|The 2008 Yokohama ‘Peace Messengers’ meet with Executive Director Ann M. Veneman at UNICEF House. Ms. Veneman holds a stuffed animal, which was presented to her by the delegates, including (from left) Qiuping Zou, 11; Chitose Yoshioka, 12; Ai Tanaka, 14; and Chise Ishihara, 15.|
By Kyria Abrahams
NEW YORK, USA, 10 November 2008 – During a meeting at UNICEF headquarters in New York this morning, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman thanked four children from Japan for their efforts to promote international peace. The Yokohama ‘Peace Messengers’, ranging in age from 11 to 15, raised approximately $160,000 for children’s causes in 2008.
Veneman, who visited Yokohama in May to participate in the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, thanked the four young people for their hard work in raising money for the children that UNICEF helps around the world.
The peace messengers presented Veneman with a decorative gift bag from Yokohama, where the earth-friendly satchels are taken to markets to avoid using excessive plastic.
Hosted by UNICEF’s Public Sector Alliances and Resource Mobilization Office, the meeting also featured a message to the children from UNICEF Deputy Director of Human Resources Mieko Tarui.
Speeches on peace
Before travelling to New York, the four girls were selected from a group of 50,000 students who participated in the Yokohama Children’s Speech Contest by speaking on the topic, ‘What can I do to contribute to world peace?’
Today’s meeting was their first mission as Peace Messengers.
The topic of 11-year-old Qiuping Zou’s winning speech was how we can communicate with children throughout the world, especially those who are affected by conflict. “Even if you don’t speak the same language, you can communicate with your heart,” said Qiuping.
Chitose Yoshioka, 12, wrote her speech thanking UNICEF for helping her grandparents after the bombing of Hiroshima.
Ai Tanaka, 14, spoke about following in the footsteps of her mother, who is a nurse, noting that the goodness her mother contributes to the world has inspired Ai to participate in humanitarian causes. “I would like people to contribute to UNICEF, even if it is only one cent,” said Ai.
A message for young people
When asked if she had a message for young people, Qiuping said she would like people in Japan to have more interest in UNICEF.
“There are so many things outside of Japan that people cannot do,” Ai added, urging people to recognize that there are children without access to safe water or education – and to be thankful for what they themselves have.
The children were presented with gift bags courtesy of UNICEF’s Voices of Youth project, an online digital forum for young people. Each bag contained, among other items, a t-shirt decorated with a dove.
“Voices of Youth supports and promotes the message of peace through its activities,” said the project’s coordinator, Maria Cristina Gallegos. “We invite you to join in these activities by joining our website.”
The youth delegates, who will continue to act as Peace Messengers at events in Japan for the next three years, will also meet with the UN Deputy Secretary-General and visit the United Nations International School during their stay in New York.
The United Nations named Yokohama city a ‘Peace Messenger City’ in 1987.