From The Science Lab to the Global Stage: One Japanese-American Student’s Journey to Solve Hunger

 This is Daisuke. A chemistry student at Yale University in the United States, he was passionate about solving hunger but didn’t know how studies would help him learn how to make a difference. This past summer, he stepped outside of “the insular world of the chemistry lab” to intern at the WFP office in Tokyo.  There, he learned about an essay contest for college students hosted by the International Monetary Fund.

 He turned to all that he learned during his internship at WFP to write the essay for the International Monterary Fund (IMF) competition about the people behind the numbers of global economics – the moms struggling to feed their families and the farmers trying to make a living during times of drought. He called on international organizations like the IMF to foster dialogue among today’s youth to bring true innovation to how we address global challenges.

He won the competition and a trip to the annual meeting between the IMF and the World Bank, but the real prize was more personal: he saw the incredible impact his voice can have on hunger. We asked him some questions to learn more about what went into his award-winning essay and how he plans to stay involved in the fight against hunger. Read on for some real inspiration.
What inspired you to participate in the competition?
I first heard about the competition from an event that I had the pleasure to attend as an intern at the WFP in Japan. It was a gathering of staff from various UN-affiliated organizations, and there I heard about the IMF essay contest from a person who was working at the IMF office in Japan. I decided to participate in the competition because I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about the economy. Admittedly, I knew very little about the economy living a sheltered life in college, but as a young adult who will soon enter the workforce, I realized that I couldn’t turn a blind eye to economic issues forever. The contest allowed me to do research on the current economic situation and what is being done to alleviate the crisis.
How did you choose the subject of your essay and how did your internship at WFP inform it?
I began my research with things around me that I could relate to and that I knew were being affected by the economy. Luckily, I had heard an address given by the WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin in Japan, where she talked about how droughts and inflation exacerbated the situation in the Sahel region of West Africa. I also saw various images of malnourished children in the media because I was working with  WFP’s public information team of. My experience at the WFP was therefore the launching point of my research into the economy. In the same way, my essay also used my experience at the WFP as the starting point to later discuss the role of the IMF.
What was writing the essay like? Did anything/anyone help you?
Writing the essay certainly wasn’t easy. Much of the information that I found was laden with technical jargon and was extremely difficult to comprehend. After trying for multiple days to read papers and understand them, I ultimately decided that it would be best to be candid about my exposure to the economy and about my own personal perspectives. Through my research and time at the WFP, I have come to the realization that the economy really impacts a multitude of aspects in our lives. I certainly intend on being more cognizant of the economic situations around the world from now on.
What do you see as your role in helping to solve hunger? What advice do you have for students like yourself looking to make a difference on hunger?
One of the recurring themes that came up during the IMF and World Bank meetings as a youth fellow was what youth can do to solve problems. We discussed the fact that oftentimes, it’s difficult for youth to imagine how they can make a difference – the economy seems so big and the systems seem so bureaucratic. I think that this problem is not only limited to economic issues. In the same way, it can be hard to imagine how someone like me can help solve a global problem like hunger. But I think the easiest and best way to start is by raising awareness about these issues. And this too is my advice for students – although it might not seem like much at first, just talking about the issues with friends and thinking about them can have a domino effect that can eventually reach a large scale. If people are not made aware of the situation, after all, how can they be galvanized into action? By initiating discussion about these topics, we can get more people involved in our efforts, including youth of today who will be leaders of tomorrow.
How do you hope to stay involved in the work of WFP in the future?
In the future I think I’d like to work at a U.N. agency or some kind of humanitarian organization. What this conference has highlighted for me is the interconnectedness of these organizations and efforts. Because solving hunger is such a multidisciplinary problem, it takes many different approaches to solve it. And in that sense, I am sure that my future will be related to the work of the WFP, even if I may not be directly working for the WFP. For example, at the IMF and World Bank conference, the World Bank particularly piqued my interest because of their approach in ending poverty. That kind of mission is something that I am interested in pursuing, and also one that is shared by the WFP. So I am sure that I will cross paths with the WFP frequently in the future!
You can read Daisuke’s award-winning essay here.