The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are set to be achieved by 2030 through the efforts of change agents around the world. Now, more than ever, organizations and affiliates of the UN are focusing more on the SDGs, promoting the vision of the featured 17 goals while encouraging the world to develop SDG-oriented projects and initiatives. As service-oriented youth of action, YES alumni have proven to be change agents who are fully committed to the global solutions promoted by each SDG. For this reason, AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS) and iEARN-USA partnered to execute a regional summit committed to supporting the SDGs.
From December 19-21, 2017, fourteen YES alumni came together from seven West African countries for the SDG 2030 Summit for West Africa. They assembled in Accra, Ghana to learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and to develop their own social good projects in an effort to fulfill the global goals by 2030. The participants also attended the workshop ready to learn how to effectively influence their community leaders to support their initiatives. Additionally, the workshops served as an inclusive regional conversation for the alumni to address issues affecting their communities while discussing SDG based solutions.
The fourteen alumni from Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone were selected by their country coordinators to attend the summit. Prior to the the three-day workshop, the alumni were tasked to select an SDG they were each passionate about with ways they would help implement these goals in their own communities. Whether it was SDG #5: Gender Equality or #17: Partnerships for the Goals, the alumni attended the summit ready to learn discuss, and define each global goal and their overarching categories: Fight global inequality, end extreme poverty, and respect our planet. With only three days to attend eight sessions of SDG preparation and project planning, the alumni seized every opportunity to work.
The first day started with welcome speeches AFS Ghana. Afterwards, the alumni immediately dived into several sessions equipped with information and resources about the SDGs. Basic project planning and volunteer management sessions were also included throughout the day.
"It was indeed a grand summit. One filled with insightful discussions about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I met and worked with inspiring young leaders across West Africa -- amazing people! I also had a moment to pitch a project in front of representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, iEARN-USA, AFS, and fellow YES alumni. I will continue to work persistently and keep contributing to society so our combined efforts can help make a better world. 2030 Now!" - Joseph Jawah Kebbie
The next day was packed with more sessions focusing on budgeting, pitching, project management skills, and of course, the SDGs. For the first time, alumni were able to work in groups to discuss actual tactics for fulfilling the goals. Afterwards, each participant created his/her own workspace to identify and develop their personal vision and mission statements for their projects as it relates to the SDGs. The day ended with a session on creating good and effective pitches to prepare the alumni for the "YES Shark Tank", an evening of 60-second project pitches they would later present to representatives of the U.S. embassy in Ghana.
On the final day, the alumni used the knowledge and skills they learned over the past few days to further develop the details of their SDG project plans. Though many were nervous to pitch their project ideas to special guests from the U.S. embassy, all of the alumni stepped up to the platform with passion, poise, and profound sustainable solutions. The presentations were proof that the alumni were ready to be apart of the UN's global vision to fulfill the SDGs by 2030.