Frederick was the center of the world for two weeks.
About 130 students from 30 countries gathered July 14 through today at Hood College for the seventh annual UNESCO International Model United Nations summer camp.
This year’s conference allowed the young diplomats to role play as members of the U.N. Security Council; General Assembly; Economic and Social Committee; Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations; and the World Health Organization.
Guy Djoken, executive director of the UNESCO Center for Peace in Frederick, called the camp the only political simulation of its kind that brings students from across the globe.
The opportunity gives young adults the communication and networking tools they need to make the world a better place, Djoken said.
“(Children) have the power,” Djoken said. “Dr. King was not born a Dr. King. Gandhi was not born a Gandhi. … it’s not about waiting for others, it’s about doing things yourself.”
For R’ona Denys, of France, the camp demonstrated the importance of leadership. Living with other students and leaving Europe for the first time were lessons in maturity, she said.
“You have to let your voice come out,” said Denys, 16. “You have to share what you think. … I grew up so much during the camp.”
While Martin Siimann, 20, of Estonia said the camp was a chance to find new friends and “do something good in a bigger picture.” His most memorable days were those without dress pants and ties.
The group took field trips to New York, Washington, and historical sites such as Antietam, where they took a break from solving the world’s problems to canoe.
Informal outings let the kids be kids and brought them together as a team, Siimann said.
Maldives native Mohamed Sadhadh Khaleel, 19, had never participated in anything like the camp before. But he wanted to meet people from across the world and follow his passion for international politics.
“So many lives are being lost to war and corruption,” Khaleel said.
“(Change is) not only up to the policymakers … it comes down to all people. Without everybody having an optimistic view, nothing can change.”
Language barriers were sometimes an obstacle for the mock diplomacy, Khaleel said.
“Something gets lost in translation,” Khaleel said. “But everybody connected on another level.”
Many participants spoke of the deep friendships forged in a short amount of time. Their bond shows that international communication and peace are possible, Djoken said.
“I advise you to take a minute to think about the two weeks you spent with us,” Djoken told the students. “When I see tears of people trying to find a way not to leave us … our goal has been achieved.”
Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.