26 June 2023 saw the culmination and celebration of this year’s Changemakers projects. With groups of students from the participating schools Malpas Court, Newport, and Bryngwyn, Carmarthen coming to the Temple of Peace and Health to share their work and achievements as well as participating in workshops on the themes of fair trade and conflict resolution through non-violence.
Changemakers is a Global Citizenship project, funded by the British Council, that seeks to give learners and young people the opportunity to think critically on global issues, before planning and taking action collectively to create positive change.
What makes Changemakers resonate with the young people is that rather than being prescriptive, the themes explored are chosen by them, with guidance and advice from teachers and WCIA. In previous year’s groups of students have taken on projects ranging from; refugees, the impact of mobile phones and global fashion.
Bryngwyn Secondary School examined genocide through the lens of the Holocaust. Looking into the ‘ordinary people’ on all sides who are drawn into atrocities, victims, perpetrators and rescuers.
“The theme prompted us to consider how ordinary people, such as ourselves, can perhaps play a bigger part than we might imagine. We are all ordinary people today who can be extraordinary in our actions. We can all make decisions to challenge prejudice, stand up to hatred, to speak out against identity-based persecution, to shop responsibly.”
The students held a special Holocaust Memorial Day registration in which they created memorial flames, and a small group set up a teleconference with Holocaust survivor Ruth Pozner to hear her powerful story.
“Hearing Ruth Posner’s story was extraordinary. Despite all she went through, she is strong and passionate in sharing her experience. She is brave. This was an experience I will never forget.” – Alex, Bryngwyn year 11 student.
Malpas Court developed a project around water use and waste, reflecting on the way that water is used here and in other places. This included considering how each of us can play a role in minimising waste but also how, for some of us, we have more options in terms of the water that we have access to. Their topic was varied and allowed them to explore their local water treatment plants but also to explore tips on water use and waste in different places in the world. “It was interesting to find the struggle that some people have on a daily basis”, said Sonny
Kate’s quote – “From it [changemakers] they’ve realised about the bigger picture in terms of global issues, [we] looked at local issues and the small things that they can do which feel are within their control in order to make a change, and then to spread the word to other people to do the same thing. On a simple level to have an impact.
At the conference both groups took part in workshops organised by Fair Trade Wales and Quakers in Britain respectively. The workshops were engaging sessions that give an introduction into key themes that aligned with their own projects. Kadun from Fair Trade Wales taught the young people a little bit about what the principles of Fair Trade are. To help the students write a letter to a teacher or local politician, using persuasive language to inform people about how to buy or support Fair Trade.
The takeaway of the workshop was to ‘think a bit more about global connectedness, where things come from and how people are treated by those things, [and] from that try to be advocates for fair trade’.
The second workshop, run by Quakers in Britain explored what we can do when we see or think that something is unjust or not right in the world. How we address that conflict in a way that doesn’t make the problem worse, and doesn’t escalate it. Considering how the principles of nonviolence can be applied both in our every day lives in a variety of situations.
The aim of the session was to build that understanding, according to Ellis ‘when do we stand up for justice and how can we do that in the most effective way that still upholds peace and nonviolence.’
Over lunch, we heard presentations from the students themselves, reflecting on the learning they had engaged in during the projects and also asking one another about what they would like to take action on next. We were delighted to be able to celebrate together their achievements with certificates and pledges, considering how we can take this learning onward to the next academic year.
“ We would love to be involved again” our teachers reflected “the experience of being able to be part of a Wales-wide initiative that brings us out of the classroom has been really valuable.”
If you think that your school or youth groups would be interested in learning about and gaining the tools and abilities to tackle a project that is close to them, we would love to have you involved in next year’s Changemakers, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and start your Changemakers journey.