sustainability

Millennium Fellow Spotlight

By Beth He 

“Gear up and Make Change”

Wali Sabuhi is a junior at Boston University (BU) studying Biomedical Engineering. Like millions of freshmen across the United States, Wali entered university wanting to make a local difference, and eagerly sought opportunities to expand and develop his skills and interest. As a freshman at BU, he joined Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as it seemed like the perfect opportunity to apply the skills of the classroom to real world issues. Wali did not anticipate how much EWB would impact his undergraduate experience and understanding of global development. Throughout his time at BU, Wali has become more involved in the leadership of EWB-BU, as he, after serving as a Hygiene & Sanitation Team Technical Lead, now serves as the Networking & Social Chair. Driven by student initiatives and inspired by the complexity of global development, Wali is committed to contributing to the UN’s Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through support from BU College of Engineering and corporate sponsors, EWB-BU is able to employ small teams of students to travel to their community partners abroad and help implement the project designs. For the past four years, EWB-BU has been working closely with Naluja, a community in Zambia, on developing projects that have recently begun focusing on water sustainability. Wali was a member of the team last summer and spent three weeks in rural Zambia. He speaks of Zambia with such fondness, genuine joy and respect.

“It is beautiful,” a way Wali describes not only the scenery, but also the people and culture. It was in Zambia, traveling through the rural communities, that Wali discovered more to EWB than being a great engineer. It is of equal importance that partnerships and locally driven motivation are fostered to ensure sustainability and long-term efficacy.

EWB-BU students work throughout the calendar year to create, plan, and design successful projects for their partnering community in Zambia. During the twelve months in Boston, there is a major emphasis on building leadership, broadening student’s horizons, working across disciplines, and sharing resources throughout the project development process. Through the stress and chaos of college life, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture of their organization.  In Zambia, Wali notes: “Everything you have worked toward is right there in front of you.” It is a moment of reflection, appreciation, and tremendous purpose that can be brought back to BU’s campus.

Community ownership is very important to EWB-BU. They are committed to ensuring that their projects are not only wanted by the community, but also feasible in rural Zambia. As such, EWB-BU is dedicated to valuing projects as a shared initiative and collaboration between its students and the members of Naluja.

Cultural Exchange: During Wali’s time in Zambia, he was able to interact with the chapter’s partners is Zambia. He remembers a nurse at the maternal health clinic who is the most “inspirational person [he’s] met.” Wali is always excited and passionate to share his experience in Zambia with other MCN fellows and his peers at EWB-BU. Experiences in Zambia have not only created inspiration but have also educated the EWB community on the importance of its projects and how they can be optimized for positive impact.

Sustainability of projects is significant to EWB-BU. After EWB-BU’s recently receiving a corporate sponsorship from Boeing (the second corporate grant awarded to the chapter), Wali is excited to work on growing EWB-BU by expanding water-related projects, solidifying local contacts, and empowering local change-makers to monitor projects. Wali and EWB-BU have set no ceiling to the chapter’s goals and continue to create bigger impact plans.

EWB-BU and time in Zambia have encouraged Wali to pursue a career in global development. He is in particular interested in global health and progress toward achieving the SDGs. For now, Wali is a key member of the ground network of university students dedicated to international development. As Wali eloquently put, “in 15 years, we [university students] will be the professionals playing pivotal parts in global development, whether it be through technology, advocacy, or policy.” Wali and MCN share the belief that investment in college students is the future for creating a more equitable world. 

For more information about BU EWB, and how to donate: http://www.ewbbu.com/

What Now? Youth Action in the SDGs!

Over the past three years, countless negotiations, consultations, and conferences have taken place - culminating with the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit that saw all 193-member states adopt, celebrate, and make commitments to the new Sustainable Agenda for 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a revitalized commitment to build from the Millennium Development Goals by “leaving no one behind” and closing the gap of inequity, locally and globally by engaging everyone, everywhere. The SDGs are integrated and indivisible, balancing the 3 dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social & environmental - establishing a framework for development over the next 15 years.

 

We first need to realize that the outcome of our actions will not be driven by the “world we want”, but rather the “world we deserve.

However, that was the easy part. Talking is much easier than actions and actions call for accountability. We first need to realize that the outcome of our actions will not be driven by the “world we want”, but rather the “world we deserve.” In order to contextualize the importance of youth action, it was an honor to hear insights from speakers in various organizations mobilizing opportunities for young people at the grassroots, national, and international level at the online global forum we hosted last week. These include Jasmin Burgermeister (German Youth Delegate on Sustainable Development), Marwan Bishtawi (Associate Coordinator, Pax Romana & ICMYO), Roxanne Moore (UN Major Group for Children & Youth, Interim Focal Point for Youth Gateway) and Kathy Zhang (Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network, SDSN-Y).

 

An interesting point of discussion was that the youth need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and capacities to truly make change. Their ambition and potential needs to be met with tools such as technology and innovation to be turned into meaningful contributions to society in order to reach the SDGs. This is especially true when the youth generation, comprising 40-50% of the world’s population, is globally dispersed and comprised of individuals with complementary skills. Bringing down the SDGs to the local level is also crucial to contextualize their personal significance to each individual, giving each person a reason and determination for working towards achieving the goals that will be most constructive and relevant to their needs. Personalizing the goals at the local level is essential to galvanize resilient change, therefore there should be greater institutional support at all levels to provide both the knowledge to bring about change, resources to maintain and scale positive change in society, and mechanisms for reporting impact. Community-based impact assessments are essential for determining people’s priorities, while providing opportunities to share best practices in order to overcome barriers to progress.

 

As highlighted by one of our speakers during the video conference, an element of humility must be preserved to better help each other out, while maintaining professionalism when doing work at the local level. Such a mindset will propel us towards maintaining human-centered intentions throughout our work. We finished by discussing commitments we can each make, within our own capacities, to spread awareness on the SDGs and contribute to them locally. We can each voice our opinion, advocate, write policy, and engage in activities related to the thematic areas we are most passionate about. There is no better time than “now”, with a plethora of youth organizations accessible to build on already existing structures. These include, among others, the youth platforms mentioned by our guest speakers - Youth Gateway (the Global Youth Partnership for the SDGs), the UN Major Group for Children & Youth (UN MGCY),  Pax Romana (a part of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations - ICMYO), and the Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network (SDSN-Y).

 

Within #Youth4SDGs, we are currently two weeks into the #17weeks17goals social media campaign, where we feature an overview, youth contributions, and youth organizations related to a specific SDG each week. We also are in the process of developing a Community Ambassador Program, to bring this global campaign to the local level. We each have the potential to champion youth action in your community - let’s seize the opportunity together, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.  

 

#Youth4SDGs is a youth-led campaign meant to empower and connect young people with existing opportunities to meaningfully engage in sustainable development activities. We want youth to identify-match-engage-develop-sustain their passions into action by linking them to already established youth engagement platforms to fulfill our generational responsibility. Learn more by following us here on Facebook and sign up to join the next forum!