SDG Trips 2023: Inspiring Change for a Better World
Embarking on transformative journeys toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), four inspiring students shared their experiences in Belgium, Nepal, and Thailand. Students provide a glimpse into their year-long preparations leading up to the trips, the dynamics of teamwork, the projects executed aligned with SDGs, and the invaluable lessons learned during their immersive experiences abroad. These students candidly reflect on the impact of their efforts, weaving a compelling tapestry of personal growth, cultural exchange, and the pursuit of a sustainable future.
Project Highlights
In Nepal, this year’s SDG trip centered on designing activities for students, teachers and parents at the Shree Sanjivani Primary School in Nagarkot. Focused on SDG Quality Education, their objective was to foster motivation among students to attend school regularly, thereby mitigating dropout rates and breaking the cycle of poverty. Through close collaboration with the school, students devised comprehensive lesson plans and curated learning materials for subjects like English, Social Studies, Math, and Science.
As Ali explained: “We used the curriculum at ASH, and studied their curriculum to create a shift in the way things are taught and create a higher level of engagement.” “We also observed how our own Elementary School teachers taught our younger students”.
Jurgen added: “We learned a lot from their classroom management skills, how to organize the classroom and strategies on how to keep students engaged”.
Sebastiaan traveled to Thailand for the second time.Tackling SDG goal Affordable and Clean Energy, their goal was to design and implement a plan for the Unified Learning Center (ULC) in Khao Lak to upgrade the school infrastructure with clean energy sources, in particular installing solar panels while empowering the ULC students to become clean energy leaders.
With the SDG in focus being Peace, Justice and Strong institutions for the trip to Belgium, Avery emphasized the significance of cultivating a peaceful mindset and integrating these insights into their community: “An important part of this trip was to gain knowledge on what it means to have a peaceful mindset, and bring those ideas back to the community.”
Working Together for a Common Goal
The SDG trips are designed to foster a deeper understanding of global issues within a local context, emphasizing collaboration in line with ASH’s core principles. While the trips span a week, students commit to a year-long journey consisting of weekly meetings, interactions with global partners, and intensive planning sessions. Having a common objective is something that students expressed to bring them together and create alignment between all group members. As Ali shared,“ We always had a shared goal - it helps create a stronger connection with each other”.
There are sometimes very few people you know in your group, but when you come out you’re all much tighter because of the things you're learning and a shared mindset from the building up process to experiencing. - Avery
Students organized themselves in smaller groups dedicated to specific roles and tasks. “We divided into different working groups - like fundraising, education, infrastructure, storytelling and activities, and would interact with students from all High School grades at the same time," explained Sebastiaan. "It was also powerful because we could learn from each other too in that way; one student who had started learning Burmese taught us a few basic Burmese phrases we could use to connect with people there.”
Having regular contact with their respective partner organizations was a crucial step for creating positive impact. For the Nepal trip, we connected with the communities and our contact persons to see what it is that they needed the most, for us to determine how we could help best," Jurgen shared.
Main Takeaways
All students expressed gratitude and a heightened awareness of privilege and inequality as their primary takeaway from the experience.
As Sebastiaan reflected: “It made me look back at how lucky we are. I kept in contact with some kids and when we compare our daily lives, it's incomparable. I think I do feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to this inequality”.
Avery shared that in a way, this experience had taught him something about the direction he wants to go in the future: “I want to focus on something that works with the idea of bringing peace in the world - it doesn't matter what form it’s in”.
These students show us how deeply impactful immersive experiences can be, shaping who we are and how we see the world. They remind us that working together, understanding different cultures, and caring about sustainability are crucial for building a better future. Their journeys teach us the importance of empathy, teamwork, and taking action to make positive change happen.