Hi everyone! My name is Diana Vicezar and I am second from right in the photo above, 18 years old and from the country known as the heart of South America, Paraguay! I am one of the winners of the Teens Dream 2018 video contest. My dream is to help the 200 million stray dogs with housing, as a means of addressing SDG #15 Life on Land. I made my video about Mymba Rayhu, a youth-led non-profit organization that I founded when I was 16 years old, and that focused on raising awareness about animal welfare and plastic pollution.

I found out about Teens Dream through a website of opportunities for young people. When I read about the competition and the work that Global Co Lab does to help young people from different parts of the world fulfill their dreams to make the world a better place, I realized that I needed to get involved and send my video and share what I had been doing with my nonprofit organization Mymba Rayhu.

After submitting my video, I did not imagine that I could be selected among so many applicants from all over the world. To my surprise, I received the great news on March 31. I remember crying because I was very happy that they chose my organization as one of the 9 winners this year. Since that day, Linda Staheli, founding director of the Global Co Lab Network, and all team members helped me get ready for the BIG CELEBRATION.

Little did I know that amazing things were waiting for me after joining this Global Family. As a winner of the Teens Dream competition, I was assigned a mentor who would guide me on how to make my dream come true. Jennifer Katac is the Director of Community Programs at Animal Welfare League of Arlington, an organization I was interested in even before I met Jennifer.

I traveled to Washington, DC last October to attend the annual celebration. After 17 hours traveling from Paraguay to DC, I finally met the other winners of this year and past years, my mentor and all the people who work with the network. Linda and her team introduced me to the host family that made me feel at home since day 1. I can say that one of the best parts of this experience was to share my dreams and projects with this family.

My second day in DC was full of great moments. In the morning I met my mentor Jennifer Katac, who took me on a tour around her workplace, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. She introduced me to all the people who work there, including CEO Samuel Wolbert. I learned about all the services they offer, and the ways they help animals and promote adoption in the city. It could not have been a better way to spend my first morning in DC than meeting amazing people and cute animals ready to go home.

After the meeting with my mentor, I went to the United Nations Foundation Headquarters, where I had the opportunity to present my nonprofit and talk about my dream; a milestone I never imagined achieving. During a special meeting on Youth working for the Sustainable Development Goals around the world, I met the other 9 winners whose innovative videos inspired me to continue working hard to make my dream come true. This meeting with Anna Mahalak, current Youth Engagement Manager at the UN Foundation, was a unique and perfect opportunity to share not only my story leading Mymba Rayhu but also about the reality of many other young people leading projects related to the 15th Global Goal: Life on Land.  When I was at headquarters, I could not stop thinking about how life puts us in the right place at the right time to make the most of all the opportunities. When I applied to the Teens Dream competition, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to be in such a great place as the UN Foundation Headquarters.

The day was getting even better. After having lunch, we all went sightseeing downtown. Arlington Independent Media was the next place to visit. There we had some presentations lead by Brian Coyle from the Smithsonian Earth Optimism and Eco Teen Action Network, and the Teen Co-Creators. My day had a perfect closing dinner with all the other winners, who in just a couple of hours became my friends.

On Saturday afternoon we had a big celebration where our videos were presented and all the winners received our award certificates. My mentor and I spoke in front of an audience of more than 130 people. I talked about why I created the video and why the topic matters to me. My mentor made a brief presentation about why the topic is important, what they do in the Animal Welfare League and the reasons why youth activism is important. After the celebration, we all went to the reception at Linda’s house, where we enjoyed great food and had good conversations before returning to our cities to start working to make our dreams come true.

This wonderful experience made me realize that we need to believe that everything we are doing right now has a purpose in our lives, nothing is a coincidence. Don’t give up on the things you love! Some of our goals may seem impossible to achieve, but we must never stop dreaming of making them a reality.

I want to thank Global Co-Lab for giving me the opportunity to be part of this network of young changemakers and open new doors for me. Thanks to Linda Staheli, Suzanne Wells and her family, Pat Sartorius and the winners for all their support before and during my stay in DC. I can’t wait to engage with the Hubs and help make the change in the world.