In an interview with UPU News, 2021 International Letter-Writing Competition (ILWC) winner Nubaysha Islam from Bangladesh spoke about her letter on COVID-19 and her hopes for the future.What were your first impressions when you saw the theme for this competition, which asked young people to write a letter to a family member about their experience with COVID-19?
When I saw the theme, the first thing that came into my mind was that this theme is special because it would bring letters that hold unique stories – they will contain the struggles of young people like me. When I read these letters, I will feel like I'm not alone. We all are in this together. We all are struggling. We all are fighting with this. After 10 years or maybe 15 years, our next generation, when they read these letters, will understand what what we were going through and how hard it was. This year's theme will create history.
Your letter is very personal and emotional. What did you feel as you were writing it?
I felt grateful because I had the strength to write the letter. During that time, things were really bad. People were dying and everything was horrifying, but I was healthy, I was safe and my family was safe.
What message did you wish to convey with your letter?
There are two things that I would like to emphasize.
First, there is a paragraph in my letter where I talk about the reason behind this pandemic. I thought, “Maybe this is nature taking revenge on us. Maybe it's because we are hurting nature and nature is hurting us back?” But then it didn't make sense to me because why would we call it Mother Nature? Moms don’t take revenge on us. So I tried to decipher what it would mean.
What I believe is that if I do something wrong, my mom would punish me. She might scold me, but at the end of the day, she would help me and she would say, “It’s alright, just don't repeat it in the future.” I think nature is the exact same. All these pandemics and all the natural disasters, they are some type of warning that it's time we stand up and protect our planet.
The other thing that is most important is hope. I've seen many people who are very pessimistic about the future of our planet. They're always thinking negatively and they're not hopeful. If you’re not hopeful and you think negatively, things are not going to improve, they might even get worse. Only when we think positively and we’re hopeful can we come up with new ideas and how to deal with climate change.
For instance, during this pandemic, because we were hopeful and because we were thinking positively, we could come up with the vaccines and other medications and it's saving thousands of lives. When I compare the situations between last year and the present, it's different and I’m stronger, I'm happier, I feel more safe. If we work hard, we are going to find a solution and things are going to end.
Our next competition theme will ask participants to write a letter to someone influential explaining why and how they should take action on climate change. What do you think about this theme and what is your advice to next year’s letter-writers?
[The theme] will reflect how young people like me actually think about climate change. Who knows – we might get new ideas and new suggestions on how to protect our planet because it is asking for their thoughts and opinions. As for my advice, I would say: stay true to your words. Write what you actually believe in. If you really believe in something, try to emphasize on that, let others know, create an impact on it.
What are your hopes and dreams for your future?
I just want to do something that makes me happy and something that can make others happy. We all have different ambitions. I remember I wanted to be an astronomer or maybe a scientist at first, but then as I started to understand things better [I thought], “These things are tough, maybe I should go for something simpler.” But after winning this international competition, I realized that if I work hard, if I'm honest, if I put in all my effort, I can be an astronomer if I want. I can be anything. It's not impossible.
Read Nubaysha’s award-winning letter here.
Watch her interview here.