After 6 years at African Initiatives I am moving on to a new adventure on Friday. So every day this week I will be blogging about my time with the organisation and my memories of the people, experiences and our achievements.
Anyone who’s met me through volunteering, attending talks, our conference or working in partnership with African Initiatives will know that global education has a special place in my heart; and that I have been unashamedly banging on about it for about the last 6 years. I believe, and will continue to believe that without understanding the causes of poverty, the impact of our own actions and the role that we as individuals have in shaping our world we will never truly be able to support development abroad.
It’s a matter of responsibility really. And as I am the quintessential ‘big sister’ (still trying to hold my little brother’s hand when he crosses the road – and he’s 30) maybe I have a heightened sense of this. But it’s not rocket science to me. If we damage the climate living here in the UK, we have to take responsibility for the possible impact of this in drought in Tanzania. If we hear about giant multi national corporations flooding the Ghanaian market with cheap tomatoes from Italy and China then of course Ghanaian farmers are going to suffer.
It is this interdependence between us and the rest of the world that the global education programme we have delivered over the last 6 years has aimed to highlight; both in schools and in communities. Too often we perceive people from other countries as being somehow different to us, and therefore unapproachable or difficult to understand. By bringing the world into classrooms or into communities global education creates bridges between ‘us’ and ‘them’ until we become just “everyone”. As one 9 year old told me at an event we were doing at Windmill City Farm in Bristol, “We’re not different, we’re unique.”
Changing attitudes and challenging the sometimes negative media portrayal of Africa has been another key part of our programmes. Global Eyes has been one of my favourite projects. It aimed to challenge perceptions of Africa over a 3 year period through work with students in partnership with members of the African Diaspora communities. The kids loved having the chance to talk to people who had grown up in the countries they were learning about and dispel some of the myths – I was giving an assembly once and showed a photo of a Maasai warrior with a staff in one hand and a mobile phone in another and this little voice piped up “I didn’t know they had mobiles in Africa! What game do you think he’s playing?!”
Most of all global education gives the space for kids (and adults) to make connections between concepts and ideas. At the beginning of the Global Eyes project, students at one school in Bristol defined poverty as ‘not enough money for food’. By the end, it was simply ‘inequality’.
This understanding brings a deeper knowledge to our life choices, both those that affect us individually and those that have a wider impact on our local and global communities. I’m so proud of what African Initiatives has achieved over the past 6 years and the difference which we know we have made to people. I met a girl who was at a trade justice workshop I ran right at the beginning of my time at AI the other week. Now about to finish university, she stopped me in the street (somewhat to my confusion I have to admit!) and said, “You know, what you told us about fair trade made me ask a lot more questions. You showed me it wasn’t just about buying a chocolate bar with a symbol on, it went deeper than that. I’ve never forgotten it.”
We can all change the world. We just have to know how.
To read yesterday’s blog click here
To have a look through some of our global education resources (available as PDFs) please click here
To learn more about our global education work visit our sister site www.globaleducationinitiatives.org.uk