In January 2020, Mohamed Quarouach, a 17-year-old high school senior living in Marrakesh, Morrocco, would have described himself as “the shyest person in the room.” That all changed after a few of Mohamed’s friends encouraged him to enroll in a debate tournament with them. What was meant to be a one-time enrollment in a debate tournament turned into a non-profit organization providing accessible tournament options for Model United Nations (MUN) competitors worldwide.
When Mohamed and some friends enrolled in a local debate conference earlier this year, he fell in love with the event immediately, despite his fear of public speaking. As Mohamed’s competition skills and confidence increased, he became frustrated with MUN conferences’ expensive and geographically exclusive nature. Without a MUN club at his school or affordable options in his hometown of Marrakesh, Mohamed and three friends decided to create Stay Home Model United Nations (SHMUN).
SHMUN is an alternative option for MUN competitors looking to express their thoughts, improve public speaking skills, and meet and connect with participants from diverse cultural backgrounds. In May 2020, SHMUN began hosting coordinated virtual conferences that allow high school students to participate for free from anywhere in the world.
Initially, as Lead Founder and Director General, Mohamed’s job involved team management and overseeing the conferences’ execution. However, Mohamed recently transitioned into the role of Chairman of the Board of Founders. As Chairman, Mohamed looks for ways to solve SHMUN’s biggest challenge: how to adjust for different time zones.
With over 1,000 participants from 45 different countries, Mohamed has had to connect with SHMUN participants through Instagram Insights to discuss what times work best for competitors. SHMUN has competitors participating from three different continents, including active war zones, so Mohamed has to continually shift staff meeting times and conferences to accommodate participants. But to Mohamed, these adjustments are hardly a chore.
“For me personally,” said Mohamed, SHMUN “SHMUN took me out of my comfort zone. To help with my fear of public speaking, I tried speaking whenever I could, even when it seemed like I couldn’t. But I’m most proud of making MUN as accessible as we can make it for people from different countries. Being a global citizen and having empathy for people from other countries is very important, especially right now, and that is something you learn with MUN.”
Since its first official conference in May 2020, SHMUN has rapidly grown, and so has Mohamed’s love for MUN and confidence in his public speaking abilities. Mohamed credits SHMUN competitions for giving him “the chance to meet people facing the same [public speaking] problem as me from around the world. MUN showed me that I’m not alone and that I can improve with time.”
Born in New York City and now a frequent visitor, Liv moved to Miami at a young age and is a student at Ransom Everglades School where she is a member of the Speech & Debate and Academic teams. Liv is fifteen years old and most passionate about politics and innovation in education systems. An aspiring political analyst, in Fall 2020, Liv is launching Phos, a YouTube series for high school students that shines a light on and dissects recurring issues in the news and current events from multiple perspectives. She is thrilled to contribute to Gen Z Identity Lab to help share diverse points of view that move peer conversations from thoughts to actions to change.