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.
HeadSpace Magazine is a not-for-profit magazine that deals with the theme of mental health and publishes art, short stories and poetry. Apart from aiming to raise awareness about mental health in society and offering an outlet for people with mental health issues to express their emotions through art and writing, the magazine’s main purpose is to provide support to people undergoing treatment for mental health issues. Thus the magazine is distributed for free to psychiatric wards and mental health support centres across Ireland.
Friday the 25th of July saw HeadSpace Magazine launch its third issue in The White Lady Art Gallery on Wellington Quay in Dublin. The launch night featured performances by the Improrphans, a brilliant comedy improv troupe, interspersed with readings by various contributors of their pieces published in the magazine’s third issue. That evening, the magazine’s main editor Naomi Elster also formally announced that she is leaving the magazine, officially naming Lisa Burke as main editor.
HeadSpace Magazine was first set up in 2013 by Orla Price, Naomi Elster and Lisa Burke, and at the launch of Issue 3, new editor Lisa Burke described what prompted the main idea behind the magazine: “I've been an inpatient in hospital and you find that much of the support comes from the patients themselves. I found that there was nothing to read, and that many of the patients were writing. When you undergo such an experience, you find that you have a lot to say, and Headspace provides an outlet for this type of work.
In a way, it also brings the support home. The magazine is distributed to psychiatric hospitals across the country so it will be read by people who are both in need and providing support at this time, making them feel less isolated and giving strength and hope to get through this experience.”
In the one-and-a-half years since its establishment, HeadSpace Magazine has gone from strength to strength. Its first issue, made possible by crowdsourcing, fundraising and a small grant by O2 ThinkBig/Jigsaw, was launched in May 2013 as a pilot and distributed for free to hospitals in Dublin, Laois, Wicklow, and Wexford, and to the nationwide Jigsaw Project.
In 2013 HeadSpace received funding from Rehab Group's Visual and Performing Arts Fund, as well as a Superheroes Fund grant from SpunOut, which made the publication of issues 2 and 3 possible. Now, 400 copies of Issue 3 have been printed and will be distributed for free to psychiatric wards across the country, as well as to asylum seeker centres, MIND UK, Outhouse and ten Jigsaw support centres. HeadSpace Magazine also plans to expand its distribution to college health centres and has already made plans for the fourth issue, which will be funded by and published in conjunction with St. Patrick’s mental health hospital.
Have you ever wanted to get involved in problems facing young people like you around the globe? Well, with UNICEF Ireland’s new campaign ‘It’s About Us,’ you can do it with just a click of a button (literally!).
‘It’s About Us’ was designed to get Irish youth involved in the issues that are most important to them. UNICEF Ireland work to educate young people about inequality, discrimination and children’s rights, and gives them a space to make their voices heard.
On the ‘It’s About Us’ website, young people (0-25!) are given the chance to vote for the top 5 issues that matter the most to them from 10 options:
These votes will be added together, calculated and given to the Minister for Foreign Affairs before he goes to visit the United Nations in September, so something that seems quite unremarkable will actually have a huge impact. And it’s so easy!
I did a TY work experience placement at UNICEF’s office last November, just when the ‘It’s About Us’ project was starting. I stayed in contact with them, and in June, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer with the project and try to encourage teenagers to vote. So off I went into Cork city centre for the day, hoping that we might get people interested in changing the world!
I got into Merchants Quay shopping centre for about 11am, where UNICEF’s campaign coordinator, Viv, had already set up. We were given t-shirts and iPads for the voting, and were sent off to try and find some fellow teenagers to approach.
I learned a lot from speaking with young people on the streets of Cork. For many, it had been the first time they had heard of UNICEF or the project, and everyone seemed quite interested in how it worked. We spoke to 19 year olds in college and 11 year olds with their parents, and went everywhere from shopping centres to outside McDonalds.
‘It’s About Us’ has the potential to make a huge difference because it encourages young people to become ambassadors. We are the future leaders, volunteers, doctors and diplomats, it is hoped that a project like this could be the first step in inspiring even just one person to take a stand. It’s so easy to vote, and it has the potential to change lives all around the globe. We, as young people, have the responsibility to help other vulnerable young people like us.
UNICEF Ireland is holding a Youth Summit on September 19th in Dublin Castle hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, where young people will come together and debate and discuss issues. You can vote, volunteer and learn more on the ‘It’s About Us’ website here: www.unicef.ie/itsaboutus as well finding out about the amazing work that is being done by UNICEF.
Also, don’t forget to look out for volunteers in your local town or city. UNICEF is travelling the country to get the opinions of young people, so don’t be afraid to step up and take action!
It’s about us. Raise your voice.
The next in our mega-popular quiz series is the Marvel Movies Table Quiz. The series has been a massive success so thanks to everyone who has attended so far.
The questions will be taken from all marvel movies to date (not just ones related to the Avengers) so you better brush up on your Spider-man, X-Men, Iron-Man, Captain America, Thor, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Punisher, Blade, Daredevil, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers and more!
We will have six question rounds, one picture round and a video round. There have been almost 40 movies based on Marvel comics since 1986, so you'd better start brushing up!
Tuesday, September 2nd at 7:00pm sharp.
D2 | Nightclub, 60 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2
You can book your tickets below or show up on the night. We were at full capacity for our last quiz (Simpsons) 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!
It's that time of year again. When Rehab go on the search for Irelands' unsung heroes. They're looking for the ordinary people who've done extraordinary things in the last year. There are several People of the Year awards but there are also categories for:
You can nominate friends, family, a co-worker, anyway who you think has shown bravery, selflessness, or someone who has gone 'above and beyond the call of duty'!
Closing date for nominations is September 12th.
“Been there, done that”
Have you recently done the LC? Have some wisdom to pass on from your year as a Fresher? Something you learned recently that you wish you knew this time last year? Well why not share you knowledge with others going through the same thing at the moment.
There’s an app for that!
There seems to be an app for just about everything these days but with the never-ending amount of them, it’s hard to know what’s worth taking up space on your phone. So is there an app that’s helping you change your lifestyle for the better?
Travel and volunteering
Have you spent time travelling or volunteering this summer? Share what gems of knowledge you’ve learned along the way. Send us in a review of why it works for you.
True Life stories
True-life stories are an important part of SpunOut.ie and we want to hear your first-hand experience of surviving in the big bad world.
We always welcome multimedia content so if writing isn't your thing, feel free to send in audio, video or any other multimedia you make to share your story or opinion.
We also want you to send in content that deal with any other topic 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.
It’s International Youth Day 2014 and this year’s theme is “Mental Health Matters”.
In Ireland, we are familiar with the stigma that is attached with talking about our mental health but hopefully we are starting to see a move away from young people suffering in silence and feeling isolated.
However, a new publication from the United Nations shows that 20% of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year.
Secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki Moon said today: “Let us begin to talk about our mental-health in the same way we talk about our overall health.”
The cliché that always gets overused when we talk about mental health, but that still rings true, is the phrase about if you had a broken leg, you’d go to the doctor…so why not go if you have a mental health problem.
With the news of Robin Williams’ death, it again highlights the need to start a conversation about our mental health, how we can mind it and keeping an eye on the people around us.
We must get better at talking when we're low, that’s for sure. But we must also get better at listening to others too. We must actually hear what people are saying to us. We must make ourselves available.
We’ll hardly ever be able to fix their problems but we can be there for them and do what we can. You'll help by just showing you care and support them. Here’s some advice on how to help a friend who has depression.
It can be hard to find the courage to talk to someone, whether it be family, friends or a GP, we've got some tips that can help you get started here.
Some SpunOutters have shared their experience of getting through tough times and you can read about them below:
Shane writes about breaking the stigma around mental illness
Vlog: the relationship between alcohol and mental health
Alan says "It's time to talk"
Dave shares his advice for keeping your head healthy
Shane writes about dealing with the bad days
One SpunOutter describes the road to recovery
Being aware of your thoughts can help with things too, get tips for ditching the monkey in our animation series.