Dear Global Citizens,

As we reflect on the past year, we have been inspired by your resilience and motivation to continue to take meaningful #ActionAtHome, despite the difficulties faced on the local and global stages.

This past year has taught us that collective action can have a big positive impact, towards a common goal. This time last year, we all came together (while staying apart!) to attempt to slow and reverse the spread of COVID-19. 

In Ireland, many had the privilege to move their work and learning to a virtual space. The virtual world allowed us to engage and interact with our counterparts across the world to share our learning which in itself presented new opportunities and experiences. We did our best to #StayAtHome, and this week restrictions in Ireland have greatly eased, allowing us to enjoy the little privileges and freedoms again – a success of collective #ActionAtHome!

However, lockdown and the pandemic has exposed and heightened the existing inequalities in Ireland and around the world. For example, the “digital divide” has been highlighted in Ireland, in which students and older generations could not easily adapt to this new way of virtual living due to cost, lack of access, opportunity and education. Homelessness is continuing to rise in Ireland with many families living in emergency accommodation with nowhere else to go and no other opportunities to enable them to find a home of their own.

Despite the lockdowns and issues created and accelerated by the virus, Global Citizens across Ireland and the world have continued to take meaningful #ActionAtHome – thinking globally while acting locally. Just last week, our 2020/2021 cohort of Global Citizen Award participants submitted their final reports towards achieving their GCA after adapting their actions to our virtual world. 

Participants developed online workshops to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, and responsible consumption with practical actions that can be taken from workshop attendees’ own homes. Another participant grew fruit and vegetables, delivering seedlings to neighbours along with information on the environmental and health benefits of growing your own vegetables. Others have been exploring trade justice and fair trade, with a focus on the sustainability of chocolate production (and who doesn’t love chocolate! Believe us when we say it tastes better when you know where it is sourced! Read more tips on sourcing ethical chocolate here). 

Global Citizens across Ireland have been facilitating online Development Education workshops for schools and teachers to learn about the Global Goals and the importance of Quality Education. An online database was created to identify and promote ethical and sustainable clothing businesses in Ireland, raising awareness of fast-fashion and the fashion industry’s negative impact on our environment. Facebook Live is another virtual tool used to create educational ‘step-by-step’ video guides on protecting and nurturing our biodiversity. Podcasts and webinars were also developed to raise awareness and empower others to take #ActionAtHome.

In previous years, Global Citizen Award Participants would have facilitated workshops with groups in schools, colleges and workplaces. Actions would have taken place on the streets and in our communities. We would have had the opportunity to get together, and maybe even attend some of your events! 

With none of these events taking place in person this past year, we would like to commend everyone who continued to adapt and take meaningful #ActionAtHome

After your overseas experience, you returned home with the desire to share your learning, take action and make a worthwhile and lasting difference at home. We hope that the Global Citizen Award has given you this opportunity to express yourself, a platform to raise awareness about the global issues you feel passionate about, continue in your learning and take action towards a more just and sustainable future.

To us, Global Citizenship is aligned with the concept of Ubuntu – meaning ‘I am because we are’ – a sense of shared humanity. A global citizen is aware that their every day actions can have an impact on the lives of others in different parts of our world. A global citizen takes responsibility for these actions and makes informed choices to promote justice and equality. We hope that the Global Citizen Award has also given you the opportunity to explore your own self, and your own responsibility as an active global citizen.

We believe in the concept that intercultural learning experiences, embedded with strong development education programmes can inspire meaningful action, and inspire active global citizenship towards a better future. This reinforces the importance of participating in Development Education when volunteering overseas. We volunteer to make a difference and sometimes the biggest impact can be felt when you come home. We hope that you will continue in your learning journeys and active global citizenship to make Ireland and our world a better place to live.

We are truly looking forward to getting together with you all in the coming months to celebrate your fantastic work. 

Yours in solidarity,

Adam, Ruth and Siobhán

(Global Citizenship Department)