Club hosts U.N. conference

Chris James/Pioneer
Young leaders from the office of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic video conferenced with studnet in OCCC’s Bruce Owen theater on April 24. Students were encouraged to ask questions about UN volunteer organizations that they can get involved with.

Approximately 100 people attended the video conference OCCC hosted with the United Nations in the Bruce Owen Theater on April 24. Student Life and the Multicultural Student Business Association were the sponsors behind this special event.

Speakers from around the globe spoke about international human rights issues facing society in the 21st century.

The event host, Akash Patel, is an OCCC student who spent last summer in Costa Rica teaching children in an orphanage how to speak English as part of a summer intern program.



Over the winter break he worked in the Dominican Republic.

“You are never too young to make a difference,” Patel said. He will graduate this spring and transfer to the University of Oklahoma to pursue a degree in education.

The main speaker, Gina Rosario Diaz, is secretary general of the Model United Nations, a UN sponsored organization of young leaders committed to international cooperation.

Speaking through Skype, Diaz was hoping to make a connection with the audience by sharing information on UN internships, as well as non-profit agencies, specifically Friends of the First Lady in the Dominican Republic.

Modern technology allowed the students from the Dominican Republic to express to the world the socio- economic challenges in their country.

“There are some men who dream in the daytime with their eyes wide open,” Patel said. “They are the most dangerous.

“Today we have with us [via Skype] some of the most dangerous dreamers,” he said, describing the people he had worked with in the Dominican Republic on different projects.

Two of the topics Diaz talked about were the human trafficking and the agency called the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development.

Maria Dolores Luna, director of Friends of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, spends her time to bring awareness to human trafficking. She said human trafficking involves street children or adolescents who are pressed into service as slave labor in exchange for the necessities of life.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the situation in the Dominican Republic is difficult because of the population of minors for whom the streets have become home. Many of them have faced a hostile environment beginning at an early age.

Dominican Republic street children beg as a means of subsistence. Approximately one-third turn to robbery, one fifth engage in prostitution, while some turn to selling drugs as a means to survival.

“The first step is awareness,” Luna said. Volunteers from her group go to public schools to give conferences to the students about their human rights.

Luna told the audience how important it is not to overlook basic human rights.

The mission of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development is to develop alliances with international partners to promote sustainable social and economic development and to strengthen democracy in the Dominican Republic and Latin America.

Patel asked the audience of students to get involved and to look at international agencies for internship opportunities.

Patel did a good job presented a slide show of himself dancing with some “street kids” that he worked with in January. The purpose behind these pictures was to show that street children love to have fun, the same as everyone else.

“There are no differences in any of us,” Patel said.

Portrayed in the photos was former President Bill Clinton, with the Dominican collaborators working with his project.

“President Clinton has attended over 30 conferences to bring awareness to human rights in the Dominican Republic and Latin America,” Patel said.

To contact William E. Ross, email

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