World Vision's Ruth Dearnley with members of VGen, World Vision's youth movement.
I’m about to head to Myanmar with four excited yet apprehensive young people who want to make a difference in the world.
These four young Australians; Monique, Maddi, Ryan and Rachel, are members of VGen, World Vision’s youth movement. They’re about to experience the realities of growing up in a developing country. They know they’re in for a daunting and challenging time.
Not only must they come to terms with the harsh reality of how children are exploited, they’ll have to learn how to channel any feelings of anger and disappointment at an unjust world into practical positive action.
When they get back home, they’ll use the experience to help more people take action against child exploitation. It’s a mammoth task, and the reality of it all is just now sinking in!
This will be the VGenners’ first time investigating an issue of exploitation and using advocacy to find solutions. For me, after 10 years as a campaigner, this trip is somewhat different, but no less rewarding.
Already, I’m inspired by what they’ve discovered, discussed and shown in preparation for the trip. I’m seeing the experience through their eyes. As they learn more, I’m reliving my own personal discovery of the power and potential of action against injustice.
I was about their age when I became really engaged in social justice campaigning. If people ever doubted my ability to make change, I would quote back the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said: “’Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has”.
But it’s not just passion that makes a successful advocacy campaign. It’s influence.
My aim is to start to shape the VGenners enthusiasm into practical skill, so that over the next year they will be able to engage their peers in the issue and influence their actions.
My hope is that what they see, what they learn and – most importantly – what they do after this journey will stay with them all their lives. That once they finish uni and start careers, the lessons of this journey we’re about to begin will be a guiding force in their lives and influence them and others around them for ever.
They don’t need to become a seasoned campaigner and go on to a career in advocacy. But my hope is that the power of this advocacy campaign leaves these four young people, and the children they meet, better equipped to use their influence wherever life may take them next. So they will change the world: one group of committed citizens at a time.
Right now, life is taking them to Yangon. See you in a few weeks!