Setting: The parking lot at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, mid-morning, littered with chattering clusters of students
A white bus arrives, and a line of high-schoolers spills out. The newcomers are petrified; they don’t know where to get in line, where to sit, or a remote idea of what to expect. They have come to represent KICS, but now, it seems like they are just stuck in a never-ending line. Once they finally push through the masses and get through security, they are ushered into the main meeting hall for an orientation. Tujenge pamoja, meaning “building together”, is introduced as the week’s theme. At the moment, they do not know the profound meaning it will take on, and they are overcome by nerves. All too soon, the comfortable anonymity in the orientation is over, and the KICS delegates are headed to their respective committees and a week full of fun experiences and enlightening debate.
Setting: The parking lot at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, mid-morning, on the fifth and final day of the Model United Nations Conference
A white bus arrives, and a line of high-schoolers spills out yet again. They are going into the last day of conference, and in many ways, they are still the same, if a little more sleep-deprived. However, if you take a step closer, they look more confident. They are more comfortable with each other, swapping stories of outrageous things that had happened the day before in conference and discussing upcoming resolutions. They have spent long nights together, aimlessly talking and working on speeches. All of them have an alarming level of caffeine running through their bloodstream. A group of students that before had no bond, separated by grade levels, interests, friend groups, and time constrictions, are now joined by a common thread. They have celebrated each other’s triumphs, cried and laughed over each other’s mortifications, and supported each other through the long days. They have gone to Kenyan malls and restaurants, watched movies together, and depleted their allowances as a team. They have listened to incredible speakers over the week, including the first lady of Kenya. They have seen people in high positions use their power for good, and also some who abuse their power. They have pushed themselves to the limits and have gained a deeper understanding of their capabilities. More than that, they have seen what is possible when you have passion and hard work.
Setting: The parking lot at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, the afternoon, filled with parting farewells and the honking of buses
A white bus drives away, and all fifteen of its occupants have participated in debate and have represented their school well. The KICS mission statement, which only hovers at the back of their minds, has been fulfilled throughout the MUN trip. They have learned lessons beyond what is taught at school, the very definition of wisdom beyond scholarship. Every time that they chose to raise their yellow placard with their country’s name, to open themselves up to being called on by the chair, they chose participation over apathy. For some of them, raising their placard was akin to lying on a railroad, and yet they did it anyway. They overcame fear because they could not have a voice without engaging. When they helped each other understand parliamentary procedure, even when they desperately needed sleep or quiet, they chose service above self. This selflessness, especially exhibited by the MUN veterans, was what kept the team together. They learned the value of integrity, when they saw people smuggle iPads into conference so they could look up statistics and sound intelligent. Although it would have improved their speeches to possess such items, the students did without them. In choosing character before career, they were actually able to gain more knowledge and be responsible in using their time at the hotel to research.
A note from the authors:
We know that we are speaking for the whole of the MUN team when we say that this was truly a valuable experience, one that we are incredibly grateful to have been afforded. We’d like to extend our thanks to our supervisors, Mr. Nel and Ms. Hughes, the KICS administration for sacrificing their time to enable us to take part in the trip, and for all of our parents and their encouragement.
By Annika Irvine and Lydia King