Blog Post
Advocating for the Needs of Youth

What does it mean to advocate for the needs of youth? For me, it means to offer my talents and passions to raise awareness about critical global issues and to support the advancement of children’s rights. That is why Storyshares is a platform that is so close to my heart, and why I find so much enjoyment working with Storyshares!  

I first started to write professionally to raise awareness for children’s rights during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I wrote The Woman with the Large Coat, to raise funds for children and youth education during the pandemic and donated all profits to Doctors Without Borders. In my book, I wrote about global cultures and a young girl who travels the world with a spy. It was very important for me to include this global aspect to the book, since it was written to inspire and appeal to children all over the world who were being supported by Doctors Without Borders.

Alongside my writing, I am the president of the UNICEF UNITE Club in my community, that I founded in cooperation with UNICEF USA. As a UNICEF UNITE Club, we are on the front lines of youth-led change to realize the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children by advocating, fundraising, educating, and community building. Some of the projects which we have organized include fundraisers for children in Ukraine (which I was invited to present to US Congressmen), homebound citizens, girls in Africa who don’t have access to equal education, World Children’s Day, and UNICEF’s annual Trick or Treat for UNICEF. Some topics of lessons and advocacy work we have taken part in include Education, Advocacy, Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Gender Equality, Girls’ Empowerment, Water and Sanitation, Climate, Mental Health, and Humanitarian Emergencies. I also worked as an advocate for UNICEF USA’s Advocacy Month in May of 2022, meeting with US Representatives and Congressmen about the Keep Girls in School Act and Mental Health Laws for youth.

I am also a member of the European Union Youth Forum, where I act as the voice for young people, and strive for societies where young people are empowered and encouraged to achieve their fullest potential as global citizens. I have gone on many community service trips with the EU to Brussels, Belgium; Munich, Germany; and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel. I was invited to Brussels as a contest finalist for the EU Limitless Youth Essay Contest, held in honor of the year of youth. One writer was selected from each country in Europe, and my essay won the winning title! Our essays were judged by members of the European Parliament. There, I took part in workshops about different aspects and limits for political participation for European youth with the director of the European Union Youth Commission and members of the European parliament. I also went to Munich to volunteer in an oral history workshop “Remember - Learn - Act” in partnership with local youth groups. We also brainstormed the needs of current European youth and projects implementing artificial intelligence, the metaverse, and virtual reality among European youth.

My most recent volunteer project was in Israel, a European Communities Ethnic, Cultural, and Religious Program taking part in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There, we met with the Israeli Voluntary Service, youth groups, the Magen David Adom Jewish and Arab youth volunteers. We also planted trees with the Jewish National Fund and met the conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra to discuss the EuropeanUnion Youth Arts Project. Additionally, we met with Israeli diplomat Dan Shaham about the 75 years of the State of Israel, were invited to an “Idea to Venture” startup lecture at the University of Tel Aviv, and met with the representatives of the Free State of Bavaria for economics, science, technology, education, and youth exchange in Israel.

In February 2023, I was awarded the Congressional Award Gold Medal for leadership, community service, and social impact. A highlight of my social impact while receiving the award was the work I have done with Storyshares. During June 2023, I was invited by the Congressional Award Team to Washington DC for the Congressional Award Gold Medal Summit, where I was able to share the Storyshares vision and my Storyshares books. 

Perhaps the closest to my heart and the favorite of all my projects is my work with Storyshares. The first book I wrote for Storyshares, Divided in Land and Together in Heart, was during the 2021 Story of the Year Contest, which won an honorable mention award. I wrote about the real peace history of a small Mediterranean island named Cyprus. Two girls from different ethnicities and languages who lived in the same country on the north and south sides of the island organize a bi-communal concert to emphasize and support worldwide peace for both communities on the island. I wrote this book reflecting on real life experiences and adding knowledge about both communities from participating in United Nations peace groups. Next, I wrote A Million Steps to Freedom, during the 2022 Storyshares Story of the Year contest and won an honorable mention. I wrote about the personal experiences of a young Ukrainian refugee, also inspired by the European Union peace groups and projects I have taken part in. I am so excited to continue working with Storyshares and support their mission in any way possible.

Read Kugu's Storyshares books here!