Advocating for global justice starts with one person, one family and one community, as secondary students discovered at the One World, WonTok Poverty and Development Youth Conference. Dianne Jensen reports.
"On no, my crops died!" "We'll have to sell something!"
Students gathered around the laptop at the One World, WonTok Poverty and Development Youth Conference had just realised that pests, lack of rain and random disasters had wiped out their online crops.
The computer simulation is an interactive learning activity about subsistence farming based on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1: Eradicate extreme poverty.
WonTok is a Melanesian word which intimates a shared family, community, language, history and future.
Similar conferences were held in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Now in its second year, the event is designed to help students identify and think through global poverty and development challenges using the MDGs as a guiding framework.
They include hands-on activities such as simulation games, discussions and a panel with experts in the field.
At another activity station (MDG 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability), students were putting their heads together to recycle empty plastic milk containers into useful household items.
One enterprising group created a cot mobile, while another constructed a water filtration unit.
Students found their eyes opened to the significance of education, particularly for girls, and were challenged by the high rates of deaths among children and mothers.
UnitingWorld facilitator Stephanie Dalton says understanding that people in need have the dignity and the capability to overcome their challenges is one of the key aims of the conference.
"Today we have seen students think, 'Hang on, that person's not so different to me'.
"We wanted to teach them to come alongside people, and that's something that UnitingWorld really values.
"We come alongside our partners; we don't impose our values over them."
And sometimes, she adds, simple solutions can make a world of difference.
"For example, at our maternal health activity we want students to think of the really easy interventions that families and local governments can do to make sure that women don't die during pregnancy, childbirth and afterwards.
"Something as simple as a birthing kit, with things like gloves and soap."
"Raising awareness about global poverty and disadvantage, and how we can overcome these issues together, starts with the individual, followed by the family and the community, says Ms Dalton.
"Awareness means that people are actually empowered to get out there and change things, because you have to know before you go."
Photo : Ailish (St Margaret’s School, Brisbane ) Emile (St John’s Anglican College, Forest Lake) and Kyle (Unity College, Caloundra) work together on an interactive activity at the One World, WonTok Youth Conference on Poverty and Development in Brisbane. Photo: Holly Jewell