the Chapter. By leading this initiative, YP is ultimately working toward the Chapter’s goal to increase retention of Chapter members by engaging their interest and providing more volunteer and networking opportunities.
With support from the Board and through collaboration with CSU Fullerton and Chapman University, we will put our Chapter on the map by thinking globally and acting locally.
Direct to Nationals, by Isabel Treidl
As we all know, the United Nations Association is a place full of passionate, driven, dedicated and committed individuals working for a better world. During the past leadership summit, 350 active members from 150 chapters among the U.S gathered together in Washington D.C to discuss, share and generate new strategies to address many issues. This year the meeting was more impactful and meaningful, not just for the great lectures, workshops, and hands-on-experience (virtual reality), but also because finally, education became an answer to some critical global issues, like the refugee crisis and extreme violence.
As part of the National Council, I will be serving in two committees that I believe are critical for our future: Education and Youth Engagement. I believe education is capable of giving strong foundations and knowledge by providing tools and critical thinking to make better choices in a person’s life. This early intervention has an impact on a personal and practical level. Personal, because it is aligned with our values, it is the fuel of becoming a better person for a better world; but practical, since we have learned from history, that individuals who grow up in hostile environments, facing inequality and social unrest are prone to be more violent and radicals.
I believe in early intervention, I believe in the power of Education and Youth Engagement. I know from personal experience how hard is to grow up in the middle of an internal conflict, uncertain about your future… Yes, I have lost loved ones, but I gained the voice to speak up, work and inspire others to change their reality; and I am not alone…the UNA-USA has 22,000 members nationwide, and their work inspires millions of people worldwide.
We as a chapter gained a spot at the national level, but this visibility brings great responsibilities that require sustainability; and for this reason it is imperative to grow our efforts by tapping new, young and committed members. That is why the idea of YP is to connect and collaborate with other driven individuals in Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University. Subsequently we will be able to grow to other schools and universities.
Finally, our effort to communicate and educate people cannot stop; our current activities are valuable but not enough. We need to captivate a new generation, the millennials, by giving them a more tangible and meaningful value of joining our chapter. With this in mind, YP’s efforts will be focused on educating and engaging young people. With Lisa’s initiative of 1,000 dinners, which is bringing great results in other chapters nationwide, we want to raise funds from our members to support a classroom, and contribute to Adopt – A- Future campaign. Moreover, we will host hands-on activities that recreate a refuge experience in a camp, and will work on the Refugees Back to School initiative. In this campaign UNA-OC members can help us put together all the school supplies for refugee students so that those students may go back to school. These ideas will help us to mitigate and alleviate the refugee crisis, but also will empower people not just to join our chapter, but also to stay as an active member with a meaningful mission in life. Finally, our growing membership will help us to create a stronger network of members and partners in our community that eventually will help us to channelize our YP’s and young intern’s passions into actions impacting their lives not just professionally but also personally.
Our chapter is getting a precious spot in Nationals…let’s all raise local voices and turn passions into actions since the presence of our chapter at a national level goes beyond 22,000 members; it impacts the lives of thousands of individuals in 197 countries.
I do not feel foreign any more….
by Isabel Treidl
I do not feel foreign anymore… Four years ago I came to the U.S. visiting, but had bigger goals and ideas in my mind. I decided to change my status and started studying Business English. In addition to my studies I was volunteering with developmentally disabled people.
With a bigger scope and bigger professional goals, I decided to pursue a higher degree. I started doing a MBA in Southern State University in Newport and I met a great mentor, Samila Amini who introduced me to the United Nation Association (UNA) where she is currently a member and has being volunteering for several years.
I really wanted to know more about the UNA and requested to get involved in the UNA-OC through an internship; however, due to my international student status as a MBA student I was not
eligible. Fortunately Barbara Tye, who was my contact, suggested that I become a member. Even though at the time I was reluctant to join since I am not a citizen of the U.S. and thought that I did not fulfill the requirements, I applied.
My first idea since I was taking a leadership class was to create a link between the UNA and a university. I asked my University if I can develop a project with my Leadership class and the UNA. But unfortunately, the school rejected the idea arguing that we are just international students. The school’s policy prefers to avoid working with third parties. Again, I felt foreign, excluded and frustrated for not being able to apply my knowledge to a real and useful project.
Barbara Tye insisted that my status as an international student was not an issue and I was more than welcome to become a member and even attend a board meeting…When I participated in the first board meeting of the UNA-OC it was very appealing and warming; even though I had to commute from Los Angeles – Echo Park, I felt welcomed and full of energy and ideas.
After a few months of trying to get more involved, I became Chair of Education for the Young Professionals. My biggest
scope is to educate people about the UNA and UN mission and efforts. My idea is to spread out the UNA goals and materialize them among the community. The final result is to bring and make the UNA more tangible to colleges, schools and the community.
Moreover, I got this extraordinary opportunity to attend the annual UNA conference in Washington D.C. where I got the chance to connect with other passionate and driven individuals. I was really fortunate to be exposed to many experts and passionate leaders across the U.S who came from different chapters across the country willing to share their backgrounds, expertise, passion and energy toward humanitarian rights, advocacy and social affairs. I was really privileged to be sponsored by the Orange County Chapter, and I attended different lectures and panels that helped me to get immersed in the U.S. United Nations efforts. In addition, I was able to understand the key role that the U.S. government has, financially and morally, with peace-keeping missions. Finally, besides developing and increasing my networks and connections I came back to California really inspired to continue working toward equality and enthusiastic regarding my current position. As a chair of education in Orange County, my mission of promoting and educating people in the community got a deep meaning, now that I am staying in the U.S., my mission has just started, and now I can say: I do not feel foreign anymore…
Isabel shares her experience. Click here to see her slide show via YouTube.
UNA Annual Meeting – Inspiring individuals to advocate for the United Nations,
by Julia Smith
The opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with 5 other young woman representing the UNA-OC Young Professionals Affinity Group was an experience I will never forget. The Annual Meeting provided me with resources, training and gave me motivation to advocate locally and make our chapter even stronger. The conference was full of inspiring professionals of all age groups and provided opportunities to learn more about the UNA and meet other chapters all working together to educate their local community in the efforts of the United Nations.
While all sessions were impactful, the breakout session on “Forming Partners and Building Coalitions” was eye opening and motivating for me. The Honorable Teta Banks, President of the UNA Houston Chapter, discussed strategies and best practices that leverage relationships with organizations, colleges, universities, corporations and more. During the panel, we were educated on how to advocate for the UN and develop lasting relationships with those in our general area. The most important advice I took away from this conversation was how to advocate to all professional backgrounds and interests and the best practices for making my voice heard.
Other sessions I attended include “United Nations 101: History, Structure and Functions”, “Careers with International Influence” and Panels on Human Rights Issues. The conference provided multiple opportunities to become more educated on the issues pertaining to the United Nations, as well as how to be an activist for this issues. During each session I learned a valuable tip that will only to continue to motivate me to seek ways to build a strong United Chapter in the Orange County region.
I am very happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of a conference that provided great tools and resources to chapters nationwide. The conference provided plenty of opportunities to meet others around the nation who are a part of the UNA and learn from each other what has and what has not worked for their own chapters. It was my first time attending the UNA Annual Meeting and hopefully not my last.
Thinking Forward with Strategic Planning,
by Lisa Wang
On June 7-9, 2015, six members of the UNA-OC Chapter traveled across the country to attend the 2015 UNA-USA Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. I am proud to say that all six attendees were strong women representing the chapter, five of whom were also members of the UNA-OC Young Professionals (YP) Affinity Group. It was my first time attending the annual event, and I left incredibly informed, motivated, and empowered to make our strong YP group even better.
There were many sessions that captivated my interest, but the one I found most fruitful was on strategic planning. Colleen Teixera Moffat, who heads the Office of Strategic Planning and Implementation at the UN Foundation, and Melissa Wolfe, who is Director of Governance at United Way Worldwide, led a session titled “Chapter Planning: Creating a Blueprint for Success.” As members of the UNA-National Capital Area chapter, Colleen and Melissa discussed who they developed a strategic plan in order to give their chapter a focus, thus providing members a goal to work toward. Two approaches were presented: strategic planning and annual planning.
A strategic plan outlines goals and objectives that would direct the chapter over the next three to five years. This approach is particularly favorable during times when governance or board members have changed. To develop a relevant and effective plan, the chapter must first gather information. Various methods of data collection include conducting a survey of stakeholders; landscape analysis; environmental scan; and strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. Once all information is gathered, the chapter would review the information to identify common themes and frequently mentioned areas that require improvement. This review process would then inform the development of goals. Once they are presented and approved by the board, the chapter could then establish subcommittees to develop objectives and tactics (or action plans) to achieve these goals. The key to developing effective objectives is to ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART).
These concepts apply to annual planning as well, but an annual plan is ideal for a frequently evolving group. This approach is applicable to YP due to the frequently changing membership expected of the age group served and the evolving interests of the group as they relate to current affairs. To develop a plan, the group can hold a one-day retreat where members will conduct a SWOT analysis to develop one goal and, within this goal, several objectives. Since YP is an affinity group of the chapter, its goal should align with the chapter’s strategic plan to ensure that the work of YP is bolstering the efforts of the chapter overall. Working to inform the community about and advocate for the UN is very general since this can involve everything under the sun. With that lack of direction, we are spreading our efforts thin. With a focus for the upcoming year, YP is better able to narrow its focus and efforts in order to effectively make a positive difference in our community.
The YP Affinity Group currently has more members than ever, and I am motivated to lead the group in developing an annual plan. Since the plan directs the activities of the entire group, its development is a collaborative effort. All members, new and old, will be invited to contribute to discussions on the direction of YP and ultimately the development of the group’s annual plan. Old members have more history and experience within the group, but new members have fresh perspectives that can lead to innovative ideas. YP planning efforts will convene once the chapter finalizes its strategic plan. This will ensure alignment of goals and ability for YP to track its performance against the chapter’s plan on a regular basis. Combined efforts between all members of the chapter through strategic planning will propel the UNA-OC forward, increase the community’s awareness of UNA-OC and the work of the UN, and ultimately affect positive change in our world.
The UNA and our 2015 Annual Meeting: Reflections on Female Empowerment, “Women’s Issues,” and the Need for Champions by Rachel Sanchez
From June 7-9, UNA-OC joined more than 200 UNA members from across the country to gather in Washington, D.C. for our Annual Meeting, entitled “2015: A Year of Action.” I am exceedingly proud that our Chapter representation was comprised of six women - six fiercely independent, passionate, intelligent, strong women, beautiful in both spirit and purpose. The last time I felt similarly galvanized by the company surrounding me was at my all-girls high school where, unsurprisingly, “girl power” and the promulgation of female empowerment reigned supreme. This feeling, however, was vastly different in that my companions and I are now of the age where our words and actions have the potential to shape not only the reality of today for women and girls, but the outlook of tomorrow for our future children.
During the Welcome Session on the first day, I was the female awardee of the Global Young Achievement Award for my work as the Young Professionals Director for our Chapter over the past two years. To be formally recognized in this way was the greatest honor for myself personally, but as our Chapter members are characterized by their collaboration and support of one another, this award truly belongs to everyone and commends our joint efforts.
Inspired by the amazing women around me, I observed the remainder of the conference activities through a feminist perspective, cognizant of the obstacles, both big and small, that women must overcome to achieve equality. I moderated the session, “Make a Life of Making an Impact: Careers with International Influence,” and although I felt that the panelists did a wonderful job of elaborating on their career paths, offering advice, and answering questions from the audience, I was disappointed that five out of the six panelists were male. As I had recently attended a Human Trafficking Roundtable in Orange County and noted one female panelist amongst ten male government, civil society, and law enforcement
representatives, this was blatantly clear to me. Young women,
either consciously or not, may take these types of discrepancies as an indication that society does not value their experiences, individual voices, and contributions in the same regard as their male counterparts. I do, however, applaud the UNA on various events included in the Annual Meeting Agenda: the Women and Girls Panel; the UNA Women affinity meeting; and advocacy priorities, including the Girls Count Act of 2015 and the fight against human trafficking. As the United Nations Association is beholden to UN ideals, we must relay our hopes and expectations of equal representation in both verbal and written word and evidenced in deed.
As demonstrated in those examples, it is difficult to make gains when our government, society, and even global institutions reflect the status quo, and there is little impetus toward rectifying inequities. Disparities seem to abound at every turn, and frankly, I’m tired of it. I subscribe to the State Department’s email updates from the various bureaus, and I’m exasperated that all issues pertaining to female empowerment are categorized as “Women’s Issues.” Do not women bear and raise boys, and entwine their lives with men? And does not the health and welfare of women affect their sons, husbands, partners, and fathers? Although this may seem trivial, the United States is, at least ostensibly, one of the most progressive countries in the world; the fact that our government encapsulates such a vast array of subjects under “women’s issues” is a both a gross generalization and casts these issues to the margins of policy discussion, reflecting how much must still be accomplished.
Although global institutions under the UN umbrella oftentimes directly advocate for equal representation among the sexes, they are not exempt from responsibility for their own internal glass ceilings. I just concluded a summer internship with the International Organization for Migration here in Washington, D.C., and it was clear that their recent emphasis on promoting female staff is due to a severe lack of women in leadership roles across the organization. In the year 2016, I hope that these imbalances, ones both significant and those that occur beneath the surface, and the deplorable relegation of so-called “women’s issues,” will enter the public consciousness more readily, and that more of us will take the initiative to prompt change in this regard.
Unabashed in my hopes for the future, I implore you to take personal ownership of these human issues, for it is the only way any success will be attained. Do not simply be an advocate for women but a champion for their rights and empowerment. Through your participation with the UNA, you enjoy a valid platform for advocacy and the capacity with which to make your voice heard, and I urge you to utilize it. As it would be nearly impossible to fulfill my duties from across the country, it is my sincere pleasure to pass my Young Professionals Directorship to a smart, dedicated and driven young woman, Lisa Wang, who will no doubt serve as an inspiration to the Chapter, its members, the community, and most importantly in my opinion, to other young women looking to become global leaders.
For many years, one of my personal dreams has been to earn a Masters degree in international relations, in the hope of increasing my capacity to be an advocate for change in my professional career. A few months ago, I applied to six of the top ten IR graduate programs in pursuit of this goal (Georgetown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, American, and Tufts). I am overjoyed to report that I have recently been admitted to all of them, some with scholarship funding! After much thought and consideration, I have finally chosen a school and program that I feel best fits my professional interests and embodies many of the values I hold dear. Therefore, in a few months I will be moving to Washington, D.C. to begin the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University.
I am fully confident that my UNA involvement has played a pivotal role in my graduate acceptances. My position as the Director of the Young Professionals Affinity Group has bolstered my resume’s strength, allowed me to develop important leadership skills, offered wonderful networking opportunities, and provided a supportive group of colleagues who have encouraged me through every step of the application process. Over the past two years, I have participated in events related to
human trafficking, genocide awareness and prevention, gender equality, education, sustainable energy, climate change, forced migration, and many others! My experiences have not only been crucial for earning admittance to these elite institutions, but have also deepened my knowledge of global issues and shaped my aspiration to one day work on Human Trafficking Protocol at the UNODC.
My advice to those interested in becoming involved with the UNA-OC and YP is this: dive right in, become engaged, challenge yourself to move beyond your comfort zone, make friends, and most importantly, have fun! I cannot explain how motivating it has been to work with a group of individuals equally passionate about making this world a better place for the billions of forgotten people who struggle everyday to simply survive and provide greater opportunities for their children. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, as well as your creativity and innovation, this is YOUR opportunity to gain invaluable skills that will surely help you propel yourself forward in your academic and professional development! I promise you will not regret it. As for me, I will cherish my remaining time with the UNA-OC and know that wherever I live, I will become involved with the nearest UNA Chapter!
My Co-Chair, Paul, and I enthusiastically represented our UNA Orange County Chapter Young Professionals at the UNA-USA Annual Meeting (“Mobilizing for the World We Want”) in Washington, D.C. from June 8-10, 2014. More than 170 members came together for a variety of skills trainings, issue briefings, networking opportunities, and capacity-building. We were proud to have two other YP leaders, Rebecca Snyder and Sky Pham, also travel across the country to participate in the truly incredible three-day event. The National Education Association hosted the conference and old-fashioned D.C. trolleys transported us daily to the beautiful UN Foundation building for various evening events.
As a first-time attendee, I was just blown away by the amazing presentations, informative workshops, prestigious speakers, and all the inspirational people I met. One moment I was shaking hands with Dr. Robert C. Orr, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, and the next I was discussing human rights with Joshua Cooper, the U.S. Human Rights Network Universal Periodic Review Coordinator, who was incidentally leaving the next day to participate in the 2014 UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. For young people, the UNA Annual Meeting is an unparalleled opportunity to network with International Affairs professionals, establish connections with UNA peers from across the country, partake in resume-building activities, and walk away newly motivated to strive for “global citizenship” in our increasingly interconnected world.
I attended two events specifically geared toward UNA Young Professionals. One breakout session, entitled “Make a Life of Making an Impact: Pursuing an International Career,” featured a distinguished panel of professionals with careers in NGOs, journalism, the private sector, and the U.S. government.
Leadership Skills Work For You.” Before she began work at the UN Foundation, Colleen Moffat used the opportunities provided by her UNA involvement to develop performance-enhancing skills that would increase her marketability.
As Paul Figueroa and I lay the groundwork for the development of UNA Orange County’s Young Professionals Affinity Group, I am anxious to utilize the knowledge and connections we formed at the UNA Annual Meeting to propel us forward and encourage young people in our community to join us!
Our regular Young Professionals meetings are held at 12pm noon on the third Saturday of every month following the Orange County Chapter board meetings (locations vary). If you are interested, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions!
Co-Chair, UNA Orange County Chapter Young Professionals
Lisa Wang is currently serving the UNA-OC as the Young Professionals Affinity Group’s Chair of Membership. The YP Group was recently founded in January 2014, so her current efforts are focused on increasing membership. She is also serving as the UNA-OC Chapter’s Interim Chair of Membership. As a child of Vietnamese refugees, she gravitated toward humanitarian and refugee work. In 2008-2009, Lisa worked at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, a refugee resettlement agency in Louisville, Kentucky, as the Youth Services Coordinator. During those experiences, her passion to assist those facing dire circumstances developed. Since then, she strives to provide assistance and awareness to humanitarian efforts. Her long-term career goal is to work for the United Nations, particularly the UNHCR.
Lisa is a UCI graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Social Science, with a concentration in Demographics and Social Analysis. Currently, she works at Irvine Valley College as the Senior Research and Planning Analyst in the Office of Research, Planning and Accreditation and is a consultant to the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges. She volunteers weekly with the Tiyya Foundation by mentoring and tutoring a recent Iraqi refugee boy.