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.
“Delivering serious fun” is a pretty hard tagline for a conference to live up to, but with music, competitions and spot prizes on offer, as well as interesting talks and workshops, Youth Work Ireland’s conference in Dublin Castle on October 11 shouldn’t disappoint.
They’re an organisation that encourages young people to actively participate in civic and social life in Ireland, and they offer services like youth clubs and youth cafés with the help of over 7,000 volunteers. The conference will include workshops in fundraising for youth clubs and raising awareness of their services, as well as a “Club Taster Session” with cool new ideas you can bring back to your own club.
On top of a keynote speech from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly, there’ll also be input from youth club workers, members and volunteers on the serious but challenging work such clubs engage in, but in a fun and open way. The conference is open to anyone who’s involved in youth clubs, and the registration fees are as follows:
They’ll also be hosting the Volunteer Achievement Awards on the day, and if you’re an artsy type you might even try your hand at designing a flag which symbolises what your youth club is all about- it’ll be flown over Dublin Castle, and the winning flag gets a prize.
You can find out about all the events and activities by clicking here.
You might know her best as Harry Potter's Hermione Granger but Emma Watson has been casting a very different type of spell this week.
United Nations Women, an organisation dedicated to the empowerment of women and young girls, recently hosted a special event about gender inequality. Watson, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, gave a rather inspiring speech about feminism on the day.
There's been a lot of talk about the subject both on and offline over the past few months and the actress wanted to set the record straight.
"The more I've spoken about feminism, the more I've come to realise that fighting for womens' rights has become synonymous with man-hating", she said. "If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop".
Watson went on to say that gender inequality wasn't just about women and invited men from around the world to join the cause too, by taking part in UN Women's new HeForShe campaign. It aims to encourage men to help women fight for equal rights.
Her words seemed to strike a chord with everyone who heard them and it wasn't long before the #HeForShe tweets came pouring in on Twitter. Some rather familiar names and faces even began pledging their support.
One Direction's Harry Styles, Thor star Tom Hiddleston and Watson's former Harry Potter co-star Matthew Lewis (that's Neville Longbottom to you and I) have all been spotted posing with #HeForShe banners.
They're in good company because Russel Crowe, Simon Pegg, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Chris Colfer have all been at it too, spreading the #HeForShe message to their followers and fans.
We think Hermione Granger would wholeheartedly approve.
Thanks to all those who shared their own #HealthHack14 tips with us over the weekend and congratulations to out two winners who were;
Facebook - Claire Ní Corragáin
Twitter - @GracieNiG
All this week we have been sharing loads of helpful suggestions from our ‘Health Hack’ campaign highlighting small changes you can make for a happier, healthier lifestyle.
With thousands of students packing up and moving back to college or away from home for the first time, we thought September was a good time to highlight simple and easy tips that can benefit everybody’s mental and physical health.
The challenge itself is simple; get 30 minutes of exercise a day and plan your meals to ensure you are getting a balanced and varied diet. To make things easier, there is also the option to sign up for FREE SMS support if you feel you might need that little bit extra motivation!
We’ve already visited college campuses in Dublin, Cork, Sligo, Limerick and Carlow spreading the word but now we need your help!
HOW TO ENTER
To enter to win one of the two €50 vouchers, we want you to inspire your friends and other SpunOutters by sharing your own ‘Health Hacks’ with us on our Facebook page or Twitter using #HealthHack14.
Some shared already include getting off the bus a stop early and walking the rest of the way, drinking water instead of fizzy drinks, taking the stairs rather than the lift and making your own healthy lunch the night before to bring with you but tell us what works for you.
Competion closes on Monday, Sept 29th. We’ll announce one winner on Facebook and one on Twitter who can use the €50 supermarket voucher to help kickstart a happier, healthier lifestyle.
You asked for it, so you got it, the next in our quiz series is the Disney Movies Table Quiz. Featuring questions from the full library of animated and live-action films, this one will really test your knowledge.
Questions will be on all Disney movies and might cover anything from animated films such as Cinderella, The Lion King, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to live action films like Honey I Blew Up the Kid, The Mighty Ducks, Pirates of the Caribbean or even Flubber!
We will have six question rounds, one picture round and an audio round. These are the kinds of films we all loved growing up so you better start brushing up!
Tuesday, September 30th at 7:00pm sharp.
D2 | Nightclub, 60 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2
Please note this quiz is for people aged 18 and over due to the premises.
You can book your tickets below or show up on the night. For most of our quizzes we sell out so booking online is advised. Tables are €24 + eventbrite's booking fee. This event will sell out, so buy your table now while you still can!
Mental health is a huge issue in Ireland today, with experts estimating that over half of young people will experience a mental health problem by the age of 24.
On top of that, around 300,000 people are believed to be suffering from depression in this country at any one time, and reports released just last week indicated that the number of suicides here reached an all-time peak in 2011 compared to records from previous years.
So, what can you do to help? Mental Health Reform want you to sign their petition which calls on the Government to ensure that funding is maintained at a decent level for mental health services.
They’re calling on the Taoiseach and ministers to allocate an extra €50 million to community mental health services in next month’s budget (according to the organisation’s figures, funding for mental health services dropped by nearly €200 million between 2006 and 2012!)
Mental Health Reform works to educate the wider population about issues affecting people’s mental health. They also promote other bodies that speak out about such topics, and encourage the State to supply adequate services and funding to meet the needs of our communities and people of all ages.
100 minds is back and bigger than ever. Some of Ireland’s best and brightest students superseded their target of raising €100,000 for Temple Street in 2013.
This year the 100minds team are setting their sights higher with an aim of €150,000 in aid of Blossom Ireland and Barnardos. And you could apply to be one of the awesome undergards who takes on the challenge this year.
Aside from the fact that you’ll be raising money for some very worthy causes, 100minds is also a platform for you to gain new skills in project management and implementing an idea. You will get plenty of support along the way as each student is assigned a mentor – who are all recent graduates working in the world’s top companies like Twitter, Google, and KPMG.
Each participant will also be able to track their progress with an online profile page on the 100minds website, which will also allow you to blog about your experience. Pretty nifty.
The 100minds initiative is something that will look great on your CV, but need some more inspiration? Check out this video from last year’s participants:
What are you waiting for? Apply now!