Recently I gave a speech at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia as a youth advocate in front of global leaders, officers from different international organizations, and hundreds of people that are working daily to protect children’s rights. Yes, I know. Sounds big, right? But let me tell you first a little bit more about myself and my journey.
My name is Daryl, I’m 25 years old and I’m passionate about international relations. Currently, I’m the president of UNSA Spain, a federation that aims to give youth the opportunity to get involved in the Sustainable Development Goals and from here I’ve led both national and international projects, but my beginnings were very different.
For a long time, I’ve been scared of doing things because of what others may think. Although I always wanted to make something to help people and to make the world a better place; I was just too scared of failing and of what the people around would say about it. That prevented me to take action.
I used to tell myself that it was fine not to do anything and that other people – older or more qualified – would do it. But at some point, I asked myself “Why I don’t give it a try? Why should I wait for someone to do something that I really want to do?” and I got the courage to start. I did not start by going to the United Nations to give a speech, rather I started to take little steps and I chose a NGO to do volunteering.
Since then, I’ve given food to homeless people in Madrid, I’ve gone to schools to raise awareness on global issues, I’ve given workshops to encourage young people to take action, I’ve started my own initiatives on gender equality or children recruited by armed forces or armed groups, and I’ve taught English and math to children in India.
All this has allowed me to become a youth activist for children rights and children's health, and I want to share with you some tips I’ve learned through my experience.
1️⃣ Be confident
During your journey, there may be a lot of people that will tell you that you won’t be able to do what you aim for. Believe me, I know this perfectly! And this won’t change when you get older.
Teachers, colleagues and sometimes friends used to tell me that I was not going to be able to make it, that those were only dreams and that the world is a mess. And to be honest, it is! But that does not mean that we cannot do something to make it better. Remember why you are doing what you are doing; and bare in mind that if I don’t give it a try, you will never know!
2️⃣ Surround yourself with people that encourage you
Sometimes – more than I want to admit – I ended up doubting myself too. Those times, it was very important for me to surround myself with people that believed in me. My mother has always been very supportive through all this process and having her by my side has helped me to keep going even in those times when confidence failed me.
3️⃣ Inform yourself
If you really want to make a change, you need to inform yourself. Reading and knowing more about the world will help you to understand the situation and how to make those changes happen.
If you are interested in climate change, then read about the environment and actions that can reduce climate change; if you are interested in ending racism, then read about its origins and how it affects people in their daily lives. Knowledge is power and it can help us come up with solutions to current problems.
4️⃣ Perseverance is key
There will be times where things won’t work out the way you expected it. But you know what? It’s fine! Dozens of times, I’ve had an idea or I’ve started a small project and it did not go well, but that does not mean that I should stop trying. I could learn from it and implement what I’ve learned next time. What makes us strong is getting back up every time we fall.
5️⃣ Step by step
Every action has an impact, whether it’s big or small. You don’t need to give a speech at the United Nations or win a Nobel Prize to change the world. The truth is that big changes start from small actions, and that you starting an initiative in your school or in your neighborhood is as meaningful as talking to global leaders.
During my journey, I’ve learned from every small initiative I’ve participated in, and all those small actions have led me to what I’m doing now; and if you think about the journey of public figures such as Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai, it has always started with them raising their voices and taking action about what is important to them at local level. You never know the change your actions can make.
I can give you tons of advice, but the truth is that you don’t need anything special to change the world and there is no magic formula.
It is about what you do with the tools you have to make the difference. It doesn’t matter if you are 12 years old or if you are 80, if you have a master degree or if you have never studied in your life, if you are a boy or a girl; if you live in a big city or in a small town.
It is about attitude, believing that you can do it and working hard for it. At the end only those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are those who do.