Shaden Beltran was a student at the Santa Catalina School who attended the 2015 Spring CIF Conference, held in Hiroshima, Japan to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During the span of four months, Shaden and her partner, Laura, worked on two mini projects in order to prepare for their final deliverable.
The topic of their final project was nuclear disarmament through a humanitarian approach. Although different groups suggested different methods on how to achieve the goal nuclear disarmament, all of the students at the conference were aware of the dangers nuclear weapons pose.
Only, Shaden was not one hundred percent convinced that nuclear weapons actually threaten today’s society. She lacked sympathy towards the hibakusha (survivors of the a-bomb attacks) and their deceased loved ones. In fact, when she arrived in Hiroshima, she was quick to notice that the buildings were tall and that there was a large portion of vegetation. The people were extremely nice and always greeted her with big smiles. Their lifestyle and the physical appearance of the city made it even more difficult to understand the true dangers of nuclear weapons.
Shaden made many friends in Japan. She gained an increased understanding of cross-cultural communication, and how important it is to share ideas with peers in other countries. However, shamefully, Shaden, who was fully aware of the environmental and humanitarian effects caused by weapons, began to think that maybe nuclear weapons weren’t as bad as she had been taught. Hiroshima looked like any other city, and she would have never guessed that only seventy years ago it had been in complete ruins.
Several days into the trip, the entire CIF group visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This was the most heartbreaking place Shaden has ever been to. It is filled with artifacts such as clothes, jewelry, rooftops, and replicas body parts, that survived the explosion. Attached to these objects were background stories about the people who once possessed these items. Shaden was on the verge of tears while reading about the ripped up shirts, broken necklaces, and tracheas that belonged to kids- boys and girls her age, and even younger, who were going about their daily lives, waiting for the bus and getting ready for school. Innocent people were killed by weapons of mass destruction, and for the first time, Shaden could see how truly dangerous they are.
Shaden’s perspective completely changed after visiting the museum. She saw that nuclear weapons are still a huge threat to humanity today. Sixty percent of a modern bomb is equal to all the damage done by the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. It took Hiroshima seventy years to once again become a prosperous city, which made Shaden think; how long would it take for a city to rebuild itself if it was attacked today?
The purpose of being a member of CIF isn’t only to present a solution and never again touch base on the topic, but to become an advocate and spread the word about the dangers of nuclear weapons to the current generations. While attending the conference, Shaden witnessed the passion of young people across cultures, and established lifelong friendships. She now believes that the youth today have a strong influence in world problems. They are quick to start trends on social media and voice their opinions about current conflicts. They have the ability to change the status quo.
By educating younger generations about the negative effects of the atomic bomb, Shaden has faith that the world will slowly begin to achieve peace, free of nuclear weapons. That is why now, and in the future, she plans to advocate for disarmament, carrying the lessons she learned in Japan throughout her life.