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All the young things

May 21, 2010

There is really no way I can call myself young anymore – I often tend to think I am, but truth is, I’m no spring chicken. (I’m not that old, but just not, you know…I’m past my teens.)

But if you are – read on! Because lately I’ve noticed that lots of the big NGO’s have got little off-shoots squarely aimed at engaging youngsters with the bigger issues.

Oxfam has got a spunky little sister called 3things.

Convinced that the idea that ‘young people don’t care anymore’ was bogus, in 2008 they started collaborating with young designers and artists, exploring ways their profession could help contribute to a better world. Parallel with that they ran workshops at different unis demonstrating how you can care about social justice issues and act in positive ways without radically changing your life.

But they wanted to create a place where they could continue these conversations and further explore the connections between design and fashion, sustainability, social justice and more. This became 3things, an online platform with a news section discussing all sorts of issues – human rights, peace & conflict, women’s health – and with inspiring examples, like the brilliant voice project, a movement that aims to use the power of music to reach out to soldiers through songs that tell them they are forgiven, that they should come home.

The site is big on interaction: apart from the usual suspects (facebook, twitter) you are also invited to add your own project, in essence write your own blog under the umbrella of 3things, in the hope of connecting people looking to help out with people needing help with their projects.

WorldVision‘s youth activist website is called Stir you world!

They’ve got Stir sessions touring the country, with speakers “raw and real”, and their actions “relevant and meaningful”, participants are promised “dynamic, interactive nights that bring together young people who really want to know what’s going on in the world.” The latest stir session discussed the link between slavery and consumerism, delivered through local music acts and provoking short films.

The Stir website has got lots of stuff going on. Apart from a rolling news list on topics like Water & Sanitation, HIV & AIDS, Human Trafficking, there is The Blender, a discussion forum; Stir Tube videos (“We want a new reality not more reality TV”); the chance to help fight child exploitation through a small monthly donation. Of course Stir also goes just about everywhere where young people hang out (well, short of going clubbing): Bebo, Flickr, Twitter, Vimeo, Facebook.

Save The Children have got a campaign called Make Your Mark.

It is an initiative aiming to petition the government to do more about the 8.8 million children that die before the age of 5 each year. You can make a virtual mark online, or leave a real fingerprint at various festivals – “No cost associated. Just a canvas. Some ink. Your thumb. And a difference will be made.” There’s a YouTube doco competition, a call for fund raising ideas and a news reel.

Save the Children have also got a campaign called  Knit One Save One (which I wrote about here ), where they ask for contributions in the form of knitted squares, to be pieced together warm blankets for newborns who might otherwise run the risk of catching – and dying from – pneumonia.

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I think being young now is to live under enormous pressure. But there is lots of opportunity that wasn’t around ten or twenty years ago, and like Nelson Mandela said: “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”

Photo of Tibetan boy with guitar by Steve Argent.

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