Suas CEO John Logue gives us an update on the now dual brand of Suas and Stand

Suas CEO John Logue gives us an update on the now dual brand of Suas and Stand

CEO of Suas Educational Development John Logue talks us through Suas’s relaunch into the dual brand Suas and Stand. Suas is our branch focused on children’s literacy, with Stand focusing on engaging young people and students in volunteering, internships, innovation, courses and our new website, Stand News.

Michael defied the odds. At age 8, he was considered a poor reader and struggled in class. We realised
he was finding it hard to concentrate on the books available in school. Knowing he loved comics,
Michael’s reading mentor suggested they try the first few pages of ‘Percy Jackson, The Lightening Thief’. The following week, Michael had finished all 377 pages – something that would continue every week.

When Lucy and Emma felt compelled to take action for refugee rights, we were there to help. To address the isolation and exclusion faced by those living in Direct Provision centres in Dublin, they developed their idea – Connect More Dublin. The project raises awareness of the Direct Provision system. Their hope for the future of Connect More Dublin is to introduce a buddy system that will encourage greater integration between asylum seekers and others in Dublin.

These stories could come from two very distinct organisations – one supporting children’s literacy, the
other enabling changemakers to take action. Yet, both represent stories of progress from one
organisation – Suas Educational Development. This dual focus is a core part of what makes Suas a
unique organisation on the NGO landscape in Ireland. Yet, it poses a challenge when trying to tell our
story to those unfamiliar with our work.

The health and well-being of any organisation is rooted in a collective understanding of why it exists,
who it serves and how it helps them. This is particularly true in the NGO sector. Clarity about these
fundamental distinctions provide the foundation for recruiting volunteers, engaging donors and
meaningful strategic planning. Most importantly, clarity of mission enables key stakeholders and
advocates to tell the organisation’s story to the world.

Today, I want to begin the process of re-telling our story. From today, our work on children’s literacy
and global citizenship will take place under two distinct brands – Suas and STAND. We think these
changes will bring much more clarity to our work and enable us to increase our impact over the months
and years ahead.

These changes also allow us to make a really exciting leap forward in our work on global citizenship. Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard to develop a new platform for our global citizenship work. Today, I want to give you a sneak preview of this new platform – STAND.

 

STAND celebrates the power of ordinary people to change the world. Here, you can share your ideas
about standing up for justice and equality, learn more about global issues, and find out what you – as an
individual and by coming together – can do to take positive action. In the coming weeks, we’ll also be
making some exciting announcements about changes to Suas so be sure to look out for another exciting
update shortly.

Dublin DJ Calvin James talks emergency response work in Syria and how it feels to encounter ISIS

Dublin DJ Calvin James talks emergency response work in Syria and how it feels to encounter ISIS

Calvin James is a Dublin born DJ who spent 6 months in the Rojava strip in Northern Syria. There he worked for the Kuridsh Red Crescent who are a 24/7 emergency response service. He went there because he wanted to help the Yazidi population, who face mass genocide by ISIS. He is now back in Ireland and has been running Syria’s vibes for the past 15 months. Syrias Vibes is a music event which supports the innocent victims of the wars in Syria and Iraq by raising money for medical, psychological, and social services for locals in both countries. He sat down with me to tell me his fascinating story.

So how exactly did you get involved, from your Dublin apartment all the way to Northern Syria?

The situation there was always on my mind, but it was when I received an e-mail from my friend in
Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) in April 2015 that things started to happen. He was over there fighting with
the YPG – who are a Kurdish resistance group fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I had no interest in fighting,
but I told him about my social care background. Luckily the YPG were looking for healthcare workers….and before I knew it I was at the airport and making my way to the Syrian border.
So I stayed at a YPG camp for three weeks, but soon had to return to Dublin for personal reasons. At
the time I thought it was a “divine intervention” – a guardian angel telling me to cop on and get
home! But back home I just couldn’t stop thinking of the situation I left behind. So I decided to
return in February 2016.

What was it like meeting the YPG – did you have much training?

It was a good introduction, and there were many other Westerners who were there in a fighting
capacity. Actually, one of the first things I was shown was how to use basic weapons – simply for the
fact that there was always the threat of ISIS or a Turkish intervention, so it was for self-defence
reasons. Apart from that I learned the basics of the Kurdish language, and there was also a small bit
of ideological training.

On your return you started working with the Kurdish Red Crescent. Was there much of a routine
or was it more spontaneous work?

It depended on the day’s events. We were based in a city called Qamishli, which wasn’t
experiencing daily battle but there was always the ISIS threat. The first couple of months were a bit
slow as the rescue centre was being set up. But by April things were in full swing, and I was
responding to ISIS attacks or battles between the Syrian regime and the Kurds. But it was sporadic,
and there were days you spent just hanging about – I became pretty familiar with Syrian Soap
Operas!

You also came to the assistance of wounded ISIS fighters. It must have been difficult to remain
compassionate and professional at those times…

It was a bit surreal. The first time I met ISIS was in a town called Amuda. We rushed there
because we heard of a suicide bombing – it turned out it was a failed suicide bombing and the ISIS
fighter was in a local hospital. So we went over and there he was, lying unconscious with severe burns,
aged around 22. I actually touched his body for a moment, so that was a bit of a freaky experience.
And indeed, many of the Kurdish Red Crescent would have known someone who was killed or raped
by ISIS. But we always stuck to our ethos of simply helping anyone who needed it.

July 27 th 2016 was a particularly dark day out there. Can you describe what happened?

That was the day an ISIS truck bomb in Qamishli killed 50 people and left 150 others injured. I was
just chilling in my room before hearing the most crazy bang noise, and then the air conditioner in
my room just fell to the ground. There was a massive mushroom cloud outside, and it was obvious
then something serious had happened. So we arrived at the scene, trying to get as many survivors
as possible. It was the most intense heat ever that day, 50 degrees I think. We had no water, so I
ended up drinking some dirty pipe water not caring of the damage it could do with me. Everything
happened so quickly, and some dude just dropped this dead girl on my arms. We rushed to the
ambulance with her and only then realised “what are we doing bringing her to hospital, she’s already
dead” and then rushed back to try and get the survivors – that kind of hazy and panicked state of mind
sums up what it was like. It was actually my Dad’s birthday that day, but unfortunately I’ll be associating
it with something else from now on. Nothing prepares you for a day like that.

How about the local population, what was your relationship like with them?

Overall very good. There would be UN aid trucks passing through Rojava on the way to Aleppo,
and the local populations were frustrated they weren’t stopping in Rojava. I think they felt a bit
neglected by some other organisations. So they really did appreciate any humanitarian assistance
they got, and they saw us as neutral. I also think the fact I was Irish helped, because of ours and
the Kurds shared struggle– there was the occasional Bobby Sand’s reference.

And what about their daily lives – was there much of a sense of normality?

There actually was, and I think absence of normality can sometimes be a bit of a misconception
about parts of warzones. It was definitely the case here any ways – people went to school, had
weddings, socialised, played sports. Myself and some YPG friends even treated ourselves to an
occasional couple of cans, just to get our mind away from it all. Obviously things would have been
different in Aleppo due to the constant chaos. In Rojava though it was “carry on as normal” while
always been aware of the ISIS threat.

Syria’s woes are far from over, but there is a sense that the Assad regime is going to hold. What
do you think that means for the future of the Syrian Kurds and Rojava?

It really depends whether the Assad regime is willing to grant them autonomy. At the moment
I’m reading that he would be open to negotiation on the matter, and I think many of them would
find that satisfactory. But there are still a few issues here and there – for example the Arab’s in the
region don’t always have the best opinion of the Kurds. So there are interesting times ahead to see
how it all pans out. Unfortunately though the Kurds can sometimes be a bit naïve about the United
States’ role in all of this – some of them even have a positive opinion of Trump. They don’t seem to
realise the U.S. might just throw them under the bus when it’s all over, just as what happened in the
Gulf War.

Tell me a bit more about Syria’s Vibes – how did the idea come about?

I just felt there was a lack of humanitarian charities and NGO’s in the region – many of them
seemed to be helping displaced Syrian’s in nearby Lebanon and Jordan. So I wanted to leave my
own blueprint, and started raising funds back home through club nights and other events.
Initially we raised funds just for emergency work, but we started to realise that other areas weren’t
being looked after. By this I mean there were still girls in part of Syria receiving no education at all –
and it’s the polar opposite of how things are in the West, children actually want to go to school
there! There was also a severe lack of psychological support for the Yazidi’s, who have been left
traumatised from ISIS horrors. So at the moment we’re really trying to branch out to these
untapped areas and fund some important projects and services.

Your story is inspiring, but what would you say to a young Irish person considering a similar
endeavour?

Learn a language – or two! In all seriousness though, you need to do as much homework as
possible before going out. I was lucky in that I had a very strong base and team, with everyone
looking out for each other and helping each other along the way. So it’s a combination of making
sure you have as much research done as possible, while also ensuring you’re with the right company.

Head along to Syrian Vibes which is happening tonight at The Soundhouse, Eden Quay, 7pm. Check out their Facebook event for details.

 

Photo: Calvin James with Yazidis

Brian has a degree in International Security and Conflict from DCU, and continues to have a keen interest in the field.  He currently works for Concern Worldwide. 

It’s EU Mobility Week so why can’t I take the bus?

It’s EU Mobility Week so why can’t I take the bus?

European Mobility Week takes place this year from the 16th – 22nd September.
Since 2002, this week aims to highlight mobility and urban transport issues, as well as improve public health and quality of life by tackling environmental problems such as air pollution. But one of the main issues that is raised over and over again is that of accessibility.

Annie Byrne is a Dublin student. As a wheel-chair user she depends on the Number 39/39a bus to bring her to college, the city centre, and the music events she loves. “The bus comes about every 20 minutes. My mobility problem is I can only take the bus if someone with a buggy hasn’t got the one wheelchair spot. A person with a buggy isn’t obliged to move. The bus driver can only ask them to move, twice.

“People often refuse to move. That leaves me, and anyone else who needs the wheel chair space on the side of the road. A buggy can be folded up and put away but I can’t fold-up my chair. I’m a representative for people with disabilities on the Dublin Community Buses Committee. They know the problem and it’s always the same answer. The law needs to change so that wheelchairs have a
legal right to the wheelchair spot.”

How does this affect people with disabilities all over Ireland?

  • Just under a quarter can access private transport. Another quarter don’t use public transport because they don’t find it accessible.
  • Almost half of people with a physical disability have difficult going out at all.
  • Only 5% of the state’s taxis were wheelchair accessible (2015).
  • Most rail and bus providers, e.g. the DART, require 24-hours’ notice if wheelchair users plan to travel.

(Taken from the Disability Federation of Ireland’s, DFI, transport fact sheet.)

And it’s not just public transport that make the city inaccessible. Dublin’s streets are torn up by LUAS works, billboards and illegal parking. For a heart-stopping view of physical obstacles faced, see visually-impaired Barry O’Donnell’s journey from Tara Street to O’Connell Bridge. Barry uses
a body camera recording all the obstacles he has to overcome on this YouTube clip. He took part in a recent Dublin City Council/DFI public awareness campaign, #MakeWayDublin. It addressed the thoughtless behaviour and poor design that makes our towns a nightmare to navigate.

Annie Byrne wants the whole of Ireland to get active and take action on the issue of city mobility. “What I need is for a group of people to support me in fighting for that. Otherwise I’m waiting while two, three buses leave me at the stop. It’s 20 minutes to the bus terminus to increase my chances.
All of this is no fun at all on a wet cold night when you just need to get from A to B.”

So go out there and start planning. Lobby and petition TD’s to make changes and get active this European Mobility Week.

Climate change: The future humanitarian crisis

Climate change: The future humanitarian crisis

Climate change is real.

These are only four words but they pack a punch. If that sounds ominous, wait until you realise the harsh truth; climate change is already happening. Despite the delusions of the President of America and his band of climate change-deniers, the world is now facing one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in history. If anyone still has doubts, the events of the last week should be a sobering dose of reality.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last weekend, bringing with it one of the largest amounts of rainfall (51.88 inches) the US has ever experienced as a result of a tropical storm. While the initial first-day impact of the hurricane was limited, the rainfall over the next few days has left Houston, Texas devastated. The tropical storm resulted in mass floodings across the city and its surrounding suburbs. The US National Weather Service reported that in some areas, the water levels were 25ft above flood level. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate as flood waters submerged their homes, leaving many without food, money or shelter. As it stands, the death total from Hurricane Harvey is 18, with an estimated 30,000 now displaced and potentially homeless. The aftermath of the storm will be long-lasting; buildings and houses will need to be rebuilt, thousands will require new homes and the economy will take a massive hit as millions of dollars will go towards the relief effort. Similar to New Orleans after the catastrophic Hurricane Katrine, Houston will be forever altered.

While some may argue that the area itself is prone to tropical storms/hurricanes, given its location, it’s important to note that both Hurricane Katrina and Sandy had near identical results for the cities that they hit. All three of these of these storms were categorised as an ‘every 200-year event’ or ‘every 500-year event’ yet they all occurred within the last 12 years. The increase in severe tropical storms is not isolated to North America; while the media’s attention was directed towards Texas, South Asia was experiencing some of the worst floodings in its history. Flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh has killed 1,200 and affected 16 million. The BBC reports that Bangladesh, which has been hit with its fourth flood this year, is now half underwater. Just like evacuees from Houston, families in Bangladesh have been forced to take shelter on any free patches of land until aid reaches them or temporary accommodation is built.

These incidents are only the start of future natural disasters as global temperatures continue to rise. According to temperature statistics overseen by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880. Even more worrying, GISS has revealed that two-thirds of this increase has occurred since 1975 at a rate of 0.15-0.20 degrees Celsius per decade. While scientists are reluctant to outright say that global warming was the cause of Hurricane Harvey, George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, lambasted the public/media for not asking the obvious questions about the storm;

“We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities are exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater; and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air. We were warned about this. In June, for instance, Robert Kopp, a professor of Earth sciences, predicted: “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

Along with the huge structural and monetary damages, future storms could result in major loss of life. If these storms become more widespread and frequent, countries may not have the capacity to deal with them. As seen with Hurricane Katrina, it is the poorest who will bear the brunt of climate change first. Those without the means to effectively protect their homes or the monetary capital to flee will be the early casualties of climate change. Additionally, one common thread of each natural disaster is displacement. Based on statistics from the UN Refugee Agency, an annual average of 21.5 million people are displaced due to extreme weather-floods, storms, increased temperatures. This figure will only go up if the world continues to ignore the stark reality of global warming. Countries will be filled with ‘climate change refugees’ and their governments will not have the means nor the money to provide the basic necessities to care for these people, creating an economic and societal crisis.

Extreme temperatures and rising sea levels are not a ‘possibiity, they are a reality. If the world stands any chance against future disasters, we all need to limit and minimise the damage that has already been done. We must pressure governments to commit to reduce CO2 emissions and find other sources of renewable energy. The Paris Agreement was a step in the right direction for the world but with the news that President Trump will pull America out and disband with the country’s obligations, it signals that time is running out to stop the impending global catastrophe. Please write to the Irish government, Ministers and TDs. They aren’t taking action, so we have to.

Photo Credit: Texas National Guard Soldiers respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt)

 

Emily is a journalism graduate from DCU. Her work has appeared in the Irish Independent, Sunday World Online and Hot Press Magazine. She is passionate about equality and a fair society for all citizens.

 

Environmental heroes: Which countries made the top three?

Environmental heroes: Which countries made the top three?

Climate change should be every country’s top concern. Preserving our earth for future generations is essential, and yet so many of us are just not making the necessary changes or difficult decisions. But there are certain countries who are taking strides and leaps to completely change the way we live and save our planet. Here are the top three.

Kenya ~ Kenya just made a monumental decision to reduce plastic pollution by implementing a complete ban on producing, selling or even using plastic bags. Committing this offence could land you in prison for four years or see you facing over €33,000 in fines. Read more at The Guardian.

India ~ Delhi have taken a step few have ever dared to take before, they banned all single use disposable plastic. Rejoice! This includes all cutlery, bags, and cups. The city will now try and reduce their pollution by pushing sustainable alternatives like edible cutlery, which can be consumed or composted. Find out more about a cleaner Delhi at The Independent.

Norway ~ Norway is at the forefront of environmental policy with their recent ban on deforestation. They are the first country ever to commit that they will not support any product in their supply chain that contributes to deforestation, such as palm oil. Other countries need to act soon and follow this example. Get more information at The Huffington Post.

Write to the government, TDs and your local businesses to try and make this change happen in Ireland. Let’s take action!

 

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

The Indian Presidential Elections: A local reaction

The Indian Presidential Elections: A local reaction

Ram Nath Kovind, a member of the Dalit community, was elected the president of India on the 17th of July 2017.  Dalits are an oppressed community who are at the bottom of the Indian caste system. The caste system is a social hierarchy where those at the bottom will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to education, employment and quality of life. The new president is a man who, in a lot of ways, has defied social norms here. He became a prosperous lawyer and served two terms in the upper house of the Indian Parliament before gaining the presidency. However, does that mean he will do anything to improve the lives of his Dalit community?

I’ve met so many people who have lived here their whole lives and after talking to twelve of them this is what I have learned; the Indian president can be considered a ‘rubber stamp’. He has no executive power but many Indians believe that he has the potential to highlight the inadequacies of government policies and inspire citizens through his words. People feel like they can relate to him because of his caste, and nobody I met has denied that the caste system it is very much alive.

 

Here’s what a few of the local people had to say.

“Kovind is media shy, yet an expert on constitutional matters as he was a supreme court lawyer. It is good that he doesn’t play to the gallery…..but now a days we all know that the Bharatiya Janata Party government have attacked massively on the dalits, and so to shift the eyes of the common people away from their attacks, I think they nominated Kovind” ~ Ushasi – Female student at Jadavpur University

 

“The Indian president is not only a source of veto but also a source of inspiration to Indian educated youths…..It is not necessary that an Indian president should be selected from a political base. He/she may be a writer, musician, economist or scientist. But he/she should be an inspiration and have efficiency to use his/her veto power to save the vulnerable section in the Indian society” ~ Kamalika – Educational Coordinator at Sabuj Sangha

 

“I think the caste system is very much alive in India. People still take pride in being born as an upper caste here. Having Dalits in government positions cannot radically change the thought process of people who are still embracing the caste system” ~ Sachin Dinesh

 

And on the subject of social change in India, there were the following thoughts.

“Everybody needs a dream, then it’s easy. Just one small step, small steps all the time. And then one day you can become a government school teacher” ~ Noorjahan – Teacher with Sabuj Sangha

 

“The educated and passionate youth of the country are the biggest drivers of social change in India”  ~ Tarinee – Female medical student

 

If you would like to support the empowerment of the Dalit community, you can support the Dalit Foundation

Pictured:Ram Nath Kovind. Photo by Terapant; Screenshot by Tiven Gonsalves