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How to survive information overload and create positive change

In times of political upheaval, it’s tempting to pull the bedcovers over your head and hide rather than getting swept up in the tide of frenzied debate around us.

How to survive information overload and create positive change
All photos: Raleigh International
Notification pings, group chats, emails – these days we’re bombarded by so much negative information that the challenges facing the modern world can feel overwhelming. We’re left wondering how we could even begin to make a positive difference to the world.
 
That’s not to say we haven’t tried to help. After all, we did sign that petition and what about that disapproving tweet in response to a certain politician’s misguided remarks. If we’re honest though, there’s something about tapping on a screen from the comfort of our couch that doesn’t quite meet our desire to actually do something positive. And right now, the last thing we want to do is spend more time on our phones scrolling through social media feeds or reading the news.
 
But there is a way to break the cycle.
 
We can all do something practical to make a small but measurable difference to our planet and society at large. Every day thousands of young people put down their smartphones and start to create the change they want to see in the world.
 
But taking that first step is often the biggest challenge.
 
That’s where organisations like Raleigh International come in. For over 30 years they’ve been offering overseas volunteer opportunities for young people who really want to do something to make a difference in the world.
 
These volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds and countries. They form an international team, committed to tackling some of the world’s most challenging development issues. They live and work side by side with members of rural communities in Nicaragua & Costa Rica, Tanzania, Nepal and Malaysian Borneo.
 
 
 
Arthur, 18, was someone who jumped at this opportunity.
 
“After reading about Raleigh I liked the first impression of it so much…it sounded so
interesting that I didn’t even consider another option,” he says.
 
Arthur spent ten weeks as a Raleigh International volunteer in Costa Rica as well as
Nicaragua, which is one of the least developed countries in the Americas with one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality.
 
“The purpose of this project was to provide houses in the community with clean drinking water,” Arthur explains.
 
Over 2 million people in Nicaragua lack access to adequate sanitation while over 800,000 people don’t have access to safe water. This is especially true in the country’s rural communities, which is why Raleigh volunteers’ work focuses on these areas. Not only do rural communities have the greatest need, but they also have the willingness to engage in sustainable development.
 
“Our work involved building a water tank and digging kilometres of trenches…I worked alongside my fellow Raleigh teammates and many of the community members,” says Arthur.
 
 
Raleigh volunteers work on a wide variety of projects: from reforestation in
Tanzania to installing clean water systems in Nepal; from building bridges in Borneo to implementing community resilience initiatives in Nicaragua. It also means Raleigh volunteers and their families can be confident that every local community has requested the presence of volunteers.
 
“We all worked tirelessly together to ensure the project was a success,” says Arthur.
 
It’s this willingness and way of working – in teams and in partnership – that can really make a huge difference in a project’s lasting impact in communities like the one in Nicaragua that had never had access to running water before.
 
“This is life changing for them as previously they had to walk an hour to get water. Now they have it in their own homes,” Arthur explains. “This allows them to divert their energy towards other areas of their lives which will significantly improve their own standard of living.”
 
 
 
If you – or someone you know – would like to follow in Arthur’s footsteps, Raleigh is currently recruiting new volunteers for its Expeditions departing in June and July 2017.
 
Wherever you live, as long as you are 17-24 years old (or 25-75 years old for Volunteer Manager roles), have a valid passport, and a passion to create lasting, positive change, a Raleigh Expedition could be the way for you to overcome feelings of powerlessness and turn them into real action with lasting results.
 
The benefits of volunteering with Raleigh International don’t just stop at the communities.
 
Raleigh also provides volunteers with its renowned hands-on leadership training, developed through 30 years of experience running Expeditions overseas, and designed to effect positive changes within volunteers as well.
 
“Raleigh is a place where you can make mistakes, learn from them, and take something positive out of it. It’s the perfect environment to improve your personality and skills”, Arthur tells us.
 
Raleigh also helps young people develop with a challenging adventure trek through stunning terrain, much of which can only be reached on foot, and is totally away from tourist trails.
 
Volunteers take turns leading the trek, carry their own kit and food, and are guided by experienced trek leaders. Volunteers develop their resilience, leadership, and teamwork capabilities, and become further inspired to create positive change – long after they return home.
 
 
“It’s vital to improve your leadership skills…we’ll all enter the workplace and be expected to lead and make decisions and the trek gives you invaluable experience in this. You find out what you’re made of when you’re walking 20km per day with a heavy weight on your back in the searing heat, having to think not only of yourself, but the rest of your team,” says Arthur.
 
“It helps us develop into strong, effective leaders who will be able to return to our communities and make positive contributions there in the future.”
 
Multiply this across the world and something amazing starts to happen. You get a worldwide movement for change that creates a much broader, lasting impact.
 
 
So, if you’re racking your brains for a way to really make an impact this year, make your summer vacation meaningful and join a Raleigh Expedition.
 
Know someone else who would be interested?
 
Share this article or click here to learn more. 
 
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Raleigh International.
 

FOOTBALL

My German career: ‘One year turns into 15 very quickly’

Like many in the German capital, when George Springborg arrived in Berlin in 2004, he had little in the way of a plan. 15 years later and he’s helped build and expand Street Football World, a charity football organisation which has attracted the interest - and the financial backing - of some of the sport’s biggest names.

My German career: 'One year turns into 15 very quickly’
George Springborg with Australian football journalist and former Socceroo Craig Foster. Image: Supplied

While football might be the ‘World Game’, in George Springborg’s native Australia, the sport doesn’t quite have the same reach. 

Football – more commonly known down under as soccer – would probably only just make it into a list of the country’s top-five favourite sports, with few tuning in outside of World Cup time. 

It perhaps makes it all the more surprising then that just 15 years after leaving Sydney for Berlin, Springborg is now the Network Development Manager for Street Football World – stylised as streetfootballworld – an NGO which seeks to use football as a way of promoting charitable causes alongside social outreach and social cohesion. 

With high-profile supporters including some of the sport’s biggest names in Mats Hummels, Juan Mata and Eric Cantona, the organisation has grown in stature and influence in recent years. 

Springborg says that the goal of the organisation is simple: to pursue social aims through football. 

“We are an organisation that uses football for social development – we seek to change the world through football,” he says.  

“We support organisations around the world – NGOs – that are using football for peace building. We coordinate projects with different NGOS around the world.”

Street Football World is funded through a collection of public and private funders, including the German government, football organisations like FIFA and UEFA, and an assortment of sponsors. 

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Kids play football at one of Street Football World's outreach programs. Image: streetfootballworld

 

Keeping football's grassroots origins intact

Football, the world’s most popular sport, continues to grow in popularity. However with the money now flowing into the game, there’s a feeling that the game is losing touch with the communities from which it grew. 

Springborg tells us that Street Football World aims to do something different. 

“Football began as a social movement. That’s not always reflected in how football is these days. There’s very little trickle down into the grassroots,” he says. 

“We have worked with the football industry as a whole, placing the idea of using football for good at the heart of the entire thing.” 

‘One year turns into 15 very quickly’ 

Like many Berliners whose stay was far longer than envisioned, Springborg says his initial plan wasn’t to make Berlin a permanent home. 

“I studied German in high school. I did a small study stint in Germany and I went again when i was 15,” he said. 

“Then came here to study (at university) and never left.”

“I also really like living in Berlin, there are not too many cities in the world that are so open and where one can be oneself and no-one gives a shit. And certainly Sydney is not that,” he said. 

“It was a relatively easy decision. One year turns into 15 very quickly.”

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Common goal

One of Street Football World’s core initiatives is Common Goal, a campaign to have footballers pledge one percent of their wages to charitable causes. 

Given the explosion in player wages recently, one percent could make a significant differences to the activities of Street Football World and charitable causes more broadly. 

The campaign went viral after Manchester United’s Juan Mata made the pledge. Since then, almost 500 supporters have signed up including German World Cup winner Mats Hummels, Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has also joined the pledge. 

Springborg explains that the campaign was a way to bridge the gap between football’s elite and the grassroots. 

“The idea that one percent of the profit that players made would be donated to organisations using football for good highlights our message. The idea now is to spread it to other football institutions.”

Juan Mata's one-percent pledge with Common Goal goes viral. Image: Street Football World

Street Football World: Why Germany? 

Would such a plan work in his native Australia? Aside from football being at best the fourth most popular sport down under, the support networks and infrastructure just aren’t as established as in Germany. 

“We actually have one of our partners based in Australia – Football United – using football to promote the integration of refugees. They’ve had it tough.”

“They do great work, but the level of support isn’t great. The use of football as a tool for social development isn’t so supported (in Australia). There is a lot of political agendas in Australia. 

“We think that sport could be used to have a much stronger impact. It exists, but not as strong as could be, which is amazing considering its a country that loves sport.”

Springborg says the organisation’s success is thanks to Germany’s welcoming nature – and of course the country’s love of football. 

“In Germany, there is a stronger understanding of the game. Football is also a much more established sport, far more resources.”

Aside from being the country’s most popular pastime, in Germany the links between football and charitable causes are well established. 

“During the refugee influx into Germany a few years ago, football clubs and the football community rallied around the recently arrived refugees. For many, football clubs were their first point of call.”

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Aside from rents, the failed airport and the weather, another topic to get the average Berliner’s tongue wagging will be the changes they’ve seen in their time in the Hauptstadt. 

With 15 years under his belt, Springborg says he’s seen a city change significantly, particularly in terms of opening up internationally. 

“When I moved here 15 years ago, English wasn’t spoken much on the trains or bars. Of course there were some tourists, but you didn’t bump into people all the time. But these days people are speaking all different types of languages on the streets of Berlin.”

There's been another change, this time back home. At the time Springborg arrived, Australia hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1974. 

This is something they have now managed to do each tournament since Germany held the 2006 edition, or since Springborg made Germany his home. He's not sure he's responsible for his home country's upturn in fortunes – particularly if his Bundesliga side's poor form is any indication.

“In 20 years of supporting Hamburg (in the Bundesliga) I have had nothing to celebrate.”

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