The 2021 edition of the Day of General Discussion organized by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child had a connection with Kerala.
One of the opening remarks and the only one delivered by a child was from 17-year-old Amilyn Rose Thomas. Her family is from Pala in the Kottayam district of Kerala. Other speakers at the opening session were the Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Associate Director and Global Head of UNICEF and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children. .
What is the event
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) holds a day of general discussion every two years and the 81st session was organized on September 16-17. The DGD is an opportunity for children, young people and political decision-makers to meet for a day and talk about a specific problem related to children’s rights. This year, the theme was children in alternative care.
Amilyn, a deserving participant
This theme was indeed special for Amilyn as her brother Immanuel Thomas is a special needs child with a rare genetic mutation called cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome, a disorder affecting various parts of the body. He was born on November 14, 2011 and was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for six months with complications from seizures and respiratory distress.
“Amilyn’s experience in caring for her disabled brother has made her a strong advocate for children’s rights and made sure children’s voices are heard. She is also part of the model United Nations and debate teams at her school, ”said Mikiko Otani, Chair of the Committee, introducing her for the opening speech.
Amilyn took a college credit program in creative writing during the summer of her 8th year. As a very young student who took this college level course with English teachers and English undergraduates, many teachers were very impressed with her work.
She wrote a poem about Emmanuel and his seizures that caught the attention of many, including Dr. Pavan Antony, professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, New York, and professor of special education. Dr Antony appointed her to the CRC Children’s Advisory Team.
Following the nomination, Amilyn was selected as one of 30 members out of 250 applicants from around the world, representing 19 countries and worked with the committee for almost two years as a member of the Children’s Advisory Team. She represented the United States of America.
“It was amazing. I have worked with children all over the world which in my opinion was the best part. I have met children from Pakistan, Nepal and many African countries,” said Amilyn on her experience working with the Children’s Advisory Team.
Their main objective was to discuss the topic “children placed under alternative care” and to compare care options in different countries, to conduct global surveys among children, to identify global stakeholders from organizations of children. children and provide guidance to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and prepare the agenda for the Day of General Discussion to be held at the UN World Headquarters in Geneva.
However, COVID-19 played the spoiler and the event that was to take place on September 18, 2020 in Geneva took place a year later, on September 16, 2021 via the Zoom meeting. You can watch it on UN Web TV.
Motivated and focused
Amilyn’s experience in caring for Emmanuel has committed her to working for a better future for children with special needs. She wants to become a pediatric surgeon and has “a great desire to defend children”.
His young age does not prevent him from gaining more experience and learning by doing more. This summer, she did an internship at a local Philadelphia hospital with a research team. “I got used to the patients and the doctors and loved the environment I want to be in one day,” says Amilyn.
At school, she runs a club for Operation Smile. It is a non-profit medical services organization that performs free surgeries worldwide for children with cleft lip.
“Since living in America I think we are very privileged because we have good health insurance and amazing programs for children with special needs. But in other parts of the world, and in low-income places, even America, people with special needs do not have access to quality care, ”notes the adolescent advocate.
“I want to show that high quality care should be available to everyone, no matter how much money you make, no matter where you live,” she shares.
Well rooted in Kerala culture
Amilyn is the daughter of José Thomas and Merline Augustine. Jose is owned by Avimoottil House in Pala and is the eldest son of AJ Joseph (retired office staff, Alphonsa College Pala) and Rosamma. Merline comes from the Kunnakkattu house in Moolamattom.
Jose and Merline got married while in the United States in 2000. Amilyn was born there and is a US citizen.
Jose works as a math teacher at Spring Ford Area High School and Merline is associate director of global compliance at Pfizer Inc., a major pharmaceutical.
Although the family is currently based in Philadelphia, they visit Kerala once every two or three years.
“We have always tried to instill Kerala values and culture in our children,” said Jose.
For the opening speech on September 16, Amylin was dressed in Indian attire. “We chose the dress on purpose. We have to show our culture and this has its own value, especially in front of the UN audience, ”he said.
Here is what Emilyn had to say about Kerala: “I really love Kerala because I can see my whole family and it helps me relearn my skills in Malayalam.”
During her last visit to Kerala in 2019, Amilyn gave a presentation and spoke about emotional intelligence in some schools and colleges in Kerala. She chose the topic because she was alarmed by the suicide rates in the state.
“I hope to come back to India one day and help the children,” says Amilyn.