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Young Social Innovators of the Year Awards 2019

Young Social Innovators of the Year Awards 2019

Young Social Innovators of the Year 2019 from Bush Post Primary School, Dundalk (Credit: Julien Behal)


Young Social Innovators of the Year Awards 2019

At a special event in Croke Park on 15 May, Bush Post Primary School, Dundalk were declared Young Social Innovators of the Year 2019 for their project Let's Talk About Consent, which aims to educate young people about what consent is in a very accessible way. They were one of 31 shortlisted teams who made their final pitches to judging panels at the event, having come through a rigorous selection process of more than 370 entries. The event was attended by Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciarán Cannon TD, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, Seán Canney TD and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Catherine Byrne TD, who all presented awards.

Castleisland Community college students with Minister for Development Ciarán Cannon TD (Credit: Debbie Hickey)

Young Social Innovators (YSI), established in 2001, is dedicated to harnessing young people's energy and passion to build a fairer, more equal world. YSI's Social Innovation Action Programme raises awareness of issues concerning social justice, equality, inclusion and fairness. It is youth led and enables young people, working in teams, to take action on issues of concern to them in today's world.

In order to strengthen the Global Citizenship dimension of the awards, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through its WorldWise Global Schools programme, sponsors the Global Citizens Award, to acknowledge projects which have a global context and in which young people seek justice and equality as global citizens.

The winners of the Global Citizens Award 2019 were also the winners of the Overall Silver Award for their project We Are All Human. The YSI team from Largy College, Clones, Co. Monaghan worked tirelessly to make their community a more welcoming place for refugees, especially families from the Syrian Resettlement Programme. One of the team members herself is a refugee from Syria who also has younger siblings in the school. The team launched a book and a board game, both of which were designed to educate young people about the issues faced by refugees. They created and launched an app in association with Monaghan County Council called Monaghan Welcomes You that lists local amenities in several different languages. They designed and hosted a community event in Clones, Flight to Freedom, a 5km challenge in which participants experience the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers. They are also working on the story for a film which will tell the story of Lilav, their Syrian classmate.

Largy College, Clones, Co. Monaghan, winners of the DFAT Global Citizens Award 2019 (Credit: Debbie Hickey)

The YSI team from Lusk Community College, Dublin also wanted to promote awareness about direct provision and multiculturalism in general through their project, Gach Duine. As well as delivering lessons to younger year groups during History and Justice Week, the team organised a school Multicultural Day and linked up with Sanctuary Runners who use sport, and running in particular, to build bridges between communities and to show that we are all equal. They created a podcast with a representative from Amnesty International as well as a video to combat stereotyping.

The winners of the Make Our Future More Sustainable Award were The Global Gang from Castleisland Community College in Kerry. This YSI team have been running an awareness campaign to educate young people and the local community on the causes and consequences of climate change and the solutions that we can all achieve. It is the world's poorest and most vulnerable who suffer most as a result of climate change. There is just not enough space to list all of their amazing activities here. They created a train sculpture out of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood and recycled materials that, through collaboration with Tidy Towns, now sits on the site of the old train station. They raised awareness about the use of FSC wood and plan to turn Irish schools into FSC schools. They designed 'Air Bee and Bees', huts to attract and assist bees, and have worked with Gortbrack Organic farm to create a 5 year plan to increase biodiversity around their school. They brought their project into Seachtain na Gaeilge with their "Rap Uisce' and their CSPE sponsored silence (bet their teachers loved that!), raised money for solar panels for the school.

Other wonderful contenders in this category were Tullamore College with their Busy Bees project. The team tried to arrest the worrying decline in bee populations by creating a more bee-friendly environment in their school and local community and by raising awareness. The serious decline in bee populations worldwide may have a catastrophic effect on smallholder farms, especially in the world's poorer countries. Bee Packs created by the team included flower seeds and promotional and educational materials and these were sold around the town. A board game was developed to help educate primary school children about bees as well as a presentation that was delivered to junior cycle and primary school students.

The team from Coláiste Mhuire, Askeaton, Co Limerick called their project Death by Plastic and they created an interactive game, children's colouring books and a sculpture to be displayed locally.

The winners of the Make Our World More Fair and Just category were Laurel Hill Secondary School FCJ, Co. Limerick. The all-girl team highlighted the serious gender inequality that is so prevalent in sport. Although their project focused on sport in Ireland, this is a global problem and this inequality is not by any means limited to sport. This reflects the more widespread discrimination against women where it is so often accepted as the norm and therefore ignored. All four girls are athletes, playing camogie, football, basketball, hockey and rugby and they have experienced first-hand the inequality suffered by women in regards to facilities, equipment, management, nutrition and publicity. Through their project, Girls play sport… why don't we support?, they aimed to promote women in sport and to promote higher attendance at female sports events. They created links with female athletes and teams, actively promoted the 20x20 campaign, created an all-female wall of fame, and provided opportunities for students to attend female matches.

Laurel Hill Secondary School FCJ students with Joe Gallagher Deputy Director of the Sustainable Development Section, DCCAE (Credit: Debbie Hickey)

Each of the teams who presented their Big Ideas on 15 May was required to explain to the panel of judges how their project was helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Global Citizenship Education programme strengthens understanding of the global justice dimension of each of the Goals, inspiring and enabling people to take action at local, national and global levels.

The optimism, intelligence and infectious enthusiasm of all of the young Innovators at the event makes us very hopeful that the 2030 agenda can be achieved.

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