Out of nearly 13,000 works, the text signed by the 14 year old Romanian student, Maria Laura Dumbrava, entitled “It starts with me” was awarded III at the International Essay Contest of UNESCO 2015 organized by the GOI Peace Foundation on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of UNESCO. The Competition is organized yearly and promotes a culture of peace, according to the competition site.
This year the theme was “Building Peace in Our Hearts and Minds” and the competition organizers say they have received 12 960 essays from students in 148 countries.
The student has also won first prize in the competition organized by NASA both last year and this year, according to Telegrafonline.ro.
Maria Laura Dumbrava is in the eighth grade at the National College “Mircea cel Batran” in Constanta.
Below you can read Maria Laura Dumbrava’s Essay
It Starts with Me
“Who am I?” That is the question that every day I try to find an answer to. What shapes me as a human being are my thoughts and my actions while I interact with the others: children, adults, animals and nature. I have always felt a bond between us all and I found my strength and inspiration in God, family, friends and teachers. I think we are who we choose to be and that is why it is important to know all the alternatives when we take decisions.
The first page of my diary is an open-ended collection of promises I have made to myself: never to compromise my honesty, always listen before judging, be positive and find solutions, never be afraid of making mistakes as we can learn constructive lessons from them, set goals and take steps to reach them, appreciate and respect the others, defend the truth and speak up for those who are absent, love and help my family, my friends and my peers, not just take but also offer. So far, I may say that this is how I relate to the world and I strive to turn my beliefs into deeds.
The first time I reacted was when a boy from my class, Todirica, came to school with a bad haircut and some of boys started picking on him, throwing his cap to the ground. I went over to them and suggested we all played “paper planes”. We started negotiating the teams and that was the moment when I realized I had the power to change things. I made the boys see Todirica as a partner, as our colleague. Another thing that I have become aware of is that play unites us and it is a good way of overcoming conflicts.
Three years ago I got involved in recycling paper and collecting used oil in my neighborhood. It was my way of dealing with pollution. In addition to this, I and my friends have fun spending our time outdoors in a constructive way: we go to the beach at weekends and play, run, laugh while collecting the garbage we come across during our walk along the shore. What I love most is that, when we start picking up empty bottles and plastic bags, there are people on the beach who come to help us.
Last year in spring I went to a meeting with kids of our age who got into trouble and faced the consequences. They used ethnobotanics and were expelled from school. We gathered to talk about our future and focused on the steps each of us had to take to choose the best alternative from that point on. The purpose was to communicate, learn from the shared experiences and take responsibility for our actions.
This is the second year in a row when I tried to do more for our planet. I worked hard and studied a lot and success followed. I created two space settlements where communities were based on respect for life, justice and liberty, and did their best to both sustain themselves out there and help the Earth. My projects were SpaceBurg (2014) and Twins (2015) and were awarded the 1st prize at NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest. I consider that going to space could be a way of putting an end to the wars started for territories and resources. It could boost governments to work together, share new goals and achieve progress and prosperity for the entire mankind.
Little by little, as the words I write engulf the pages of my diary, I get to see the reflection of myself. This is how I build peace in my heart and mind: by doing what I consider to be the right thing which always seems to find echoes in the hearts of the others and form inspirational ripples in the mind of our community and beyond.
I will conclude this essay with Dalai Lama’s words: “an atmosphere of peace must first be created within ourselves, then gradually expand to include our families, our communities, and ultimately the whole planet”, and, I will add, the whole universe. All it takes is determination, hard work and love.