Vietnamese Youth Rep at UNGA
By Jackie Bong Wright
Youth and Yellow Cabs
“I can’t believe I’m in New York, watching steam rising from the manholes from the subway or yellow cabs darting about,” exclaimed Thao Nguyen, 2004 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
At the opening of UNGA in September, a graceful former refugee talked to world leaders and lifelong diplomats with these moving remarks, “Before I begin, I’d like to share with you a short story. 26 years ago, a young couple decided to leave their war-torn country, Vietnam, in search of freedom and hope. They went across the killing fields and jungles of Cambodia into a refugee camp in Thailand. In the presence of the UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees) staff, a baby girl was born. Today ladies and gentlemen, the same baby girl is addressing you.”
She worked with 12 other youth representatives in the UN Youth Unit to conduct briefings and round-table discussions to
and non-governmental (NGO) Youth Network in the division which looks at social, humanitarian and cultural issues, mostly related to human rights.
A Survivor’s Journey
Thao, in her early twenties, was much scrutinized going through hard tests and selected among the 200 Australian youths, who applied for a three month-work at the UNGA. The Sydney law student started her journey with a daunting fund-raising effort traveling around Australia to reach a goal of $20,000 and pay for her own expenses. She went to six cities for a full time six month-consultation and fund-raising journey. She raised more money than the target she had set forth and learned much from people. She had met with young and old Australians, community-based activists, industrialists, politicians, aboriginals, and even youth incarcerated in detention centers. She said, “I am so humbled by the struggles that so many young people are facing and by the incredible work and the sense of survival of individuals and communities.”
Thao discovered that in areas where there were no adequate social and cultural support, there were a higher rate of juvenile crime and detention.