On the 27th of June 2022 the Columbans celebrated the winners of their 6th Columban competition, “Anyone Can Make a Difference: 21st Century Changemakers”. This competition gave young people a chance to write about, or create an image, of people in their world today who they believed were using their voices to stand up and make a difference.
The competition had hundreds of entries and the judges were positively overwhelmed by the changemakers that the young people chose to write and create an image about. Juliette Bone, Faith in Action Volunteer and one of the judges, explained “I felt totally inspired and amazed at the thought and creativity that had gone into each piece. Every contribution was unique and powerful which made the decision to choose the finalists a very difficult one!” There were written pieces about the environmental activist Greta Thunberg, there were image pieces about the footballer and social activist Marcus Rashford and many more.
The first and second place winners of the written pieces and the third place winner of the image entry attended the Winner’s Day along with parents, siblings and other family members.
Our first-place winner Jessica wrote a piece titled “The Sisterhood of Intersectionality” and her 21st century changemaker of choice was the US politician and human rights campaigner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There’s no surprise that her entry won as it was a passionate piece which drew upon examples from relevant angles of why AOC was a changemaker. Understanding her feelings about making it to first place, her motives for entering the competition and where she got the inspiration for her written piece, Jessica said, “I honestly didn’t think that I would win! I really wanted to improve on my grammar and critical thinking skills, so this competition was a great way for me to practice that.” When asked where she got her inspiration from she said “I first needed to find something that I was passionate about, be it race, gender etc and then I found that AOC was someone that spoke about it all.”
The second-place winner was Mahi, who titled his piece “One Small Act”, and wrote about a woman called Basira Popul, an Afghanistan healthcare worker that set up interventions and systems during the Covid19 pandemic which educated people in remote communities on basic hygiene standards. Quoting from his article, Mahi wrote, “Basira and her colleagues have already given out more than 1 million bars of soap and are still going strong, determined not to stop”. Mahi believes that Basira’s work was overlooked, but through his written piece, not only did he make second place but he also shone a light on an inspiring woman.
Paulette, who was awarded third place in the image category, constructed a powerful piece that illustrated not one but four changemakers! The image included Amanda Gorman an African-American poet and activist and was detailed and bursting with colour. She portrayed the changemakers in action and a picture of the Earth was at the centre of the piece with the words “Be the change you want to see” written inside. This serves as a reminder of the power we have to make the world a place that reflects our desires.
The Winner’s Day was a wholesome day which consisted of a discussion on formation from James Trewby, Justice and Peace Education Worker and Emma Darling, Communications Officer for the Columbans who invited the students to share their thoughts on future themes, how the competition can be improved and their ideas for promoting the competition to a wider audience.
Continuing on the theme of 21st century changemakers, founder of Birmingham-based refugee charity ‘Stories of Hope and Home’ Steph Neville accompanied by one of the charities participants, spoke to the finalists about the challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees. They discussed the reasons why someone might have to flee their country, the media’s negative portrayal of those who migrate as well as the anti-refugee laws that have featured heavily in the press lately.
“It is important that young people have the opportunity for meaningful encounters where they hear first-hand and learn about the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers as they could well be our future politicians, policy makers or charity workers, who can draw upon encounters like these and use their voices to speak up!” explains James who facilitates encounters with marginalised groups for young people and educators as part of his role with the Columbans.
The day ended with Columban Director in Britain Fr. John Boles presenting the winners with their certificates in front of their parents and family members who had accompanied on their visit. He explained, “Our Winner’s Day was a pleasure and a privilege. It was lovely to welcome such engaged and thoughtful young people to St. Columban’s for formation and celebration.”
The changemakers competition, which gave young people an opportunity to celebrate the brave contributions of other young people, echoes Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, a young boy ready to take up office in a space that usually only accepts adults. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Young people should not be discouraged and think that because they are young, they have nothing valuable to say. This competition believes that young people’s voices, perspectives, and opinions are relevant. The Columbans are proud to have given young people a chance to put their faith into action by expressing their views of the world around them and engaging them to think hard about who in our world is making a difference to the lives of people and planet. Young people have a voice, they have eyes to see what is going on around them. Like Paulette’s image says, it’s important you “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE”.