10000 students working towards a more equal future

10000 students working towards a more equal future

February 20th marks the World Day of Social Justice 2020, and young people across Ireland are finding themselves facing an uncertain future on all fronts. Fighting against ever-increasing university fees, and laden down with the knowledge that just 20 companies worldwide are responsible for one third of all global emissions, it can be hard to believe that any individual can take action to truly level the playing field. 

One person alone might feel as though they can’t make a change, but what happens when 10000 third-level students come together to take one small action each for a better world? This is what STAND, a Suas Educational Development initiative, and the Unions of Students in Ireland (USI) are trying to encourage by partnering on a new platform called 10000students.ie. 

The 10000 students website, which provides examples on how to take action for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in every USI affiliated college across Ireland, allows students to pledge to take one action on their campus. It also counts how many actions are being taken across Ireland as a whole, with the idea being that students will see strength in numbers when it comes to taking action collectively. 

Speaking from the launch event at GMIT, Mayo, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick had the following to say:

“Pledging to take any action on 10000students.ie is an easy way to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and to see how simple it can be to make a difference through implementing these changes in their daily lives. Students have always been at the forefront of positive change in Ireland and it is no different when it comes to the SDG’s. Last year, USI was announced as one of the twelve Sustainable Development Goal Champions and we are delighted to partner with STAND to launch this campaign to make it easy for students to make a difference while challenging their friends to do the same.”

Want to see how you can get involved? Visit 10000students.ie today and pledge to take one small action on your campus for a more sustainable planet.

Career Knowhow: Peter Schouten, War Child

Career Knowhow: Peter Schouten, War Child

Every Month, STAND brings you a quick fire Q&A from people who work in NGOs, with government or in community projects. This month we speak to Peter Schouten, who has been Spokesman for War Child since September 2014.  Based in the Netherlands, War Child helps children affected by war in 14 countries all around the world.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I’m the spokesman for War Child Holland, which means being accountable for all media and press relations. I do this through managing spokespersons, initiating and coordinating press conferences, press releases, briefings, trips and media events. Our objective is to position War Child as the expert when it comes to children affected by conflict, being able to influence key stakeholders and contribute to our mission: ‘No child should be part of war. Ever.’

What do you love most about your job?
Since I’m a real news addict I really love to work with and for media and to be up to date 24/7. It’s never a dull moment. I like the diversity in my daily work. It’s not only working from behind your desk but also travelling to the 14 countries in which War Child is active. During such field trips I bring journalists with me in order to show them how, why and what we do to help children affected by war.

What do you dislike most?
A thing that I can’t get used to is the stories I hear from the children who I visit in our program countries. It’s sometimes really heartbreaking to hear their experiences. At the same time it gives me that new energy boost to let their voices be heard in the (inter)national media in order to help them and their peers.

How did you get into this area?
I graduated in both International Relations and Journalism. After working for 5 years at the Dutch Prime Minister’s Office in The Hague I decided to join War Child in 2014. I came across the organisation in Uganda and I was really impressed by how my colleagues were dealing with the war children. From that moment on I started following War Child and once the function of spokesman became vacant, I applied immediately.

What advice would you give to students who want to work in this area?
If you would like to be a spokesman it might help you to have some experiences as a journalist as well. In that case you know best of both worlds which enables you to do your work as a spokesman better.

 

War Child helps children affected by war. It offers them a combination of psychosocial support, protection and education. War Child was founded in 1995 and is an internationally acknowledged expert on children affected by armed conflict. Last year approx. 300,000 children participated in its programmes.

For more information see warchild.org.

Twitter: @schoutenpeter / @warchildholland

Photo courtesy of Peter Schouten / War Child.

 

The world’s first climate refugees?

The world’s first climate refugees?

Laoise McGrath looks at Kiribati, a country which could soon be ‘Home’ to the world’s first climate refugees.

What is Kiribati?
The Republic of Kiribati is made up of a patchwork of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The country is so remote that its nearest neighbour is more than 5000 km away. Although the country is dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres it has only 110,000 inhabitants – and that number is declining.

How is climate change affecting the country?
The people of Kiribati are likely to become the world’s first climate refugees. All of the islands are between one and two metres above sea level, and in 1999 two Kiribati islets disappeared entirely underwater.  Due to the patterns of the tides the atolls are constantly changing shape, making life for the inhabitants of Kiribati very unstable and their future uncertain.

The country faces the constant challenge of protecting itself from flooding and providing permanent housing that is not washed away by the sea. The landscape of Kiribati is unsuitable for farming, and thus the country relies heavily on imports and the sea to provide its food; it is considered one of the least developed countries in the world.

As sea levels rise, the Kiribati people are being put under more pressure. They live a paradoxical life which is intimately connected with the ocean; it is the biggest threat to their livelihoods, and yet they depend on it as a primary food source.

In a world where climate change is becoming more apparent, Kiribati and its inhabitants could become the first climate change refugees as their home land disappears before their eyes.  

 

Above photo: Kiritimati island, part of the Republic of Kiribati. By Calvin Smith via Flickr.

Career Knowhow: Sinead Kerin, Mercy Law Resource Centre

Career Knowhow: Sinead Kerin, Mercy Law Resource Centre

STAND regularly brings you a quick fire Q&A from people who work in NGOs, with government or in community projects. This week, we speak to Sinead Kerin, Acting Managing Solicitor at the Mercy Law Resource Centre, providing free legal advice and representation to homeless people. 

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?  
I am acting Managing Solicitor of Mercy Law Resource Centre. We are an independent law centre that is a charity. Mercy Law Resource Centre provides free legal advice and representation, in an accessible way, to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the areas of Social Housing and Social Welfare Law. We provide the following free services:

  1. Legal Advice Clinics in Homeless Hostels;
  2. Legal Representation;
  3. Legal & Training Resource to Homeless Organisations;
  4. Policy Work;
  5. Befriending.

What do you love most about your job?
Being surprised and humbled when you meet resilient strong people who are living through really tough times, in awful conditions, in emergency accommodation and they are still in a great mood.  Or getting an outcome for a client, which may mean that I had to convince a local authority to provide emergency accommodation for a family – i.e. getting children and parents off the streets into a safe place for the night. It’s that basic now – a few years ago a good day was getting someone a council house, now its emergency accommodation.

What do you dislike most?
Meeting parents and their children who are long term homeless, living in a bedroom of a B&B or hotel for over two years. They usually present with mental health or physical health issues. It’s very rare that I meet a well child in a legal clinic. That makes me really mad, and sometimes sad.

I try and turn this dismay and alarm into action for our clients and push hard for an improvement for them. Most of all I really, really dislike that there is NO right to shelter in Irish law.   

How did you get into this area?
I always wanted to work in human rights and was a researcher before I trained as a solicitor. I worked for Focus Ireland before I worked for Mercy Law Resource Centre.

What advice would you give to students who want to work in this area?
It really is a very difficult area to work in, as you meet human beings rather than notes on a case in a book, and the misery can get under your skin. Research is way easier! Saying that, the world needs more people working in social justice who are committed and recognise the dignity of every human being.

 

See here for more on the Mercy Law Resource Centre.
Click here to read the previous instalment, with Tara Brown, ESHTE Project Co-ordinator with the National Women’s Council of Ireland. 

Photo courtesy of Mercy Law Resource Centre. 

Right to work = the right to dignity

Right to work = the right to dignity

The Right to Work campaign was launched on June 14th 2018 at Liberty Hall Dublin by the Movement of Asylum Seekers of Ireland (MASI). This movement is led by asylum seekers and demands the right to work for all asylum seekers. They are seeking access to the labour market without restrictions for those who are under the Direct Provision system. Currently, Ireland is one of two countries in the European Union with a complete ban on the right to work.

Asylum seekers are at present given a meagre allowance of  €21.60 per week under Direct Provision, but are not allowed to seek employment in more than 60 work sectors including hospitality and construction. MASI urges the government to end Direct Provision, unfair deportation and forced removal. They also support the right to work and education of all asylum seekers. While the high number of personal accounts shared at the launch may have been disheartening, they are an important step on the road to equality. MASI simply asks for freedom, dignity and justice for all including the asylum seekers.

 

Who is an ‘Asylum Seeker’?
“Asylum seekers are people seeking protection as refugees, who are waiting for the authorities to decide on their applications. They are legally entitled to stay in the state until their application for protection is decided. They also have a right to a fair hearing of that application and to an appeal if necessary.” –  Irish Refugee Council

Photo by, Deepthi Suresh