Fulfilling the UN dreams of Kale, a teenager battling cancer


A year ago, Kale, who lives in California, developed blurry vision in his right eye. After medical tests, his family received the devastating news that he had a tumor in his right optic nerve.

“This year has been a struggle for Kale,” says his father, William, explaining that his son is not only battling cancer but also going through the usual upheavals high school students face.

The eldest of two boys, Kale, whose parents are both history teachers, is interested in foreign and international relations and dreams of becoming a diplomat. “The UN is one of the greatest international relations forces on planet Earth,” he told UN News. “It interests me a lot. And since the headquarters is here in New York, a city I want to visit sometime, I thought it would be a really cool place to experience.”

Improving the chances of recovery

The Make-A-Wish Foundation believes that wish fulfillment can change children’s chances of fighting disease by helping them see beyond their limitations; supporting families dealing with anxiety; and bring joy to entire communities.

The Foundation makes about 15,000 wishes come true in the United States each year, guided by referrals from medical teams. “On average, it takes six to eighteen months for your wish to come true,” explains Coleen Lee of Make-A-Wish Foundation. “This is the first time a child has expressed a wish to come to the UN!”

“The United Nations is important for me to visit because of the integral work being done there, from humanitarian missions to peacekeeping efforts, all in the hope of making the world a better place,” Kale wrote in the wish he sent to the Foundation . “So I think it would be important to see the place so I can better understand the work going on there and how these decisions are made.”

United Nations/Helena Lorentzen

Kale Ilac with his family and UN personnel during his visit to UN headquarters

Create a day to remember

When the UN received the Foundation’s request, they tried to tailor a program to ensure that his visit would be memorable.

“To make it all worthwhile, we decided not only to organize a tour, but also to give Kale the chance to meet senior staffers and diplomats,” explains Rula Hinedi, Head of the Tours Unit at the United Nations , from.

The day starts early with a guided tour. “It was amazing, I’m impressed,” says Kale with a smile. “I really liked the General Assembly. I could be on stage and it was cool to be in the same place as great people before me. That was very powerful”.

He was greeted by members of the Department of Safety and Security, including Paula Goncalvez, the senior female officer, who has more than 25 years of experience. “We want you to enjoy the experience here,” she said. “It’s a great organization and we’re glad you chose us!”

In the Security Council meeting room, Kale met Agent Richard Norowski. Kale’s visit and his Make-a-Wish badge brought back emotional memories for Agent Norowski, who accompanied his sister on a Make-a-Wish trip to Disneyland when he was seven years old. “My sister had leukemia. I will never forget that, and the badge means a lot to me.”

Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the Global Communications Department, met with Kaloenic Ilac ''Kale'' who asked him what he needed to do to make his dream come true.

United Nations/MHM

Kale receives career advice from Maher Nasser, head of the UN Outreach Division

High-level career advice

The next part of the visit included a series of meetings that could help Kale achieve this goal in the future.

Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the Department of Global Communications, shared his personal experience of moving up the ranks at the UN and suggested the types of academic studies that could help Kale to launch a career as a diplomat or as a international official at the UN.

“Follow your dream come what may,” said Mr Nasser, “and the stars will align to make your dream come true,” adding that he hoped to see Kale in the corridors of the UN in a few years. to see.

France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nicolas de Rivière, and Diarra Dime-Labille, the mission’s legal adviser and head of its Human Rights, Humanitarian and Influence Affairs Division, also offered advice and shared their experiences with Kale.

“You have to be open-minded because you have a lot of time to work and negotiate with countries that have different goals and visions than ours,” Ms. Dime-Labille explains. Our ultimate goal is to create a peaceful world, the goal the countries had when they founded the United Nations”.

Make-a-Wish recipient Kale tours the UN

UN photo/Mark Garten

Kale is hopeful that he will beat cancer.

‘Do your best to get better’

Kale and his family are full of hope for the future. “We’ve got about six to 12 months to go before we get to the so-called maintenance program,” says his mother, Robin.

“In the last two reports, the tumor has shrunk and Kale has regained some vision in his right eye,” says his father. “Hopefully we will get more positive results next month”.

Rula Hinedi admits she was moved by meeting Kale and his family. “It really touched me. It made me very humble,” she says. I think a request from a 16-year-old boy to visit the United Nations sends a strong message to all of us that the work being done here is still relevant, especially for the new generation. Things are not always easy, but the world is definitely a better place thanks to the UN.”

Looking back on the trip, Kale says learning about the good the UN is doing around the world has inspired him to work in the service of others.

“Just do your best to get better,” he says, “because when you’re better, you can help others get better, and it’s just going to be a positive chain reaction.” Be helpful and be nice. That is my message”.

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