Why you decided to do the GCA?
When I first heard about the GCA, through a workshop carried out by EIL Explore, my volunteering organisation, I was very intrigued by the concept of a challenge such as that posed by the requirements of the GCA: blogs, action projects, community volunteering etc.
I signed up for the gold award long before I embarked on my journey to Mexico and this allowed me to brainstorm my action projects with the GCA requirements and the Dochas Framework in mind.
As the weeks went by and my volunteering experience was read by many pairs of eyes through my GCA blogs, I began to realise what an invaluable platform I was availing of and the connection which it allowed me to form with many people from Irish communities that were experiencing the Mexican culture through my words and viewing a country which they have never been to, through my eyes. This inspired me to continue to share my experience in various forms once I returned back home.
What were your action projects?
Once I returned to Ireland, I was very keen to start my work on the ground and chose my action projects with the aim of interlinking my experience of volunteering in Mexico with raising awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, I settled on the following projects:
One thing I told my EIL Explore interviewees that I would definitely bring with me to Mexico was my beloved Nikon camera. At the time, I was working as a photographer for various groups and organisations, being very passionate of collecting moments, feelings, smiles which would become treasured memories to many. Throughout my two months in Mexico I continued to snap photos and collect memories of my journey which I then turned into a photography exhibition which was hosted in the Kilkenny Youth Centre. I was supported in this project through the Seed Fund Grant offered by the GCA.
Myself and the other EIL Volunteer sent to Mexico in 2016, Emmanuel Tacima, we agreed at the pre-departure workshop to document through video, parts of our volunteer experience in our different projects. Over the course of 72h we combined the footage and transformed it into a 30 min documentary which was further presented at our different workshops.
Sustainable Development Goals Workshop:
I became an advocate for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals through my work with UNICEF Ireland and decided to focus my attention on raising awareness about these targets through my volunteering project. I compiled short, informative workshops about each SDG and targeted them at children from two communities: the Mexican and the Irish. At the end of each presentation, I asked the children to draw the number of their favourite SDG on their palms, asked them why they chose that specific one and took a photo of them. I combined the photographs taken of Mexican children from various communities, Irish schools, UNICEF focus groups, together, and analysed how the choice of goals varied according to the problems these children faced in their own communities. (Make sure that you get consent for the photos if you decide to do a similar project).
Returning to Ireland made me reflect over my time volunteering in Mexico and my own change in mindset. I saw the importance of volunteering abroad at a young age and the growth in personal development which happened in my case and I wanted this to happen for more young people. This gave me the inspiration to set up a society in my university, which was a branch of the biggest student NGO in the world, namely AIESEC. This organisation enables young people to volunteer or intern abroad in over 140 countries at a much lower cost than those offered by established volunteer organisations. My aim was to continue this transformational process of growth in other young people.
By Diana Oprea