“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” (Paulo Freire)
This 8-week course offered a very good insight into the importance of development education in today’s world as well as some fun and exciting ways to raise knowledge and awareness of global issues within groups.
From the very first day, it was an enjoyable experience. We were all welcomed by Alan Hayes who outlined what we could expect over the course of eight weeks. Alan is a fantastic communicator and put our minds at ease in terms of what we could expect. We highlighted our own views on how confident we were at facilitating groups on global justice issues and on the last day of the course we revisited our previous view of ourselves; internally of course. Needless to say, everybody believed they were much more ready and able to facilitate a session!
As the weeks progressed, I felt that course participants (including myself) started to come out of their shell much more. Normally I would be a quiet, laid-back person, happy to let other people talk and take the lead in the discussion. However, as the weeks progressed I felt my confidence growing. The more we came to know each other, the more willing I was to get involved in the discussions we were having. I found the sessions to be very thought provoking. They promoted the value of people working together to figure out ways to tackle issues like unfair global trade systems, racism or gender inequality.
Another aspect of the course which I found to be useful was the fact that participants were from different backgrounds and parts of the world, and not just international development workers or community workers. For example, course participants included nurses, physios, mathematicians as well as some UCD alumni. Having people from diverse backgrounds helped me to see issues from different perspectives and I found this to be very useful. As the weeks ticked by, I could see my confidence growing in regards to my own personal ability to facilitate a session on global justice issues.
One of my favourite moments was delivered by Farah Mokhtarazeizadeh, a community activist with firm roots in local and global solidarity advocacy. Farah is of Iranian-American-Irish descent and facilitated a very interesting session on images through the lens of colonialism and gender. I feel this topic is important today especially with the results of the US election back in November and the current rise in right wing nationalism throughout Europe.
Another key moment for me was the end-of-course Saturday peer facilitation day. Ahead of the day and in small groups, we selected a topic related to global justice / development and devised a 30-minute session for the other course participants. After being involved in the previous weeks and learning from all the facilitators everybody could see how far we had all come.
In my group, we developed a session based on the theme of how we are all connected as human beings. Regardless of race, religion or creed, the members of my group felt that people are not as connected as they should be. This can be due to the wider environment, background or some inner discrimination or prejudice that people can have but sometimes be unaware of. At the same time, deeper connection is possible because we are connected through human emotions such as compassion, empathy and through our basic human needs. As we concluded the session the group impulsively hugged each other and we felt very good about our session! (Thank you, Nick Vujicic).
On reflection, the role of development education is to promote these kinds of human values and to try to connect people across the walls that do exist. I believe by highlighting the ways we rely on each other we can begin to move forward on many global challenges. It is also evident for me that to challenge issues such as racism and climate change, NGOs, Government (local and national), community members and other relevant stakeholders all need to be involved.
Ultimately, the course opened my mind to global issues and the challenges disadvantaged groups face daily. I learned many new skills and made many new friends. It was inspiring to see the ideas and positivity that people from all ages and backgrounds have to offer. It gave me hope that there is a new wave of activists and volunteers from all fields of work and life willing to challenge the issues we explored through the course. Overall, my sometimes-pessimistic view of human intellect was outshone by the optimism and the will of the group’s members to change society for the better.
About the author:
James has a background in Community Development and studied Media & International Conflict at the Clinton Institute in UCD. Currently working in Marketing, James is heading to Nairobi, Kenya in the summer to volunteer in the global fight against human trafficking.