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#TheBigShoutOut: Evangelia Papoutsaki

"I see volunteering as a Young Leader mentor as an opportunity not only to continue being of service but also learn from them about their challenges, insights, dreams and aspirations and how we can collectively enable new opportunities for positive change. ”

What motivated you to volunteer with UnionAID?

As an engaged global citizen with a passion for social justice, a social change communication scholar, published author and educator,  I see it as my duty to mentor young people, especially women, who have the potential to contribute meaningfully as agents of change to their communities.

After years of engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, I have developed close relationships and a keen interest in the welfare of young social changers, especially Pacific islanders. When UnionAID approached me with a request to mentor their Papuan program participants, I saw this as an opportunity not only to continue being of service but also learn from them about their challenges, insights, dreams and aspirations and how we can collectively enable new opportunities for positive change. Spending time with these young Papuans was so inspiring and a reminder that supporting young leaders is the surest way for a better future!

How have you witnessed the direct impact of UnionAID’s work with young leaders?

When I invited the three Papuan young leaders to come to Waiheke island for a visit to the Saturday community market and other creative and sustainable initiatives on the island, I had not anticipated the impact this would have on them or their capacity to turn their observations to significant insights about how to help their own island communities. Their ability to immerse themselves in this important to the island community activity and engagement with what they observed and the questions asked generated meaningful insights about developing a market model as a social enterprise activity. What they saw was potential and the impact of creativity as a social enterprise with positive impact in their own communities. Just a hour into their visit, I realised that I need not worry, that although my island community might be very different to theirs, ideas can be generated and shared for common good.

Inspiration awakens potential and these young leaders mined inspiration in all their interactions during their visit. The subsequent reflection session with them indicated how important it is to expose young leaders to different ways of bringing change. And that’s all we need to do as mentors, enable that space of “wonder” and “possibility” for them to decide how it relates to their realities and community’s needs.

UnionAID supports democratic, worker-led organisations that help empower working people to improve their work and livelihoods through collective action.

Find out more about what we do and how to get involved here or become a Kiwi Solidarity Member now.

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