Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has’ - Margaret Mead.
Stephanie, a project leader on the 2018 SDG Advocate Programme gave us this quote in August 2018 when we were sending in our ideas for action projects into the group. It’s a quote that has always stuck with me and sums up what this programme is all about – action. Action by a group of committed and informed advocates.
I was a participant on the SDG advocate programme in 2018 and I learned a lot on this programme about both the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and how a group of informed citizens can help bring change to their local communities. The UN has set out 17 goals the SDG ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ which they hope to achieve by 2030. By completing our own action projects advocates can positively contribute to this aim with the hope of getting more people involved along the way.
The first part of the programme in 2018 was an Information Day held in Barlow House in Drogheda and we had our first team building day in Sonairte in Laytown Co. Meath. From the moment I walked into the first workshop, I felt welcomed and enthusiastic about the programme. Each participant, for their own various and interesting reasons, wanted to learn more about the SDG’s and make a difference in their communities.
The first residential weekend was in the Gyreum Eco Lodge in Sligo. In this fantastic location, we took part in many workshops and experimental games and outdoor activities involving the SDGs. Importantly we also began to formulate ideas on how we can do a project involving an SDG that we can then bring to our communities.
As part of the programme, there was a two-week overseas phase in either Vietnam or Tanzania. During the two weeks, I stayed in Da Bac District in Da Bia village, Northwest of Hanoi in Vietnam and stayed with a family who ran a homestay as part of a Community Based Tourism model. Here we took part in hands-on activities including planting trees along the roads near the village and helping to make a playground for the children of the area by using recycled materials. We also had a cultural night, SDG workshops and debates, cultural shows by the local community and lively and interesting discussions throughout the two-week programme.
In September we had a two-day reflection and a next steps workshop in Sonairte Ecology Centre followed by a second residential in Castlesaunderson, Cavan with the full Irish, Vietnamese and Tanzanian group. I really enjoyed learning about the sustainable ideas and projects in Vietnam and Tanzania and how the participants in both locations planned on or already were bringing social change to their communities. During this residential, we prepared for the exhibition of experience that took place in the Droichead Arts Centre in October 2018.
The Exhibition of Experience was a way for our group to showcase the advocate journey. It was an opportunity to be creative in presenting our experience of the programme for the past eight months and our plans for future action. We used video, photographs, music, a karate demonstration and had advocates talking about their action projects on the night. It was also a great opportunity for family and friends to see the activities we had been involved in and was one of my favourite nights of the programme.
The SDG Advocate training challenged my views on areas such as human rights, trade, globalisation, poverty, sustainability and social change and helped me to develop both personally and professionally. This programme gave me the opportunity to voice my concerns and opinions on a wide range of topics and the confidence to initiate an action project involving an SDG. Having looked into a few different ideas for my action project, I will be organising an SDG running race - a good health and well-being and SDG awareness-raising event in my local area this summer.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to be a leader on this year’s SDG 2020 Advocate Training. It was great to meet with potential advocates in Drogheda this weekend and I look forward to the first team-building weekend next month and getting to know all the 2020 advocates!
Sustainable Development Goal number 17 ‘Partnership For The Goals’ is critical as strong collaborations between organisations and people can create innovative solutions with a lasting legacy that can have positive impacts on the environment and the world around us. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be involved in this programme in 2018 and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If interested in this area, check out the SDG Advocate Training organised by Development Perspectives for next year and their current training opportunities on offer - you never know where the experience may take you!