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Junior 8 Summit 2009: Impressions by Refilwe Tsumane, Northern Cape

© UNICEF/2009
Refilwe in action in her discussion group.

My name is Refilwe Tsumane, I was one of the fortunate children in South Africa of whom were chosen to represent South Africa in Rome for the J8 summit.

My time was well spent considering it was school holidays. On the 3rd of July we drove to Upington airport where the Department of Education (DOE) officials were waiting for us, we had a farewell lunch and for me it was all overwhelming, as my parents were there I felt so lucky and I was. DOE then handed over new digital cameras for us. Then it was off to the airport, I couldn’t believe it! I was on my way to Italy, Rome!!

It all started the 4th of June. It was just after school when I was called by the DOE official, Wilfred Mare, who told me the good news- that I was going to Italy- I couldn’t believe my ears . Here I was thinking it was the end of my career in debating and public speaking, simply because I am in Grade 12, but my God made a way. Mr. Wilfred told me how UNICEF will pay for all the expenses. I was ecstatic about it all, I couldn’t wait. I was busy with my exams, so I couldn’t really research as much about the topics as I would have liked. As the days passed, UNICEF faxed me all the information that I needed. We were given three topics. The fourth topic we had to choose for ourselves. These first three topics were:

1.Climate change
2.Financial crisis in the context of children’s rights
3.Poverty and development efforts in Africa

I wrote to the municipality for financial aid, for some things that I needed, and they helped me a lot. On the 2nd of July Richmond and I were sent off in style. The DOE official was in Upington where we had to meet them for lunch, there was media everywhere. I was very happy because my parents were with me, and when my mom saw all of it she couldn’t stop crying. From Upington we went to Johannesburg and slept over, the next day we were on the airplane.

We arrived in Rome on the 4th of July; I couldn’t believe that I was really in Rome and that I was going to represent my country.  That night UNICEF hired the world’s greatest chef to cook for us, although, other dishes were a bit difficult to adjust to. It was just one of the greatest experiences.

As that night passed, I thought it was going to be fun all the way, but it wasn’t all fun, the following five days we had to work really hard on drafting the declaration for the G8 leaders!! Not only did we have to draw up a declaration for the leaders, we as the youth also had to have a proposal on how to make the world a better place to live in. So we made an action plan, which we as South African ambassadors have to implement in our country with the help of UNICEF. We would like to start in our own schools and build up from there. On the 9th we finally finished the declaration, we had to choose one of our team members to go and meet the leaders. We chose Richmond because we believed in him and he was the only boy, plus he dreams of becoming the president one day, so it was only fair and right!

We were 14 different children from 14 different countries and sometimes it wasn’t easy to get your point across but we South Africans had each others backs, we were like brothers and sisters, me, Richmond, Alleta and Yumnah.

I must say being in Italy taught me something; that whatever you do, you must give it your all, nothing good is ever going to come to you if you do not participate. I made a lot of friends like Nico from France, Nisel from Canada and Pokit from the USA. I would like to extend my thanks to UNICEF, as they were really the ones who made all this possible for us and for that I am very grateful, the DOE for believing in us and giving us the chance to represent our beloved country. Lastly I would like to thank the people who are responsible for me being on this earth, my loving parents. Without a doubt I can say, I am what I am, I am who I am, and I am a South African Ambassador!! 

More about the Junior 8 Summit

Junior 8 Summit website





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Statement by Refilwe Tsumane to the Italian Parliament


9 July 2009 -  Download and read Refilwe Tsumane's statement to Italian Parliament.

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South African representatives at the J8

Read their biographical data and watch short videos on their expectations of the J8 Summit:


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