Do you believe that poverty should be eradicated across the globe?
Do you want to see social justice for the weak, vulnerable and abused?
Do you think that everyone should have equal opportunities, irrespective of gender, race, religion or nationality?
Have you heard of the Sustainable Development Goals?
If you answered yes to any of the first three questions, and no to the last, then keep on reading..
As part of my ICS programme, every volunteer has to deliver something called a ‘Guided learning session’ to the rest of their team. This is essentially an opportunity for individuals to talk about something they are passionate about and create discussion around the topic so that others can learn more about it too. Much to the surprise of some people reading this, my own guided learning session was not solely devoted to talking about why more people should cut down on their meat and dairy intake to help save the planet (although if you are interested to know why I think that, I’m always more than happy to chat). I chose to focus on the theme of ‘personal responses to global issues’.
Being out here in Ghana I’ve come face to face with a great deal of need everyday. Whether it’s through the wonderful friends I’ve made in the community, who I know do not eat everyday, or the individuals we have been working with, who can’t afford school uniform for their children – need is evident. Back in England I would think about global issues like poverty and feel frustrated about how little I could do to help people. I’m sad to say that even out here, doing community development work, I’ve come across some of the same feelings. Our project work has been really successful and I’m proud of the difference our team has made over the past three months; but we couldn’t help everyone, we couldn’t address every problem, and it’s hard feeling powerless in the face of need.
However, I am a great believer in the power and importance of individual people’s actions making a difference to big problems. Enter ‘The Sustainable Development Goals’. The sustainable development goals are seventeen objectives agreed upon by governments and state leaders in 2015 to bring about a better world in the next fifteen years. They are the updated 2000 Millennium Development Goals and are for all countries, not just developing nations. The goals are ambitions, but, I think, amazing. Ending poverty, greater equality, fighting climate change – all things which will bring about prosperity to people and planet.
Obviously the goals are entirely unachievable… for one person on their own. BUT small actions make a difference. At the end of my guided learning session, I asked every member of my team to think about one of the SDGs and how they can be a part of making it a reality. We listened to the slogan on the back of our ICS t-shirts :’Challenge yourself to change your world’. Each person wrote down a pledge or a promise of how they will make a difference. You can see them at the bottom of the post (for some reason the male volunteers wanted to wear helmets for their mug shots)).
My personal pledge is ‘I pledge to use my voice and opinions to hold decision makers accountable’. Some may criticise me for being vague, so let me break it down a little. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who writes to their MP, goes on peaceful protest marches, signs and shares petitions and joins activists societies, but I’ve just never really committed to it. I know that those things make a difference, they show leaders and governments that their people care about important issues and want them to do something about it. When you’re not in a position to change things for yourself, pester the people that can (politely). So that’s my pledge friends, to hold the big cheeses of the world accountable, so please do keep me accountable to my promise too.
So, now it’s your turn. Whoever you are reading this, where ever you live, there will be need around you. There will be poverty, or unfairness or things that are drastically harming your local environment – there will be things you can change. So have another look at those SDGs, think about which one you are passionate about, do a little more research on it and start acting.
If you’re stuck about what you can do these are the three prompts I gave my team as they wrote their pledges. How can you make a difference with you time, your voice and your money? Time: you can volunteer at a local elderly home, animal shelter, or children’s club long-term or even do some volunteering with a programme such as ICS (hit me up if you want to know more about it). Voice: do some of the things I am challenging myself with (see above), and talk to people you know about global and local issues – if you speak to people with personal conviction, you’ll be surprised by how many start to take notice. Money: donate to charities who are making a difference in the areas you care about, spend your money in shops who share your values, buy responsibly rather than impulsively and go to charity shops (they are the best). I haven’t nailed all this stuff, it’s a work in progress for me too, but I hope that gets your cogs turning.
So to sum up, there’s a lot of need, but there’s also a lot of hope. Challenge yourself to be a difference-maker, an action-taker, a world-changer. In Ghana, there’s a Buli phrase that I’ve come to love: ‘suik nik nyiam ale a soa bele’ which means ‘small drops make an ocean’. That’s what I believe in. The power of individuals all choosing to make a difference, creating a wave of change.