My name is Michael, and I am pleased to be the head coach of Catalyst1. The students who have worked so hard on this project are amazing. Despite heavy academic loads, they have dedicated enormous time and effort to bring our project to completion.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to study at the University of Nairobi for a year. My time in East Africa was truly life changing. While I have spent the last twenty years of my life teaching United States history, I have never forgotten my time there. The generosity and love of the people I met in Kenya will always be a part of who I am.
To the outside world, the nations of Africa are mysterious and poorly understood. Now that the United States and Europe are pre-occupied with our own economic woes, Africa is no more than a blip on the radar screen. That is a tragedy. Someday, the world will look back at the conflict in the Congo and ask “why didn’t we do more?”
I hope that our site is a first step in the right direction.
In closing, I would like to thank Katarina for bringing the team together. I first met her when she came to the California Academy of Math & Science [CAMS] to study as an exchange student. Now, she is back in Serbia and a full time student at the University of Belgrade while I continue in my twentieth year as a classroom teacher. Katarina was responsible for assembling the European half of our team. I was in charge of recruiting the two United States students involved on the project. Thanks to modern technology, the distances involved have not hampered our ability to work closely together as a team.
Thank you Oracle for allowing us this opportunity to work together. We are anxious to get our message out there-to we are anxious to be a catalyst of change!
Hello everyone! My name is Katarina. I am 19 years old and living in Belgrade, capital of Serbia where I study law at the University of Belgrade and live my (un)extraordinary life. Belgrade has been my home for most of my life, and even though I have lived and plan to live in other places and for the past three years have been making my way through Europe and stepping into the Middle East for the first time in my travels, it will always remain a city I will come back to in the end, a place where my heart truly feels like it belongs. At sixteen I got an opportunity to go to the United States as a Young Ambassador of Serbia in a State Department funded project and live there for a year which has been an experience that changed not only the way I perceive the world but also the way I perceive myself. A desire to study medicine that was in my heart for whole my life was slowly replaced by the love for social studies, the wish to change the world - not with a scientific approach anymore but in a constant fight for justice, equallity, tolerance, human rights and freedom! That experience also brought many amazing people in my life and one of them is Michael Denman – someone I feel truly honored to work with on this project and assist in bringing this website into life and into your lives, like the whole Catalyst1 team dreams to!
My role in the team was one of an Assistant coach. In my role, I organised online meetings, divided tasks, kept our discussion board up to date and guided the team members through the process of creating the website. I can say with complete honesty that I felt truly privileged to assist in coaching these extraordinary young people. Even though I approached bringing them together with hesitation because of the turbulent past some of the participants’ countries have between them and questioning how will that affect these people who do not even know each other, and are pre-destined to rivalry by their country unfortunate politics, I feel like these circumstances just enriched our work and made it even more a unique one. Watching the participants getting to know each other, how their relationship evolved with time and how passionate they were about this was priceless. Their hard work motivated me to work as hard as I can as well to make our mutual dream a reality – sending the voice of 5.4 million people who lost their lives in Congo into the world! Because their voice deserves to be heard, and deserves to be heard loudly!
When we all met for the first time as members of a prospective ThinkQuest team almost nobody knew each other. During the course of three months we have worked together and worked hard to bring this project to life with a wish to make a difference, to be the catalysts of change. Past three months behind us have been an amazing journey and I am more than happy to see that the friendships created during this live out of the ThinkQuest world as well. We have decided to bridge our differences and come together to send a message for those who cannot send it themselves as well as send a message of how peace and cooperation is possible in between youth that dreams big, thinks different and truly wants to achieve something great in their lifetime. For us, that great achievement is asking all of you to stop and listen... Because 5.4 million voices in Congo are calling!
Hello, my name is Anja (Anya). I am 19 years old and come from Serbia, where I was born. I have lived in Belgrade for all my life where I study law at the faculty of law. I love my country very much, its nature and beauty, its couture and people who live here, trying so hard to be noticed by their strength, smartness and beauty and in these values stand out from all the other in the world. Also, I love law and my faculty. When I have time, books are my favorite choice for spending it on...especially Russian writers. I like singing and acting, doing sports- swimming and running, Latin dances also attract me. I adore languages; I speak English, Russian, Bosnian, Croatian, and little Italian. I also like travelling. My dream is to touch the stars, but considering the fact that it impossible I will compensate it by becoming successful lawyer and visiting London, New York, Istanbul, Moscow and Rome.
My role in the team was to explain how Congo civil war started - what were the roots of the crisis. I tried to be very analytic and simple in explaining so everyone could understand. This project has two positive sides: firstly, students from all over the world will be able to find out more about this important but still neglected subject and to inform themselves and their friends and secondly, this project connected different cultures and religions into one entity. I met people who made my life richer with their creativity, smartness, cooperation, tolerance and kindness. Every one of us gave signature on this project with own language, culture and religion. Also I tried to do the same so now can freely say that we gave the best of us, individually and as a team. Every of this people were human in the first place and after that Serbian, Bosnian, Slovakian, Jewish, Albanian etc... Team cooperation and tolerance brought us to this point after maybe few difficulties, which we solved together in our meetings and consultations.
To sum up-this was very fun, educative and interesting! ThinkQuest was an amazing experience...so THANK YOU THINKQUEST and all THANK YOU ALL MY TEAM MEMBERS!
Hello everyone! My name is Dora and I have lived in the United States my entire life. Though I have not traveled to other countries, I have an immense passion for international relations and human rights. When I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this project, I was ecstatic, especially since I am particularly interested in working in Africa. Though I cannot speak of personal experience of war, I have heard first hand accounts of the brutality of war and the damage it does to families. When I heard we would be focusing on the crisis in the Congo, I knew it was a story that had to be told. A question I consistently ask myself is, “How can we learn how to listen to the voices of those who have suffered?”
In high school, I co-founded a club to combat genocide in Darfur and I continue my work through college. I am currently a proud member of STAND, the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. In fact, this past academic quarter, we raised over $7,000 to fund the Darfur Stoves Project, which helps provide fuel-efficient stoves for the people in internally displaced camps in Darfur. I cannot imagine my life without my human rights work and involvement with global issues. When asked to do this project, I asked myself, “Well, how could I say no?” I knew I couldn’t be too busy to do something positive for others.
For this project, my primary role was as a researcher for the team. I was mainly involved in discussing the aftermath of the wars, current events, and what can ordinary citizens do to help end the crisis. Moreover, I was involved in editing the content of the website and developing ideas for how to make the website interactive. I helped contribute to techniques to make the website more appealing. As I started researching this topic, I realized how daunting the task before me was. However, I was inspired to move forward based on the dedication of all my teammates. I enjoyed all of our online conferences and email exchanges with each other. Some of us were able to work collaboratively together in person. By no means did my team and I agree on every course of action to take, but I think that is a part of the process. When we were given our first round of criticisms from our coach, we had several back and forth discussions about what should and should not be changed. Through careful negotiations, we were always able to reach a decision that was best for the team.
We also used a specialization of tasks to divide up the work. People who were more apt with website designing got that job while others who were good in writing were able to correct others’ mistakes. It was wonderful how everyone’s roles just fell into place. I think we just capitalized on each other’s strengths to create something meaningful. Not to mention the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences, but the variety of ideas truly helped us make our website the product it is today. I felt like the odd one out because everyone on my team spoke more than one language fluently, but I was able to learn from them and gain a greater appreciation for other cultures. Overall, the experience has been life-defining and I’m glad I could be a part of it.
Hi! My name is Natasa and I come from Serbia. Actually I was born in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) but had to move to Belgrade when the Civil war broke out. Even though i was only 2 years old, I felt war consequences on my own skin and that's why this project was special for me.
I love to spend my spare time reading books especially those which attempt to discover the human soul like “Crime and punishment" by Dostoyevski and “Cursed backyard” by a Serbian Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric. My friends, good books and relaxing music are things that make me happy. I am very interested in the history of the Balkans and molecular biology. Even though I wanted to become a scientist in the end i found myself in the area of law, which I am studying at the moment at the University of Belgrade. I really love my country and people who live here for many reasons, most of all because Serbia is my home and the only place I feel like I belong to. Because I had a personal conflict experience every injury of human rights hurts me and that is the reason why this project was a challenge for me.
My task was to present The Second Congo War. I tried to explain reasons which produced this bloody conflict and to present the information as simple as i could for such a complex topic where I couldn't give myself too much liberty in interpretation. At the begging i found myself lost in those facts but later I began to discover the main core of conflict. I want,like other members of my team, to send a message to the whole world about the suffering and terrible crimes which happened in Congo and not only educate, but also inspire others to do something about this.
In terms of team collaboration, in the beginning working with my team for me was a complete culture shock. Nationalities with turmoiled past were brought together and turned towards collaborating with eachother. As time progressed and we stayed stay focused on this project I found myself discovering new horizons and learning from those who were once beyound distant to me in many ways. Sometimes it was hard but we succeded to break cultural walls because for all of us this project has a special meaning and we all put our hearts in it. There was a moments when we couldn't get along with each other but at the end, team spirits won! While working on this project I figured it out that people in the Balkans don't know what happened in Congo. I hope this project touches their hearts, and not only here but all over the world. It has certanly touched ours. We all came together from many different sides and backgrounds and working on this subject we have managed to bridge our own differences and work hard as we could, because our inspiration was not only sending a message of peace among us but firstly, sending the voice of 5.4 million people who lost their lives in the Congo conflict into the world.
Hi! I’m Noar. I’m 19 years old and I come from Kosovo, the newest country in the world. I was born in the capital Prishtina and have lived here ever since. I am currently in my senior year in High School and after I graduate, I’m planning to pursue studies in Law and Diplomacy. I am very interested in mythology, geography and film-making. My ultimate dream is to take a three-month bike trip around Iceland while filming every moment of it.
When first invited I was very intrigued to work on the Thinkquest project. After meeting the wonderful group which comprises of very diverse nationalities, including ones that had previously been in conflicts themselves (Kosovo-Serbia, Bosnia-Serbia, USA-Vietnam), I was truly excited to start working and see how everything evolves. Unanimously, we agreed to choose the Congo conflict as our subject, as we deemed it very important and a story that needs to be told immediately.
During the course of creating the website, we had many online discussions that proved to be quite productive. Personally, having been a part of a conflict myself, I tried to contribute by offering a more personal view of what damages war can bring and help incorporate that into the relevant Congo conflict. The co-operation between the team members was slick and excellent but the most attractive part was the diversity of the team. Our team consisted of people from Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. The versatility in geography was just the beginning. Consequently, we had 5 different languages and every religion you can name. Christianity, Islam, Taoism all gathered in our team only to become one and through a website send a message of the importance of peace and dialogue. That’s what I cherished the most about this project, the ability to bring people together and work towards achieving the same goal. Without trying to brag a lot, I think our team sets a great example of how obvious differences, not only in ethnicities, but also in political views can be forgotten when there is a mutual aim to be reached. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens, the message we’re sending is the best part of this and that is why I remain very happy to have been part of Thinkquest!
Hello! My name is Zelmira, and I come from Serbia, a country in southeastern Europe. I am 19 years old, and I was born in the capital of Serbia, and right now I live in Stara Pazova, a town near Belgrade. After finishing Grammar school I enrolled and am currently attending the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade. I like reading books, especially books about history, religions and various cultures, which is best way to learn something about human nature and character – something that inspired a deeper interest in me on working on this subject. My hobbies are photography, painting and drawing. Beside Serbian, I speak Slovakian, which is my native language, but also English, German, Croatian and Bosnian.
I am very proud to belong to a country with such rich history that unfotunally also had some turbulent times - just like Congo’s. Our cultural climate is very coloured and various, because the Balkan peninsula has been settled by many nationalities and ethnic groups, such as Serbian, Hungarian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovakian, Romanian, Macedonian, Albanian and other including also the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Islam religion. Unfortunately, this region was often on the cross-fire and through centuries devastated by many wars and conflicts. Some of them have left a mark on my generation as well.
Our personal experience has inspired us to make this project about Congo and raise awareness on the attrocities that happened and are still happening in the region, also by working together send a message of peace into the world and show that cooperation and tolerance is possible! My role in this ThinkQuest project has been to acquaint prospective readers with elementary facts about this country - its politics, geography and history. Our team was very hardworking, assertive and wilful to make this work because we think that the happenings in Congo are a global problem and not just regional and that the world has to turn the spotlight towards this issue. In the process of making the website everybody had great and innovative ideas and we agreed on many things but also, we had different oppinions about some and we resolved that through dialogue and understanding . We have all worked hard to bring this to life, and through hard work and cooperation this project taught me many lessons. The most important thing which I acquired while I was doing this is that team-work and respecting other ideas and opinions are very relevant, not just for this project, but in our whole life. As our work is coming to an end I feel very happy because we have contributed a part to such a great thing as the ThinkQuest competition and hope our message will be heard loudly in the world!
Hola! My name is Khanh. At 16 years old, I am the youngest member of this team. I am responsible for the designing and coding of the website. When one of the coaches told me about this contest, I was eager to sign up. Not only do I have some years of experience in coding, but I also enjoy the whim of designing as I do with the relaxation of drawing, painting, and pyrography. One of my favorite hobbies is reading horror stories, especially those by H.P. Lovecraft, classics, such as The Three Musketeers and Don Quixote, and Chinese series about sword fights and adventure.
Immigrated as a country bumpkin from Vietnam to the United States when I was nine, I know what it's like to come from a poor country. However, my experience could not amount to what many Congolese are going through. I knew very little about this current crisis before doing this project, but now I am more informed and quite shocked of how apathetic or ignorant people are of this tragedy (as I was). I hope that many will benefit from our website by raising awareness to others around them. Finally, I want to thank the coaches and members. Working with all of you was memorable!