Martina Buchal is the Global Ambassador for World Merit, traveling the world representing this network of Millennial leaders working together to make a positive impact in their communities and abroad. An advocate for peace and conflict resolution, she's a lover, not a fighter. Currently traveling the world, doing yoga, and probably reading a really good book.
To find out more about Martina, and to follow her year-long global journey, follow her on Twitter: @MartinaBuchal, @WorldMeritHQ.
The interview with Martina Buchal took place at One Young World Ambassador Caucus in Novi Sad during EXIT Festival.
MUNPlanet: Now that we are at OYW Caucus could you tell our MUNPlanet leaders and readers how did you decide to participate at One Young World Summit in the first place?
Martina: OYW is advertised much in the sense as it is: a global network for young people who try to go out there and do something incredible. So when I first heard about it the place I was at that point in my life was like: I was an activist for some years, and saying some seems a bit vague as I feel it was in my blood forever. Therefore, for me tapping into that kind of network was invaluable.So when I first saw the advert I thought I really need to attend the Summit as it would be a huge opportunity for myself as a person and at the same time it would be an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who may be difficult to find in your community especially if you are like myself in the small town. To me it felt the same in Ottawa as One Young World brings the special mindset of global citizenship.
And it goes beyond a personal level: it is not just about activism it is about empowerment that the individual is a global citizen; it is about participating in politics. One Young World turned out to be a perfect fit for a person like me, to be around other people who are also trying to make a difference in the world and to do something which is somewhat bigger than themselves.
MUNPlanet: It is very important for your development that you go beyond your personal level and that you interact in different circles as you mentioned. How did you start being involved in World Merit? You mentioned to us in an informal network how huge this network is which brings us to the modern phenomenon of communities of practice and tribes as Seth Godin calls them.What are the benefits of World Merit?
Martina: To answer your second part of question first ‘‘How do you build such a network and such a tribe’’, it is around the common passion and common purpose. In such a network people have the common set of goals and principles around which they function. There is something inspiring about being around the people who think and feel as you do; who travel in the same direction of change. So I think building this type of network gets easy when you get that emotional attachment of other people who will quite similar to you in a lot of ways. It is obviously a little bit different once you take it online because online is fantastic as it gets to connect you with other people around the world. World Merit is an online community of people with common values and it has around hundred thousand users at this point. We all act in our communities on a local level and we want to create a positive difference. So, whether it is environmental degradation where people create their communities, whether it is legal affairs, social justice and fairness – all these people have the aspirations to create a better world.
In terms of our activities, World Meritfunctions every day as we share our social actions online and actually get points for those social actions. Our very active users accumulate points and are rewarded for those social actions which includes incredible opportunities such as internships, competitions that we have such as Your Big Year. This is the competition I participated in and ultimately won. Leaders from around the world compete and demonstrate that they have key capabilities of citizenship and leadership to represent others around the world with the ultimate prize of travelling around the world for a year, representing youth, which is incredible. Another opportunity which World Merit has is the Leadership program Next where we integrate both the online and in person component. This program takes 24 people to Liverpool and London and they participate in workshops, personal development at the beginning of the year and then they participate in the project online while close to the end of the year they travel to the United States, i.e. Washington, Colorado and New York City. Those are only some of the initiatives and ultimately the community sets the initiatives that you can engage in. The goal is that people who showcased merit i.e. participated in certain initiatives would be able to make a greater difference with a bit of the extra support or leadership and skills development.
MUNPlanet: Do people who were part of World Merit decide to work in UN organizations or to become entrepreneurs? Is there any way we can check patterns in their career and where did they end up after those initial years of activism?
Martina: So World Merit is actually an angle for you. We embrace a lot of things you would be able to make a difference at no matter if it is starting your social enterprise and telling your community, or you end up doing politics. It can be something as simple as being an everyday activist. World Merit does not serve to tell you in any way what to do. The point is to enable you to get there if you want to be a leader or a politician you will have to have a certain skill set.For example, we set up an online debate circle where people can improve their speaking skills. For people in certain communitiesthorough the world who do not have access to those opportunities itbeing able to practice with peers from around the world online those opportunities became quite important. For example in a country like Iraq, it was because of skill set that Ahmed learned through World Merit that he was able to start a social business, a global enterprise in Iraq that can now branch out to the world.
MUNPlanet: What is your opinion about UN agencies on the basis of your previous education and personal development? Would you possibly see yourself as working for some of them? Do UN agencies serve right the youth of today?
Martina: I think UN is an absolutely necessary body internationally, particularly as we see how connected the world is becoming. Whether or not we perceive globalization as reality cultures arespreading through cultures, people can interact more through social media. Institutions like UN who bring people together in the culturally diverse and racially diverse sense are absolutely necessary as they set a benchmark how we should communicate with one another; how we should work with one another. So in that sense I would work for UN as it embraces the idea that we really are one world that it is about humanity and various ways to be as a civilization and as a world.
When it comes to your point of UN agencies serving the youth of today; to be honest, as I come from the North American context, I know that it could be more done for young people, that there is not always enough place for people to voice their concerns. Now obviously that’s what UN serves to do, which is amazing. I think we need more of that; we need more young people raising their opinions more because they know how to face the reality, they know best what makes them feel active citizens, and they are part of their communities and want to contribute in some way.So, in that sense having those mechanisms is great, but we need to go out there and do something more.
MUNPlanet: I want to ask you about your stay in Serbia during One Young
World Caucus as it happened during EXIT festival. What did you like most about
this experience? We had a lot of adventures…What would you say to your friends
about this Festival?
Martina: To be honest, I was not sure what I was letting myself into. (laugh)I saw online ‘‘The Best European Festival’’ and asked myself, ‘‘I’ve been to a few festivals. What can it best possibly look like?’’ and I could not imagine what EXIT festival would be. The location could not be more Serbian and culturally you really feel the essence of Serbia. The amount of people from different cultures and how everyone collaborates through music, it does not matter where you are from; what you’ve lived through; where you’ve been, all of a sudden everybody is in the same place, everybody has the same purpose and it’s music. And the vibes, I’m getting chills right now, they are absolutely incredible. My experience of Serbia, of EXIT Festival, of this Caucus is really amazing and Serbian hospitality has been absolutely up notch and I could not be more grateful for this experience.
MUNPlanet: What tip would you like to give to young leaders at MUNPlanet who are fond of initiatives such as One Young World, World Merit?
Martina: I think sometimes we are caught in a trap as young people. We are huge population and sometimes we grossly underestimate ourselves how much time we have to move this world. Some of us come from the countries where political systems are not working as we would like them to work; or we come from places where we are not hugely connected or do not feel connected. But I think in a lot of ways that’s an illusion, it’s something we tell ourselves more than it is a reality. For those of us who live in democracy it is about living with other people. If those people feel they can bring change they can have all the power in the world to do so. If not, solely from the standpoint that there is so many of them pushing for change and interacting. I think the key right now is feeling that we have that power and we can do something about it. We do not have to be more forceful or revolutionary, it can be about small steps, changing the ways we live and interacting with people around us and we could really get surprised by people we meet out there and who are quite the same as we are.
MUNPlanet: Thank you so much, Martina for these words and acts of inspiration.
Images: Private archives