Reporting from the Cork YSI Speak Out Tour
Mair highlights some of the great YSI projects she saw which highlight consent, sexual health, climate change and more
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I recently attended the Cork Young Social Innovators Speak Out. Many people are familiar with YSI from secondary school, normally in Transition Year. At the Speak Out there were some fantastic social issues highlighted, all relevant and important in their own right but naturally, some really appealed to me, whether it was in presentation, issue or performance. The event is a really great opportunity to see what secondary school students are passionate about and want to see improved. There were some truly brilliant projects presented at this event and every one of them addressed important issues we have in Ireland. I’d like to give a brief summary of some of the projects I found interesting. It’s great to see the kind of issues Ireland’s youth are taking action on.
Eight Speak Outs take place across the country and at those events over 6,000 young people will speak out about what issues they’re taking action on They have just 2 minutes to present to an audience of your peers and a YSI panel. You can communicate your action, idea and reasoning in a variety of ways, through dance, song, poetry etc, using all sorts of props and visuals.
Young Social Innovators supports and empowers youth in Ireland to realise their potential as activists and innovators and to tackle social justice issues that they feel passionate about in order to create a more understanding and empathic society. They describe themselves as an organisation that strives “to give everybody an opportunity to use their creativity to respond to social issues and contribute to building a fairer, more caring and equal society” and teaches them important life skills like teamwork, organisation, communication and bringing their ideas from their minds into reality.
Consent and Sexual Health
One issue that came up a couple of times was consent and sexual health. I was really glad to see this as it’s something I feel very passionate about and given some recent developments in Ireland, I feel it is very relevant to Ireland’s youth. I got the opportunity to see three Speak Outs about this issue. First was St Patrick’s College with “Give Victims a Voice,” then Schull Community College and St Aloysius College with “Sex Education.” Schull developed upon the tea analogy that went viral on social media recently and acted out conversations replacing sex with tea. St. Patrick's College took a different angle and addressed recent events in Cork city and the rape trial which got some media attention recently. They talked about how this trial inspired them to take action. They’ve thoroughly thrown themselves into their project, I’d even heard about their work before the event! They’ve organised workshops, taken part in the Valentine’s Day RISE flashmob and developed a close relationship with the Cork Sexual Violence Centre. Last, but not least, St. Aloysius addressed the lack of proper sexual health education in schools across Ireland and how it leaves many students confused or with unanswered questions that they don’t feel comfortable bringing up.
One topic that isn’t something I would have known about was Dementia and its effects on the Irish population. The project was by Killarney Community College and called “Be Dementia Aware.” Their presentation was brilliant. Their props looked so professional and I felt they combined speaking and performance really well. As well as that they had made really lovely pamphlets with information and resources on the topic which they distributed to the crowd while they performed.
Naturally, there were a number of projects on climate change, another really important issue that Ireland desperately needs to address. “The Super Sea Savers” described the impact of pollution and plastic on our oceans and seas through song. They sang an amazing cover of “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, editing the lyrics to relay the destruction our planet is facing, with phrases like “I’ve been staring at the plastics in the water for as long as I can remember, cause I’m only 16”. Beara Community School also presented on climate change with their project “Whatever The Weather.” This project really interested me as it wasn’t a climate action project that I expected from the YSI Speak Out. Their aim was to spread awareness and information on how to protect and prepare for extreme weather events and are planning on creating a guide to help their community.
These are just a few of the projects presented on the day. There were so many more that took to the stage and described the actions that they were taking in their community. Having a room full of ambitious young people, acting for change was truly inspiring and I want to wish them all the best of luck. If YSI sounds like something you might want to become involved in, I really do recommend talking to your school or Transition year coordinator about it.