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I have waited 19 years to have this opportunity; An opportunity that millions of people around the world are not given. At mid-day, accompanied by my mom, I made my way to the local polling station with my iPod in my pocket, my drivers license in my hand and a grin on my face.
I guess you could say that I was a little bit excited as we approached the entrance to the hall. I whipped out the iPod and insisted that my mom took a picture of me next to the placard that indicated we were at the right place.
I wonder what the onlooker must have been thinking as she witnessed my strange excitement over something perceived as so mundane in this country. Usually I would be very self conscious about drawing attention to myself, but not today. I couldn't have cared less about what people around me perceived as I coerced my mom into taking numerous pictures throughout my voting process.
Casting my vote was something I found so truly exhilarating. I actually felt enormously proud that I, whom in my mind is a nobody, actually did something meaningful.
I used my voice and in my opinion , that pride was something worth documenting.
So if you haven't voted yet, get moving and experience that same pride I have.
“Hey mum, did you see the new trees?!”
“On the green and also all around the estate!”
So off they went to see the new trees. 37 new trees planted all around their estate. All the neighbours were talking about it, and everybody was excited.
One week later:
“Hey mum, did you see somebody broke some off the branches from the trees in our estate, and some of the trees in the next door estate have been broken in half!”
“No, I did not, are you serious?”
“Come. I’ll show you”
So of we went to see the broken trees. Five of the newly planted trees in bits! All the neighbours were talking about it, and everybody was disappointed.
Two weeks later:
“Hey mum we need to do something about the trees, if we do not do something now, there is not going to be a tree left after summer!”
“So, what can we do?”
“We need to get people involved, we need to do something!”
“Okay, you guys can do something and we will support you”
Four weeks later, 16-year-old brothers Juvan and Christivan Maritz applied and received a small Superhero fund from SpunOut.ie to make a difference in their local community. Here is how they got on with their project:
They designed a leaflet and a registration form and distributed it to more than 80 homes in the estate. They wrote to 14 people asking for support or a contribution towards their project. These people included two local politicians, a community project, the Gardaí, the local Council, local print media and local small businesses.
Their idea was to create community awareness and initiate a neighbourhood community policing system to keep and eye on the newly planted trees and general vandalism in the communal area of the Balruddery Wood estate. They also planned a big community festival on the green. 23 homes (more than 30%) signed up for the project, with more than 40 people confirmed for the Green Festival.
On 30 April 2011, at 5pm, the festival took place. The local pub, Balrothery Inn, sponsored burgers, soft drinks and crisps. Tesco Balbriggan also provided party goodies and committed to sponsor a signpost to promote the project.
“Ladies, gentleman and kids. You are very welcome at the launch of our Superhero project sponsored by SpunOut.ie. SpunOut.ie is Ireland's national youth project. Myself and Christivan applied for a small [fund] to make a difference in our community. We are one from eleven projects all over Ireland that are trying to make a difference in our community. We are gathered here today to celebrate our community spirit. We with 10 other projects were selected out of hundreds of applications to make people aware of caring for our environment. We are also concerned about anti-social behaviour, especially the breaking of branches of our newly planted trees and vandalism in our estate.
"We do not have an easy solution, all that we can offer is to create awareness and encourage everybody in the estate to address vandalism and anti-social behaviour. We have invited our community Guards. If you have any questions please feel free to approach them at any time of the day.
“To conclude, I want to say a special thanks to our sponsors Spunout.ie. Balrothery Inn kindly sponsored the burgers, crisps and soft drinks. Thank you Brendan. To Ann O’Brien from Tesco, who sponsored the sweets and other goodies. Today we can also announce that Tesco gave their commitment to sponsor a signpost that will promote the TreeCops Project. This signpost will be displayed at the entrance of this estate and will be a reminder to all that live here as well as guests that we are serious about our trees!
“Thank you for your attendance and special thanks to our community Guards: Gráinne and Kate, for coming down today. Enjoy the burgers and the rest of the day. Then lastly we are now going to plant a tree if the children would like to help they are most welcome.”
The festival was a huge success with lots of new ideas shared between neighbours. Three more project ideas emerged from the community gathering. One is to have street safety awareness training for the children of the estate in conjunction with the Community Guards; another one is to start a petition to the developers to put up a fence at the road side of the green (hopefully local politicians will support us in this regard as it is long outstanding); and the final one is to advocate for seating benches on the green.
All in all, the TreeCops Project was a huge success!
Activism = Campaigning = Organising = Community = Protesting = Building Alternatives = Challenging = Rethinking = Creating
We are all aware of the problems that require our urgent love and attention, both the local and the global; poverty, injustice, the environment, health, wars, resource distribution, politics and yes the global economic model to name but a few. But what I want to deal with here is the issue of power, and more specifically of us all taking ownership of our own power.
We do not live ‘atomic’ separate existences. Even the most reclusive of people live within networks of culture, of law, of infrastructure, of ideas, of education, of politics, and of the systems that deliver and disperse resources. These systems are all created by the actions of humans. This might seem a very obvious thing to say so maybe by now you are asking what on earth I am on about? I’m talking about how individuals and groups can affect these man-made systems and structures. In short, I’m talking about Activism.
The word activism is often taken as a synonym for ‘protest’ but if we use that shorthand explanation it can fool us into thinking that ‘Activism’ is not something we need to concern ourselves with. Not True! We are all ‘active’ in some way or another to create or sustain the types of systems we live in:
When we ignore or abdicate from something as crucial as our place in the world or our community and how we engage with it, we give others permission to engineer our society for us. By allowing others to ‘create society for me’ we are engaging in what we think is harmless ‘inactivity’ but actually manifests itself as a support for things as they are. To take the fitness analogy, not taking control of one’s diet and exercise will have a direct effect on one’s body. Not taking action on the issues that concern you will also have an effect on your society.
Think for a minute of the many things that we take for granted today in Ireland as rights or entitlements, for example weekends or days off from work, voting rights for women, the right not to be a slave, the right to have sex only by choice, the right not to be sentenced to death, or the right to choose our own interests and political affiliations to name just a few.
None of these ‘rights’ are things that were donated or asked for by some generous and wise benefactors. These are all things that people sometime somewhere saw as necessary. They imagined how they would look and function, and then came together to achieve them. I am certain that these people argued, disagreed, conceded and perhaps eventually settled for less than their ideals. We know though, that they continued to struggle and work to get these rights for the very reason that we now have the luxury of taking some of them for granted (though we shouldn’t!).
This work of achieving such freedoms took place over generations, and continued in the face of hardship and resistance. But those involved, to use a euphemism ‘carried the flame’ until these ideas became so firmly entrenched in our culture, that in some shape or form (and imperfect though their realisation might still be) these rights all became socially, legally and culturally deemed as the ‘norm’.
This does not mean that no-one here is oppressed or that we have perfect gender equality, but it does mean that our culture and institutions recognise these as things to which people are entitled; ‘standards’ is a useful word to describe them and that it is recognised as either deviance or criminality when these rights are not respected.
To summarise what I am saying here I will use a quote from anthropologist, Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.’’
In my opinion, getting involved with issues that concern you is one of the most important things a young person can begin to do. Have you ever heard about an event in history, or heard something in the news that made you really angry or upset? Something that really frustrated you, because you felt like you couldn’t do anything about it?
Well, getting involved with organisations like Amnesty International or Spunout.ie is one way for you to make a substantial difference. Whether you’re signing a petition, or helping out with a demonstration, there’s nothing better than the feeling that you can help change those issues that frustrate you.
And the changes can be substantial. You only need to look at a handful of success stories on Amnesty’s website to know that speaking out for other people, as a group/organisation, works: Aung San Suu Kyi was finally freed in 2010 after over 15 years under house arrest – thanks to thousands of people demanding her release. In 2011, Illinois banned the death penalty.
Many human rights activists and prisoners of conscience (e.g. Emadeddin Baghi, Mao Hengfeng) have been released due to petitions, letters of appeal, demonstrations and protests carried out by Amnesty International and other organisations with similar motives.
Although some of these achievements may seem small in the grand scheme of things, one small victory can have a ripple effect.
So, my advice to young people in Ireland is to use your voice. Don’t be afraid to say what you feel, even if you’re worried about sounding silly sometimes. You may be surprised at the respect you’ll earn from people (whether it’s peers or adults) from simply being outspoken. You may also be surprised at how one person or group of people, if they’re determined enough, can help change the world. Do not be mute.
Remember these sayings:
”Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”. - William Shakespeare
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. - Mary Mead
Check out our factsheets and opinion pieces on engaging in society. This is a key area that the SpunOut Action Panel has prioritised for 2013.
Tips to help you take action and make a positive difference.
Ireland is a democracy, which means the people elect their representatives and government by means of secret ballot.
Joining a political party means that you are registering with a political party and letting them and the world know that you generally support their causes and activates.
One SpunOutter gives her opinions on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.
Ireland is a constitutional democracy (you’ve lost me already SpunOut!). Well, this basically means that we get to have a say in who runs our country and what the laws of the land are.
The Know Your Rights information packs are provided by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL). They are a series of booklets designed to inform people about their rights, which the ICCL has rolled out as part of its Know Your Rights public information project. The booklet is designed to inform the general public, in clear and accessible language, of their rights in the areas of Garda search powers, arrest, interview, detention, provision of bodily samples and public order.
The State gets its power from the People of Ireland through the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann). The Constitution sets out some of the rights of people who live in Ireland. We also have rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). All agents of the State, including An Garda Síochána, must act in line with the Constitution and the ECHR.
The Constitution is interpreted by the courts and is supplemented by more detailed laws, which must also be in line with the Constitution. The law must also follow the ECHR and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Gardaí must act according to court rulings and legislation, otherwise they may be breaking the law.
If you have any doubts about the way you have been treated by the Gardaí, if they have interfered with any of your rights, you should contact a solicitor.
Last Thursday night the world received the news that a 95-year-old man in South Africa had died. He was known my many names; Madiba, Rolihlahla, Tata, but he is best known in Ireland as Nelson Mandela. Although many young people today won’t remember his time as South African president, never mind his time in prison before that, many will know him as a symbol of human rights, forgiveness, freedom and standing up for what you believe in. We have seen the tributes and quotes on social media, or watched Morgan Freeman portray his character in the movie Invictus, but what can we learn from the life and work of one of the most respected men in the world?
Nelson Mandela and the Struggle against Apartheid
Apartheid in South Africa, put simply, meant that people of different races had to be kept apart. White people and black people had to live in different areas and were given different rights and opportunities. White people, who were a minority of the population, held the power and massive human rights injustices were carried out against black South Africans. It was a terrible time in South Africa, with many people killed or arrested simply for being black in an area reserved for white people. Many people blame the legacy of apartheid for the continuing crisis of poverty in South Africa today.
Mandela was one of the many black South Africans who wanted freedom for his people, who didn’t want to sit back and allow any more injustices to be carried out. He was jailed for 27 years for his involvement in the campaign to end apartheid and gain equal rights for all people. During his time in prison his story spread across the world, and in the decades since his release his positive outlook and ability to forgive those who wronged him have made him an international hero.
Mandela wasn’t always a hero to the world; at the time many people labelled him a terrorist due to the violence carried out by his organisation, the ANC, during the struggle against apartheid. He was eventually released in 1990, then negotiations went underway to end apartheid, and in 1994 he became the first black president of South Africa. After his release he chose the path of forgiveness, extending his hand to the white community and trying to create a “free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
The Dunnes Stores Strikers
In 1984, thousands of miles from where Mandela was in jail, a group of women working for Dunnes Stores in Dublin refused to handle South African goods. Mary Manning, Karen Gearon, Alma Russell, Liz Deasy and others ended up striking for three years, knowing that they couldn’t stand by and do nothing to address what was happening in South Africa. It wasn’t an easy thing to do; in 1984 there was a recession in Ireland and jobs were as precious as they are today.
Their boycott of South African goods went on to become a national boycott, and many people believe that this international action put pressure on the South African government to release Mandela and end apartheid. Now, these women will represent the Irish people at Mandela’s funeral in South Africa. I for one cannot think of anybody more appropriate to do so.
Most human rights and social justice activists name Mandela as one of their greatest influences. But we can all take inspiration from Mandela and from the Dunnes Stores strikers, who stood up for what they believed in even when it was not the easy thing to do. We all have something we feel passionate about, some injustice that we don’t agree with. Whether its unemployment, education, mental health or something else entirely, take action and use your voice.
You don’t have to start a massive revolution if you don’t want to, but you can start to look at things differently and listen to Mandela’s advice on forgiveness, charity and justice. You have the right to be heard no matter your age. Some of the Dunnes Stores workers were only teenagers when they went on strike. Liz Deasy, who was only 16 at the time of the strike, said “it took us almost three years but we got what we wanted. It took Nelson Mandela 27 years. If you believe something is right and it’s worth fighting for you’ll get there in the end.”
It’s coming to the start of a new year, and with that is the annual mental health music and arts festival, First Fortnight. This year SpunOut.ie is partnering up for the festival, and we’ve got some great opportunities for you!
When: 4th of January 2014, 10am to 5pm
Where: The Exchange, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
We’re calling all 16 to 18 year olds to come join us for our workshop titled, Snap Shot of Us. It will be lead by artist and filmmaker Niamh Heery. The workshop will focus on using art to create interventions around positive mental health. We’ll hit the streets get people involved in positive mental health seflies, learn photography skills and create a crowd sourced video to be shown at the Button Factory before the Big First Fortnight gig featuring Heathers. And al the photo work will be on exhibition in the Button Factory and other venues around Temple Bar during first fortnight.
When: 11th January 2014, 8pm
Where: The Button Factory, Temple Bar
Fancy yourself as a journalist, photographer or video maker? Well SpunOut.ie are giving away 2 press passes to for the gig to 2 lucky 16-25 year olds. All you have to do is answer the following questions:
When: 6th of 9th of January 2014
Where: Dublin City Centre
During the first fortnight we’re looking for volunteers help us with our campaign to get people to spread positive mental health messages, using the medium of selfies. We’re recruiting volunteers to help us with temporary art installation and encouraging members of the public to share. We'll have frames and massive posits to get people sharing how they keep positive. Interested? Just email email@example.com
Don't forget the hashtags: #spunoutselfie and #firstfortnight
And don’t forget the Big Gig, featuring Heathers, Vann Music and Come on Live Long. You can get your tickets here
SpunOut.ie is holding a youth proofing hack and editorial brainstorm on December 7th from 11am - 3pm in SpunOut HQ in Templebar, Dublin, and we want you there.
We want your input into what issues you want to see us cover in 2014, aswell as giving us feedback on what we already have on the site. We will also be youth proofing a lot of our content to ensure that it has your seal of approval.
We're asking that you come along with your laptop if you have one (let us know if you wanna come but don't have a laptop). We have lots to do, but it will be done in a real chilled out atmosphere with our favourite tunes playing, lots of free pizza and chocolate.
You must be aged between 16-25 years of age (because that's our target age group) and there will be a €20 stipend for everyone who comes along. Let us know in advance if you want travel costs covered.
Please RSVP as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org and please include your phone number so we contact you if there are any lastminute changes.
When did you discover you were so good at doing impressions?
I have been doing impressions and voices as far back as primary school. I remember the first thing I used to impersonate were actors in ads on television and people used to think they were hilarious so that made me think there might be something to this impressions lark!
Why did you decide to put your videos on YouTube?
Well there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, I always intended to do it but I was NEVER a very extroverted person and am normally quite shy. Over time though I realised I'd be foolish not to because when I did them around friends and family the reaction was always brilliant.
Secondly, I had been following a few 'Youtubers' for a while and was even friends with one of the first Irish YouTubers, Bribry (Brian O' Reilly). I had helped out with a few of his videos and quickly fell in love with YouTube and the community surrounding uploaders and their subscribers. I just couldn't wait to have an even more active role in it.
What has the reaction been like to your videos/impressions?
It's been fantastic. Over the past couple of years I've gained around 35,000 subscribers and almost 2 million views. I get such overwhelmingly positive feedback in the comments section and on social networks. It's a real confidence booster.
Have you any tips for would-be vloggers/impersonators out there?
More importantly than anything else I would just say to go for it. You could be waiting around forever watching everyone else do it. If I hadn't started uploading videos my life would be completely different right now. Most likely less interesting! Also, if you're making a vlog I would say to keep it short and to the point, be honest and try to be original. There are so many vloggers out there doing the same stuff as everyone else, week in and week out. It may be effective for gaining viewers but it's lazy and dreadfully boring.
Have you ever met a celeb in real life that you've impersonated?
I met the Viper from Hardy Bucks and Ryan Tubridy when I worked briefly for 2FM doing radio sketches. Also, Ricky Gervais replied to me on Twitter saying that my impression of him was "Very good indeed". That is one of my personal highlights. I love Ricky Gervais.
Would you like to make a career out of your talent?
I have already pretty much! I dropped out of college to do this full-time and between YouTube, Voice Over and acting gigs; this is what I do now. I also started a viral marketing company called Pixel Itch with one of my friends, Niall Hewson, who is a multi-media genius. He makes me look like a complete Luddite in comparison. We've worked for brands like Club Orange, JustEat.ie and IMC Cinemas already.
How did you get involved in the Sightsavers project?
I studied marketing for a couple of years before I dropped out and a few of my close friends from college are now doing their final year project which involves working for Sight Savers. They got in contact and asked me if I could help out. Once I met with Roisin from Sight Savers who explained to me what the charity does, I was in. Sight Savers are devoted to fighting blindness in developing countries and the thing is, it seems so preventable. There are literally millions of people who are needlessly blind. It seemed like something should be done! So naturally I dressed up like Robert De Niro and made a fool of myself. Take that blindness!
Seán recently made a video for Sightsavers Ireland impersonating Robert De Niro to promote the fact that 80% of global blindness is avoidable and to launch their new “Snap a Sight” photo competition where people are asked to submit an image of the sight they would miss the most if they were blind.
We thought this was a great letter in the Irish Independent today from a young person, particularly the following papragraphs. You can read the full piece here.
The letter from B Berkely said:
Furthermore, the many hours of community work carried out by young people, particularly transition year students, remains largely ignored. There is a great need for our young people to be shown in a positive light on a more frequent basis.
I was bemused by his suggestion to "our Government to do something really constructive" to cure us of our affliction.
As I have never been exposed to any beneficial programme run by the Government for young people, I do not expect to be in the foreseeable future.
With ineffective anti-bullying policies and no provision of adequate sexual education, the Government demonstrates a clear lack of interest for this lost generation. I feel that my peers and I are viewed as impolite, technology-addicted and self-absorbed. However, we are capable, intelligent and have our own well-formed opinions.
This fact would be well understood if we were spoken to as equals, not as incompetent children. I shame those who shame us. But I am only a youth of this doomed country, so why would my opinion effing matter?
You can have a look at the letter below:
Calling all bloggers, Vloggers, writers etc. We want your Christmas related content to feature on SpunOut.ie
So December is around the corner and we're getting festive in SpunOut HQ. For December we want all your Christmas related content sent in as soon as possible so we can start making the site a little more Christmassy...
As always the list below is just to give you a few ideas to get you started- so don't be limited by them!
Buying pressies on a budget
Nobody likes the stress of buying an Xmas pressie, it's even worse when your broke and can't afford to splash out. We want your tips for buying a great present on a budget.
Top 10 Christmas movies
What 10 films would make your ultimate Christmas movies watch list? We love a bit of Home Alone- What would be on your list?
Top 10 Christmas songs
Who doesn't love a bit of Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas playing in the background as they wrap their pressies. What songs would make it onto your Christmas play list?
Winter fitness tips
How do you keep fit in the cold winter weather? We want your fitness tips to motivate others to get off the couch and get moving.
Not so holly and Jolly
Christmas can be difficult time for lots of people, we want your survival tips on getting through the holiday season in one piece. How do you do it?
Hooray for duvet days
Who doesn't love a good duvet day? Do you have a ritual for your duvet day, we want to hear it!
Do you hate Christmas?
Are you a bit of a grinch around Christmas? Do the holidays turn you a little green? Are you sick of all the hype over one day? Tell us all about it.
We also want you to send in your articles or videos that deal with different topics which you think will be of interest to other 16-25 year olds. We don’t set the agenda as to what you should create content on, we simply give you some ideas.