The THIMUN Qatar-Afghanistan initiative is now in its fifth month. The five delegates who traveled to Doha in February are now well into their club activities, having taken the complete journey from novice delegates to experienced club volunteers. For those unfamiliar with the initiative, a little background is in order.
The idea of a collaborative project was born out of informal conversations at the Qatar Leadership Conference. Like all good QLC initiatives, it started as a ‘what if’ conversation, and by the time the Head of THIMUN Qatar, Lisa Martin, and UN Habitat’s head of mission in Afghanistan, the idea of a travel team to Qatar had been formulated. For three months, students from Qatar and around the world mentored the five Afghan Delegates, These students worked together via skype, Blackboard Collaborate and Facebook to prep and train one another. The Gang of Five, as they were affectionately called by the organizers, arrived in Doha not only bursting with enthusiasm, but armed with policy statements, opening speeches and resolutions.
The Afghan delegates participated successfully in their committee. They also took the conference by storm, making friends, holding press conferences, networking with students from around the world and in one special case, becoming very close with the John Burroughs School from Missouri, USA. The two delegations played tourist together, visiting the Islamic Art Museum, the souk, and even taking a very special Dhow ride. The Afghan students also visited the American School of Doha’s Sport’s Day, were invited to an old fashioned BBQ, and went to the mall and the movies.
At the cultural night the last evening of the conference, the delegates wowed their friends with some skateboarding, even enticing Lisa Martin onto a board for a few brief seconds.
It could have ended there. But as we know, once the MUN seed is planted, it is often quick to take root, and so the Gang of Five headed back to Kabul, armed with ideas and new-found knowledge and experience. If the trip to Doha seemed rather miraculous, what happened next was even more so.
THIMUN in Afghanistan
On a cold day in early March, the first THIMUN meeting was held in Afghanistan. The MUN novice delegates-turned MUN club leaders welcomed 22 students into their opening club session: 11 girls and 11 boys, a remarkable feat in a country where girls are extremely underrepresented in educational programs. A “What is MUN?” session was held, and our club leaders began to review the basics. Again, with the collaborative support of their network of students, they began to teach their new club members. We asked them to share their thoughts on the early development of their club.
We asked the Kabul Club leaders a few questions on the set up of their MUN program, their goals, and what they hoped to see in the future.
Who are the students in the new club and how are they selected?
Sulaiman: All of the students who are participating MUN club are selected from Skateistan students-they are top students at Skateistan. For them MUN was something new as it was for us. Most of them found it really effective for them , as some of them said ” this will help me to achieve my future goals.”
Rahmat: The students who are participating in the MUN Afghanistan club are all from different ethnicities, but most of the students are from poor families.They are studying but they are also working, but all of them are creative minded children. The reaction when we select them for the class was that they couldn’t even believe that they will be included in this project because. There are very few organizations which are providing international opportunity and MUN is that kind project; they all were so excited and the good thing that we found from their enthusiasm was their hard work in the class to make the most of the opportunity.
Was it hard for students at first?
Sulaiman At first it was hard for students to talk and take part in class activities and after the second session we saw a big difference in their abilities as they were more confident and they started dreaming of becoming leaders.
How did you see them change?
Rahmat: They all are trying to achieve the opportunity so they all are trying. At first they were a bit shy but now they all trying to take part in the class, and are all trying to be the best and to be the top of the class.
What are the goals of the club?
Rahmat: The ultimate goal of the club is to make a place for the club as an organization where we would be able to hold an MUN conferences, film festival and Leadership conferences inside the country and to invite worldwide students to Afghanistan. The objectives are
• First we need to start the program in one or two schools. • Send some of the students to THIMUN Qatar festivals. • Make a core of MUN specialists. • Find some people to help us to make a separate place for the project.
Sulaiman: Our goal is to make this club wider in Kabul first and then in the provinces. So overall our goal is to promote it to an organization like Thimun Qatar. It is only possible to work hard and get support of some governmental and non governmental NGOs to help us develop our program.
The THIMUN Qatar office is thrilled to be supporting these young delegate-turned leaders, and look forward to future participation by Afghan students in our programs.