human development, social justice and sustainable social systems
Caritas Auslandshilfe Vorarlberg
Who are we and what do we do?
We are Youth Ambassadors for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sustainable Development Goals, numbering about 25 young people (aged between 15 and 27) from Vorarlberg, the westernmost part of Austria. Our project started nearly eight years ago, in May 2013. Originally, the aim was – and partly still is – to learn about Children’s Rights and to raise awareness on this topic in our region. We think that we children and young people should be the ones at the forefront of the Children’s Rights movement, moving forward on our own motivation. Youth participation is the present and the future and it is time that we get involved in solving problems and shaping the future.
We work with the Children’s and Young People’s Ombudsman’s offices as well. Our methods and our way of advocating haven’t really changed over the years. We create workshops for children in schools and for apprentices and raise public awareness on important topics, and we are not afraid to put the craziest ideas into practice.
It is a lot of work but as a group, we manage to divide the work. Everyone does their part and, in the end, the result is something we achieve together. We have one project leader who works for Caritas Auslandshilfe. She guides and supports us in realising our plans and activities which is especially helpful in terms of bigger projects, such as those in Ethiopia.
The first Saturday of every month, we meet to discuss new topics, gather ideas for projects and work on the improvement of already existing workshops and actions. Every now and then, we invite experts in fields that we are interested in or we partner with other organisations for an exchange or a joint project. Usually, we also cook and talk about other things to bring us closer as a team.
More about some of our projects
We work on a broad range of topics, but generally all our projects focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and children’s rights. Some of them are realised in our region (Vorarlberg), while others aim to reach all people in Austria. We have three projects working with young people in Ethiopia.
We produced a musical called ‘Stand up!’ about children’s rights and another one called ‘Solve it!’ which explains the SDGs.
Each of our giant children (pictured) represents one of the ten fundamental rights of the child. They are designed to stand together as an exhibition that was already presented at the United Nations offices in Vienna and Geneva.
We developed multiple (school) workshops on different topics, for example on children´s rights, migration and discrimination, water, the SDGs and on food waste. We also wrote and illustrated a book about migration for children.
In the last few years, our focus was on ‘bringing the SDGs to the people’. Thus, in September our exhibition on the SDGs was finalised and presented for the first time. We also created workshops for all age groups and a maze for younger kids.
As mentioned above, we not only have projects in Austria, but also in Ethiopia. This comes from a long partnership of Caritas Vorarlberg with communities there. Together with a local youth group, three different projects were created. ‘Mango tree for family’ aims to finance planting of fruit trees for families for income support. It also contributes to reforestation. The second one focuses on building needed sanitary facilities for schools and raising awareness on good hygiene through workshops with the students. And in our third project, we teach young women how they can make homemade menstrual pads by hand.
This was only a small selection of our many projects from the last seven years. Something that is maybe particular about our way of working? When we are invested in a topic or have an idea, we try to design the project so that it can be adapted for all age groups.
What is special about the Youth Ambassadors?
We see this work as a chance to design our own futures. We’re lucky to have the chance to raise our voices for many unheard children worldwide, so we try to use it to the fullest. We are privileged that our opinions are heard and respected – so why not use it for something good?