On June 22, we had the very exciting privilege of witnessing the true power of technology and an excellent example of our ability to take action locally as see the impact globally!
As part of the Access to Education global action calendar, GCC leaders Sinan, Grant and Sinead gathered in Edinburgh Scotland, to facilitate our first peer education workshop led by video conference with a group of young people at the Action Centre in Portland. Although the Millennium Development Goals state that all children will have access to primary education by 2015, there are still 72 million children who receive no education whatsoever, and GCC leaders are taking the initiative to make sure that their peers know all about it, and know what they can do to change it!
Staff in Edinburgh supported the young people to plan and lead a one hour session to discuss the challenges around Access to Education and promote the 1GOAL campaign, which is using the energy of the World Cup in South Africa to ask world leaders to increase their commitment to making education accessible to all. Following the World Cup, leaders will meet in Africa to discuss this issue, and hundreds of thousands of young people are making their voices heard by holding events for their schools, youth groups, communities and churches, raising awareness and collecting signatures on handmade football 'scarves' to send to their country leaders.
The day in Edinburgh started at the annual Schools Conference on a very hot and muggy Scottish morning, where the leaders delivered their session to over 50 Edinburgh pupils and collected signatures for their scarf. The morning went brilliantly, with over 100 signatures collected in all, and which left the three leaders feeling very confident about the evening's video conference with Portland.
Staff in the US arranged for 9 young people to take part in the training, and prepared the necessary materials and usual test runs to make sure everything was working properly. After sorting out a few minor technicalities, the young people were finally 'face to face' or at least 'screen to screen' and the excitement was contagious.
The group explored the Millenium Development Goals together, examing their significance and looking at how they are linked, both locally and globally, and with an emphasis on education. The young people tested their knowledge on what the challenges are in making education accessible for all, and what still needs to be done to make it happen. The leaders presented their signed scarf, explaining that it would be sent to the Prime Minister, and the US group seemed quite enthusiastic to also create their own scarves. This was truly the GCC motto of Awareness + Action = Impact in...well...action!
Being the first workshop conducted by live video, there were the usual challenges and moments where either everyone spoke at once, or no one did, cameras went fuzzy and the general hilarity of trying to demonstrate activities from a few thousand miles away, but there was also a lot of laughter, genuine curiosity about each other, and a sense of real achievement. After the session ended and we said our goodbyes, one of the UK leaders said "It was great because everyone was so responsive, they seemed really involved and seemed to really enjoy it!"
Most importantly, it was amazing to see the young people literally come together despite the distance, sharing stories, perspectives and hopes, and even a bit of singing and dancing. It was an example of the challenges and successes we can find in crossing cultural and physical borders, the role technology can play in this, and the power of the youth voice to make it all happen.