Friday, September 18, 2009

Intern's Voice, Ludivine Gendre

Every morning I leave Grand Central Station and walk to GAA office. Those daily ten minutes make me feel that I am part of New York City. I see people in suits and in a hurry, drinking their coffee as they go. I think, how lucky I am to live here and to go to work at 777 UN Plaza.

My name is Ludivine Gendre, I have been an intern at GAA since the end of June and I am leaving very soon which makes me feel very sad! I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Law in France and I hope to be studying in Paris next year.

I decided to work at GAA because of the Interns Voices on the website. The atmosphere here sounded very nice. I must admit it has been even better than I thought! Here at GAA, everybody is free to organize his or her time and tasks as he feels like. Magali and Susanne rely on us and trust us. GAA is gathering interns from all over the world. Working here teaches us a lot about other countries and cultural diversity.

At the office I am in charge of the French section; I also often have to focus on pensions, comparing the different national systems. Doing this research is very interesting and I learned a lot about aging issues. I particularly like finding articles dealing with Africa. I think many people in the world are unaware of the situation in these countries. That’s why we need to give them voice on the GAA website. But sometimes it is very hard to find articles and it varies every week.

This week I found an article that details a new philosophy of health care in nursing homes, the ‘
Humanitude,’ a humanist way of taking care of older people. This article shows that new ways can still be found to help older persons. I also enjoy finding small articles dealing with new studies. This week I found one that said older people need more of the 'sunshine vitamin' and that sunlight can be very good in providing them with vitamin D. This vitamin protects people from a number of diseases. Many studies show us that physicians are aware of aging issues and keep researching these topics so that they can help older people.

Time at GAA has been delightful, I got to know more about aging issues, I got involved in seminars with retired people, I went to the UN and I had a lot of fun during lunch breaks with all the other interns. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” that is what I have been told. I wish I could have stayed longer to have more fun.

Last week, a former GAA intern, Marie-Pascal Verly, sent us
some photos of older persons from Zambia where she spent a year with Catholic Relief Services. In August, Marya Hannun wrote a long article about older persons in Lebanon while she was working there in a refugee camp. These former interns are still in touch with GAA and keep working on aging issues. It seems that their experiences as interns here are never going to end. I am happy to think that I can still be useful for GAA in the future.

And if you think or have heard about an initiative or a new development that could help older persons, please let GAA know. Feel free to write a comment, we will be glad to hear and learn from your experiences!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Intern's Voice, Lucie Perrier

Human Rights, NGO, UN, Social Justice, New York… These were the keywords which caught my eye and dragged me into this office.

Before coming to 777 UN Plaza, NY, I didn’t have any idea that some people, somewhere in the world, were defending older persons. That is what appealed me to apply for this internship at GAA.

My name is Lucie Perrier and I have been at GAA since the beginning of August 2009. I will start my senior year in a couple of days at the Lycée international of Aix-en-Provence in France. This high school has offered me a lot during the past two years, providing me with a free international education as it promotes bilingualism and biculturalism. Thanks to the opportunities my teachers have given me, I have become increasingly interested in geography and current affairs. This is how I got involved almost a year ago in a life-changing experience called EYP. These three letters stand for European Youth Parliament, a non-profit organization encouraging European youth to engage actively in citizenship and cultural understanding. During EYP sessions and debates, I learned about Human Rights, international organizations such as the UN and the role of NGOs. Discussions with 300 European teenagers just like me, made me realize how important peace keeping and social justice were indifferent to cultural disparities.

It is almost the same purpose at GAA. We want to raise people’s awareness about the need for equality and respect but focused on older people. In order to do that, we look for articles dealing with seniors and post them to our website ( Being a high school student was intimidating the first day but thanks to the friendly atmosphere reigning in the office and the welcoming attitude of the older interns, it felt like home.

During these past weeks, I have been responsible to find articles in both English and French about elder rights in the US and in the world. I’ve looked at how older persons live in rural areas and what happens to them in armed conflicts or how they find help, if any, for their health care. I also contributed to the “look” of the website by updating the FrontPage every Friday. Posting on the website was relatively challenging for me as I had practically no computer skills. Thanks to GAA and our team work, I have learned a lot about computing.

One article that particularly touched me was titled Curtain falls on world’s oldest pupil, but after fulfilling his dream. Posted on August 16, 2009, the writer spotlighted Kimani Maruge, an 89-year-old Kenyan man, known as the oldest pupil in the world, passed away. He wanted to read so he could interpret the Bible on his own and to learn simple arithmetic. He became a symbol of the Kenyan government's success in offering free primary education. Even more, he demonstrated the resilience and hope of many uneducated people for basic literacy. Thanks to his big step, many adults went back to school in Kenya after the introduction of free primary school education in 2003. For this reason, Mr. Maruge spoke at the United Nations Millennium Development Summit on the importance of free primary education. He stated that "it would be good if all children of the world could go to school." I will always remember his quote because I am convinced that education is one of the most essential rights that everyone should enjoy.

I find GAA’s work very valuable and helpful to the UN. GAA’s attempts to encourage a convention or treaty guaranteeing the human rights of older persons is very important to all countries. Having the opportunity to be a part of the GAA team opened my eyes to the current plight of older people. Thanks a lot to Susanne and Magali! I will never forget my experienced with you and all the interns!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

World's Ageing Population

Judy Lear, an NGO colleague from the US-based Gray Panthers, joined older persons from Kenya and Uganda on a August 12, 2009 BBC World News show. Interviewers asked them about their situation—income, respect, work load and opportunities—in old age. Use your computer speaker to hear this lively program.