Youth Volunteerism to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals

By: Felice Valeria, Content Writer Intern Project Child Indonesia

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

According to the United Nations, there are 1.8 billion people aged between 10-24 in the world, which could be said as the largest generation of youth in history. Hence, the role of youth in advocating for and executing changes seems to be really crucial, especially by taking into account their role as agents of change for the future. In responding to this particular phenomenon, the United Nations has highly distressed and encouraged the active participation of young people to contribute in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In many countries, particularly the developing and underdeveloped ones, most of the youths are facing several major challenges in terms of SDGs, such as but not limited to the lack of access to education, healthcare, and employment, which eventually would create more structural socio-economic problems in the future. Of course, one of the relatively best and easiest ways to foster their involvement in solving those problems is undoubtedly through volunteering activities.

Volunteerism, which is mostly executed through non-profit organizations, has significantly impacted the stakeholders involved, which include the non-profit themselves, as well as the communities and the youths. Nonprofits could be benefited through the expansion of missions, innovative ideas, enhanced public support, and the cultivation of new supporters and volunteers. Meanwhile, the young people could take advantage in terms of their increase of self-development, which include but not limited to responsibility, empathy, self-esteem, new social skills, improved physical and mental health, interest in learning, and other psychological and intellectual developments. The United Nations itself has recognized volunteer groups as one of the stakeholders to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that might also considerably foster its national planning and implementation.

It could be seen that volunteerism is a prominent fuel for sustainable development, and it is highly recommended for all communities to get involved. Nonetheless, despite the aforementioned benefits of youth volunteerism, a considerable amount of young people may unfortunately still be discouraged from conducting volunteering activities, which might be caused by the lack of information, lack of time, lack of interest, and so forth. As these problems should be taken into account, volunteerism would definitely provide abundant benefits for the youths and the grass-root communities, especially in the efforts of achieving SDGs. As volunteerism was not featured in the agenda of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), despite its significance to be implemented. Further significance and effectiveness of volunteerism could be proven by the fact that countries which have high amount of volunteers are more vibrant in terms of economic and social conditions, according to the statistics by the International Forum for Volunteering in Development. Many aspects that drive poverty could also be gradually resolved from the act of volunteering, such as education, health, employment, and livelihoods, which are the key objectives of the SDGs.

Wait no more, let’s be a volunteer to achieve SDGs hand in hand, young people!

Ready for The Age of Disruption

What I try to focus on is not to try to stop the march of technological progress. Instead, I try to run faster. If Amazon knows you better than you know yourself, then the game is up.

Yuval Noah Harari

The development of science, knowledge, and technology nowadays has gone beyond what was predicted some decades ago. The rapid advance that marked the world with a new era, namely the era of the Industry 4.0. The appearance of new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and genetic editing in biotechnology will immediately change all aspects of human life. One example of this is how technology plays a significant role in life where  the internet can connect people globally with a massive spectrum and almost without limitations, so there are many transactions starting from lifestyles, work and cultural exchange. Citations from The Economist magazine uses the term “techlash” to mark the time when technology will become the ruler, not only from a economic aspect, but also social, political and cultural aspects.

Industry 4.0 came in one package in the form of positive benefits and negative impacts. Technology indeed aims to help human activities, but it can also cause a change of life order in society called disruption. These days, Indonesia has been in the stage of disruption era. It can be seen from human resource factors from which the country is still not ready. According to data reported by the World Economic Forum (WEF) related with global competitiveness index in the 2017-2018 WEF Report, Indonesia occupied the 36th position,  raised up to 5 rank from the previous year at 41st position from 137 countries. From the data, Indonesia experienced an increase in rank, but the country is still below in comparison to Thailand (32nd), Malaysia (23rd) and Singapore (3rd). One of the causes of Indonesia remaining below those countries is due weak health and primary education pillars.Three indicators can be identified as the case can be identified as the case First, Indonesia ranks 101 out of 137 countries (Thailand 72nd, Malaysia 66, Singapore 8th) with life expectancy. Secondly, Indonesia also ranks 47 out of 137 (Thailand 89th, Malaysia 23rd, Singapore 3rd) regarding quality of primary education. Thirdly, the country also ranks 106 of 137 (Thailand 100, Malaysia 32nd, Singapore 1st) with its primary education enrollment rates.

According to the WEF, health and primary education is one out of four main pillars of the basic requirements of sustainability in society welfare of a country. Further, WEF also published a report entitled “Future of Job” which implied that to face the disruption, someone should have ten basic skills among them including : complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, service orientation, negotiation, cognitive flexibility, judgment and decision-making. However, those basic skills should be taught early which can be difficult to obtain in Indonesian primary education.

To prepare for the challenges of the age of disruption especially in the education field, Project Child Indonesia (PCI) as a Non-Government Organization created a program called “Sekolah Sungai” (River School) in 2011. PCI realized that the current formal education in Indonesia at the present time is not optimal. This is because of the lack of distribution of education infrastructure, the need to improve teachers’ quality, and improve curriculum that is not in accordance with the need of today’s students. Therefore, the program was created to complement their existing formal education. “Sekolah Sungai” is held at three places in Yogyakarta including Kricak, Gadjah Wong and Code.

Sekolah Sungai” is a program in PCI that implements a method called Project Based Learning (PBL) which has been adjusted to the community conditions surrounding the river sites. PBL is used to prepare students for the 21st century challenges to work on real problems and solve them directly using their analytical and practical skills.Often a product or presentation can be the end-result of the project.Children are expected to work on the project during a period of time given by the facilitators. Moreover, PBL is suitable for our community classes in the spirit of alternative education as it indulges critical thinking, creativity and communication skills as supplementary skills for their education. In this batch, PBL discussed two projects named “Public Places in Your Neighborhood ” and “Literacy Project”. The first project was designed to spark the awareness of children related to their own neighborhood with them expected to find solutions to the real world problems found through their projects. The second project aims to improve children’s interest in literary works such as picture books, magazines, comics, novels, and many more. It also trains their creativity and flexibility to think and share their ideas in creative ways.

Sekolah Sungai located in Gadjah Wong, called “SS Gadjah Wong” is one of the river school sites. Acquiring basic education through formal schooling is still not yet effective, and the children in that place are not yet familiar with literacy. This added with the fairly low socio-economic conditions of the area make it challenging for the people to develop basic skills such as critical thinking, creativity and cognitive flexibility to answer the challenges of the age of disruption. Sekolah Sungai volunteers assist the children with ages varied from 6-14 years through PBL. The 10 week duration of PBL meetings showed positive results to the development of students as they became more daring to express themselves, more creative, and better able to coordinate with other people. The first project that started from the first to sixth week, was about “Public Places in Your Neighborhood”. The students were assisted by volunteers to do public place observations. It aimed to gather information about the history, function of the problems that exist, and then discuss the possible solutions related to the problems altogether. The second project called “Literacy Project”, was held on the seventh to tenth week of the meetings. It began with reading stories to children in order for them to gain exposure to literary works. After that, they were guided by volunteers to create  an outline that was to be developed as a story. Upon finishing the story, the students created literacy projects such as short stories, comics, and picture stories. During the projects, various obstacles were found however, they contribute as great insight for curriculum development, students, and the improvement of the Indonesian education system in a broader spectrum.

Written by: Ega Kusuma Ahimsa- Teaching-Learning Assessor Intern