Your voice has power – Lennart Salek, Germany/Poland

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Andrès and Sofia, founders of Voices for the World

Living in the 21st century means living in a perpetual rush. Due to the world’s increasing interconnectedness, we are always a click away from the latest local, national or global news. While the information age enables us to access more knowledge and communicates the most recent news to us, it undoubtedly has got its downsides too.

When isn’t the front page about shooting, terrorist attacks or war? In general, violence and armed conflicts constitute a vast majority of our daily news. The regular influx of such news clearly has an influence on one’s consciousness. Sometimes, one might even grow desensitised to it. After the terrorist attacks in Paris this November, people were coming together to grieve for the victims. On the flip side, some claimed that people were getting numbed to the death toll in the Middle East.

But that isn’t to say that modern warfare is the only thing that endangers our world. Our society has to deal with an array of diverse problems. The destructive effects of climate change are already visible in innocent Micronesia. Poverty has intensified in Western Africa due to drought. There are no distinguish measures against the increasing emission of fumes. There’s been a  radical shift to the right, observed in all member states of the European Union. These are just a few of the problems that we face. It’s precisely why  people must come together in this torrid time in order to make an impact.

Today, we are interviewing the founders of the youth-initiative “Voices for the world”. It’s an initiative founded after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November of this year and is led by secondary students.

Lennart: Before we talk about your project, I would like you to introduce yourselves to the readership.

Sofia: My name is Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe. I’m 19 years old and from South Auckland, New Zealand.

Andrés: I’m Andrés Oliva Lozano. I’m 17 and Spanish, from a coastal city called Alicante. Four months ago I landed in Israel to study in an international school; that’s where I met Sofia.

Lennart: “Voices for the World” was founded after the attacks (in Paris), but what was your primary motivation to start such a movement?

Sofia:  Actually it’s a funny story, Andrés and I kind of fell into starting this project together… It started the day after the attacks in Paris, that weekend there had also been terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Beirut, so it was really a painful time for a lot of people. Seeing as Andrés and I study at an international school for peace I wanted to make some kind of statement to share with the world, something simple to show that people care. My first thought was to raise the nations’ flags above the school and share the images, but then the leader of our school’s glee club sent me a message offering to sing. Soon we had a diverse group of students involved and the beginnings of a vigil organized. It was just perfect timing when Andrés messaged me and suggested we film a clip together… I mean everything was already planned when he showed up with his camera. The next day we filmed our first clip “#StandForPeace” and published it online. We began sharing it with a few people we knew and organizations we had volunteered for, but the response was much greater and a lot more international than we expected. When we realized how far our voices had reached and the amount of people that were willing to listen we decided to keep doing this and soon after the Voices for the World project was born.

Andrés: We realized that we had something to say. We wanted to show to the world that there was more than violence and crisis. That there are people who still believe in a more peaceful world and are currently working to improve it. These are the ones leading “peace revolution” and other people need to know their work, they need to know that (as cheesy as it may sound) there are reasons to believe and values to fight for. If they know this, they will be able to join and lead the change.

Lennart: Basically, you share posts of other initiatives and publish short videos. Could you elaborate on how your activities are supposed to cope with the world’s current problems?

Sofia: Good question. Well, there’s a lot more to this project than just sharing other’s initiatives and making clips. At its core Voices for the World aims to unite people, to encourage individuals to use their voices and actively cry for the prevalence of humanity over terror and injustice. But making short clips we want to show people that these concepts we talk about are present in the real world and, in a sense, set an example for the act of living peacefully. Our second clip “#WeAreHuman” is all about the similarities amongst people, despite how different we may seem or may look there are things that unite us, mundane or profound; these things always exist. By partnering with other organizations and sharing the campaigns that they are working on through our public Facebook page we want to expose people to different initiatives and unite them through common causes. But more than this, and a key aspect of this project, is the fact that we welcome submissions from any individual or organization from around the world. These submissions could be in the form of pictures, writing, videos… almost any form people choose to use to express their voices.

Andrés: We believe this is very powerful because, for example: a young girl that is leading a local organization in Burundi may feel that all her efforts aren’t making a difference. However, if man in Norway reads about her work and decides to work with her in any way, both of them will be encouraged and empowered. That’s why Voices for the World is a global community. People with similar or complementary ideas, no matter what country they come from, can unite and work together to make a bigger impact.

Lennart: All right, thank you for your honesty. And yet I would like to know whether there is a concrete issue you want to tackle personally with your initiative?

Sofia: I think a very important aspect of Voices for the World is that, while the core objectives are constant, the content of what we produce constantly changes. This project aims to react to current events and advocate for action towards whichever causes need it at any given point in time. This gives us a lot of freedom and, in my opinion, a lot of power as Voices for the World can evolve and grow, the way the world and people do. Though we’ve only recently founded this project, and have so far had only one piece of submitted content, one day we hope to have the majority of content produced by others using their voices. I mean, this online community which we are building is not for or about Andrés and I… It’s about the messages that we’re spreading and society as a whole, together we shape the world that we live in so it’s really our responsibility to make it a place that’s good for all of us. To more directly answer your question; for me this project is not about pinpointing and focusing on a narrow range of specific issues. Rather, it’s about recognizing the multitude of issues existing today and encouraging people from around the world to speak up against these and use the power we have as individuals, and as masses, to change these things.

Lennart: To conclude, do you have any concrete piece of advice for our readership what they can do in order to make an impact like you do?

Sofia: I want to tell the readership something that I recently learnt, yet something that I wish I always knew. It’s that your voice has power. Maybe you don’t believe me and you’re asking yourself; How can my voice be powerful if the only people I talk to are my family and my schoolmates/work colleagues? Well, just remember that every word, every sentence that you say becomes part of the reality of the person that you speak to. It could become a large part of their reality, something they base their actions or ideas on. Or it could become a smaller part of their reality, a distant memory, or a lesson learnt. Regardless, your voice is the tool you use to influence many, every single day of your life. This knowledge brings not only a lot of responsibility but also, a lot of opportunities.

Andrés: I’d just like to remind our readers of something that they may have read/listened to before and that is: “Together we’re stronger”. So, if they have an idea, don’t keep it to yourself, thinking that it is worthless. You’ll never know how your idea will develop and how much potential it has to change someone’s life.

Sofia & Andrés: Thank you for reading, and welcome to Voices for the World.

Lennart: Thank you for this inspiring interview and good luck with your project!

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R-4mrb5koI

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