No vote? Don’t sweat!

By Olivia Richards and Rhiannon Jones 

As the recent turnout of the general election increased by 9.3% compared to 2001, there has also been an increase among individuals who are under 18 and want their say in future elections. Here are some ways to get involved and make sure that everyone has a right to contribute politically:

  • Form a debating group – Each of you can represent a different party and talk about global issues. You might even see another side to the argument and change your mind on certain topics.
  •  Volunteer for charities such as health charities that want to make changes to laws and policies. This is a great opportunity to meet other people who are passionate about the same things as you!
  •  Host a mock election in school – This is beneficial for the whole school, as it lets everyone contribute and form opinions. Having your own polling station will prepare you for the process of voting when you turn 18.
  •  Sign online petitions – There are petitions to change all kind of policies, for example: legislation regarding animal testing. If there are 10,000 signatures to the petition, the government will respond. You could help make up these numbers if there are issues you are passionate on any of these topics.
  •  Campaigning – You could create posters and post on social media to raise awareness of issues that are important to you.petition

There are many benefits towards younger individuals taking part in such activities. One of which is having the ability to develop your own opinion. This ensures that more people will engage in political decision making and vote, as more and more will have a better understanding of how democracy works. Imagine the confidence you will develop by practicing the election process. Creative thinking is also an essential skill for everyday challenges therefore, representing different parties is a good way to come up with various ideas on how to improve the future of others.

Even though you might not be old enough to vote, campaigning is a great way to contribute and make your opinion heard. You never know who you might persuade or influence.

Whatever your age, there are opportunities for everyone. Currently, ‘Youth Parliament for Wales’ are planning to form a youth parliament where younger individuals can express their opinions on various topics that concern us all.

Interested in volunteering for the WCIA like Olivia and Rhiannon? Read about their experiences here.

Volunteer Voices

This month’s WCIA volunteers are Olivia Richards and Rhiannon Jones. Read their stories below. 

Olivia Richards

I am a Year 12 student, who is currently studying A-levels at an all Welsh school. After considering various courses, I have come to the conclusion that I would like to study Law at university therefore, work experience is necessary to help me develop numerous skills. One of my teachers recommended that I contact the WCIA for work experience. I am so glad I did as it has given me an insight of the life as a employee.

Outside of school, I enjoy performing. I attend a drama club every Tuesday where we prepare for showcases. Currently, I am preparing to play the role of Velma in Hairspray.

There are many things I have learnt during my time with the WCIA. One of which would be how to research certain topics and condense the information to make it suitable for blogs and social media posts, by following certain guidelines. I have also learnt how to use a certain online software which helped me create a timeline for the Urdd’s goodwill messages.

During my time of creating the timeline, I had to overcome a few struggles, such as learning how to use the software correctly. One of my favourite things to do was create a poster to represent the theme of ‘Hidden Histories’. I chose to base mine on refugees such as Michael Marks who was one of the two co-founders of Marks & Spencer. Another activity I had to do was analyse data from surveys that had been filled in, by using the software ‘Excel’. Fortunately, I study ICT as an A-level therefore this wasn’t much of a struggle.

The staff were very friendly and they all welcomed me with open arms.

Rhiannon Jones

Currently, I am in my first year of Sixth Form at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Llangynwyd. There, I am studying Welsh, Art and Psychology. I am hoping to study Welsh at university because I’m very interested in the language and our culture and am aiming to become a translator. I approached the WCIA for a week’s work experience as I am interested in issues such as women’s rights and peace and wanted to know how I could make a difference.

During the week, I contributed to the WCIA Voices blog as well as creating an interactive timeline of the Urdd Messages of Peace and Goodwill broadcasted over the years. This was very relevant to me as I have been a member of the Urdd since I was young and was fascinated to see how the members have been spreading these messages and how they’ve changed over the years.

I improved my analytical skills whilst handling questionnaire data. Personally, the hardest part of the week was raising awareness of global issues through creating social media posts. Creating informative and concise posts was challenging but I also learnt a lot about different issues whilst researching.

I was most surprised by the hidden history project and Olivia and I decided to make our own that looks on refugees. We focused on Joseph Mailin, who brought fish and chips to Britain and Michael Marks, one half of Marks & Spencer – people who I would not have thought to be refugees!

I’m very glad that I decided to come to WCIA for a week because I learnt a lot about the world and how everyone has something to contribute. The staff were friendly and I felt very welcomed.

If you are interested in volunteering with the WCIA- you can find out more here.   

Volunteering with the WCIA

By Mailys

Being a masters student in international relations and geopolitics and having spent one year studying in North Wales in 2016, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) was the perfect place to do my internship. For three months, I have been given many projects to work on such as:

  • Global Steps project — a project in collaboration with Erasmus + which aims at providing evidence of the skills and competencies developed through volunteering experience in order to facilitate access to quality employment using those skills.
  • Wales for Peace school workshops —I visited Welsh schools in order to run creative workshops and helping pupils to cover their Hidden History.

I also had the chance to attend several events such as Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary conference and Africa Day. Nation of Sanctuary conference was a coalition of charities, debating what and how to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. The idea being pushed forward was to make Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary status, with an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things as ‘welcoming’ or improving living conditions etc may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences.

I am so glad for my experience at the WCIA. As a student, I have always been told how international institutions are important for national and international cooperation, to maintain peace. However, when at university, it seems like we are only taught about the United Nations, the OECD and other famous and massive institutions. But no-one seems to be emphasising smaller organisations that have an actual impact on these issues at a local level — like the WCIA. This is why my involvement in the WCIA has been a significant experience for me as it taught me a lot about how charities work and about the impact they can make on social, political and global issues and the extent that Wales is contributing to a greater global community and a fairer nation. To me, creating a change seems difficult by only working at an international level. However, by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions, at a local level first is what matters and what can work on the long run.

In the WCIA offices, the friendliness of everyone has been amazing. It was  also interesting to see how passionate people are on local and international subjects, on politics… Besides, I figured out there are always new ideas, skills, projects and events to be learnt, to work on and improve.

I am currently applying for my second year of masters emphasising on ‘peace studies’ and I think the internship will be an asset for my upcoming year and my future, especially when I consider the idea and objectives of the WCIA that everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world.

After this three month internship, I have acquired several skills which improved my way of working, thinking and interacting with other. I also feel more confident about how to implement change, have an impact, talk about global issue and taking initiative than I was before the internship. The knowledge and skills I gained during my time volunteering are extremely useful and the range of opportunities I was offered in the WCIA was great.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities with the WCIA, click here.

 

Facebook, Brexit and the Global Community: a reflection on my time as a WCIA Volunteer

Sereen Kutubi looks back at her time as a volunteer for the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA).

I started volunteering with the WCIA during my last term at university. The knowledge and skills I gained during my time volunteering were extremely useful and the range of opportunities I was offered in the WCIA was great. I began volunteering on a weekly basis as a social media volunteer: I researched and produced content, scheduled it for publishing and attended events during my spare time. I thoroughly enjoyed creating social content for the WCIA as they share such a variety of information that promotes peace and global citizenship. Being able to work in the Temple of Peace also gave me an insight into the other organisations that share the building such as Hub Africa and Wales for Peace.

Attending the Brexit debates held at the Temple of Peace was extremely insightful:  listening to influential speakers such as Sally Holland (Children’s commissioner for Wales), Sir Emyr Jones Parry (former British diplomat and representative at the UN) and Adam Price (Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Business, Economy & Finance) gave me a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding Britain post-Brexit and hearing their opinions on matters that are important and are going to affect the population helped me to understand how we can spread awareness.

My involvement in the WCIA has been a significant experience for me:  it taught me a lot about how charities work, about the impact they can make on social and political issues and the extent that Wales is contributing to a greater global community.  Being involved with the WCIA motivated me to be a more active member in my community and to spread the message that individuals have the potential to make a positive impact. I look forward to continuing my involvement with the WCIA and learning more valuable skills and contributing to a positive, peaceful global community.

Seeing the Vision

By Matt Buxton

I volunteered with the WCIA for two weeks as part of my university course, under the idea of work based learning. What drew me to the WCIA was the idea of active global citizenship, which is part of the WCIA’s vision of “everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world”. These are big words and I hoped by spending some time at the offices I could understand what this was and how to make it a part of my daily life. My responsibilities have been varied and have included working with communications, organising feedback forms and attending meetings. This variety has gifted me a wide range of skills and enabled me to understand how the charity works and how the work I was carrying out fits in. For example the use and worth of the feedback forms I put into spreadsheets contributes to improving future events and are used as evidence of outcomes for funders. What initially feels quite small adds up to something a lot larger. How every action taken has to be logically proved and justified, with nothing being taken for granted; as a result planning, monitoring and evaluation are important parts of day to day work. The majority of my days were concerned with creating paths of communication with the public, whether through Facebook posts or publicising events. The importance of reaching people was continually felt, how creating a fair and peaceful world was not tied down to physical events but required continual conversation and debate.

At the meetings I attended I was able to witness a different type of debate which is usually hidden. One stand out was a meeting with a coalition of charities, who were coordinating a future event regarding refugees and human rights. What struck me about this was the thought which went into this initial planning stage, how tone and representation to both the public and refugee communities was very important. The idea being pushed forward was a Nation of Sanctuary status for Wales, within this was an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences. When I consider the idea of everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world now, events like this come to mind, how participating, meeting new people and learning can be powerful methods in creating change. The paths individuals follow are shaped at multiple levels and interactions, when looking at such a system it is easy to become overwhelmed by focusing on world trends and international failings. Creating a meaningful change seems impossible but by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions; it can become manageable. Having worked in the WCIA offices the vision has been realised and understood through the work carried but more so by the people who work here. The friendliness of everyone has been amazing along with the passion for the work being undertaken. It was good to see how education and learning was an important pillar of the WCIA, not only within the projects but for the staff as well. How there are always new ideas, skills and techniques to be learnt which are shared amongst any who care to know. Over my time here I believe I have acquired several new skills which will improve my employment prospects but more importantly I have learnt skills to help improve my outlook and the lives of others around me.

A week as Caernarfon Poppies Volunteers

img_0101By Megan & Dani

A week of volunteering as a Poppy Ambassadors at Caernarfon Castle was a brilliant choice for us as it appeared to offer a range of opportunities, not only in allowing us to gain experience that will aid us in the world of work, but also facilitated us in completing a part of our gold Duke of Edinburgh award.

Conversing with such a diverse group of volunteers has provided us with a real insight into what the installation evokes within each individual; whether it acts as an artistic muse or as a commemorative exhibition (especially poignant with regards to the centenary of the First World War).

We first read about the poppies’ move to Caernarfon in our local newspaper and this sounded like something both of us would be motivated to get involved with, especially as we are both currently studying A-Level history and are considering taking this to degree level.  We believe that it is important for people of all ages to be involved with history and to remember and reflect upon our past, as well as learn from it – particularly in lieu of recent world events such as the American presidential election and the Syrian refugee crisis.

A highlight of our volunteering has most definitely been a guided tour of the exhibition with a group of blind veterans as The Last Post was played.

Fflur’s work experience

By Fflur Jones

I volunteered with WCIA for a week and half in July, hoping to learn more about charities and organisations working in the field of international relations and politics. I was not disappointed. Even though I was only in the office for 4 days, I was given a varied range of activities from posting on the WCIA’s social media to evaluating ChangeMakers packs for teachers. I was introduced to the concept of the charity’s “voice”, the one which I had to write Facebook and Twitter posts with, and shown how to collate data the Wales for Peace team had collected during various events.

These activities enabled me to understand the goal of the charity and the means through which they achieve it. Indeed, it was gratifying to be of some use and to contribute to the team’s work instead of being a spare part lying around. It was also interesting to work in conjunction with other projects and charities sharing the corridor and to meet new people from all sorts of backgrounds.

I was also extremely fortunate to be able to attend the National Eisteddfod with the Wales for Peace and Hub Africa projects. These trips not only provided a break from the office work but also introduced me to the direct relations the charity has with the public. Working to introduce others to the projects in such a unique festival-like atmosphere proved challenging, but we quickly figured that drawing for children brought in the parents! The whole team was very welcoming and made me feel very much at home both in the office and in the Eisteddfod tent. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my time there and by how quickly the time flew. When I first contacted them I was just hoping for something to talk about on my personal statement, I walk away with a whole package of new skills and an insight into the field I hope to work in.

Find out about volunteering at the WCIA at http://www.wcia.org.uk/volunteer