Fifteen youth with a passion for sustainable development joined Peace Boat’s 94th Global Voyage for Peace and Sustainability between Panama and El Salvador. They were part of a special study program which provided an opportunity for young people to learn about and contribute to the fulfilment of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals include, among others, ending poverty, reducing inequalities and protecting the environment. Peace Boat holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and is committed to raising awareness of the SDGs as its Global Voyages visit around 80 countries per year.
While in Panama, the group visited the UN’s Development Program regional office in Panama City to learn about how the SDGs are being implemented in Latin America. They also spent a day exchanging with refugee youth to learn about the socio-political situation in the country and youth empowerment. In addition, the group experienced an overnight homestay with the Embera Quera indigenous people of Panama, during which cultural identity was explored. This visit was Milka Rodriguez’s favourite part of the programme as she enjoyed dancing with people from the indigenous community and said the children were so welcoming. “It was eye-opening, they were very worldly, they are participants of civil society and made the decision to preserve their culture and traditions,” she added.
In Nicaragua, the group experienced sustainable tourism at work as tourists were offered tours by local people on tricycles; and as the ship sailed towards El Salvador the youth held an event onboard in which they shared with Peace Boat participants which SDG was most important to them. Talia Bank, a high school student from New York City, spoke on SDG1 – No Poverty, and her participation in a volunteer programme that supports low-income families across the United States by providing donated goods such as diapers and clothing, as well as emotional support to single parents.
In El Salvador, the youth witnessed a special programme focusing on restoring the Nawat language of the Pipil indigenous community by teaching it to young children. While the ship was docked in Acajutla, El Salvador, a Peace Forum was also held onboard focusing on SDG16 -Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. At the event, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared how the government is working to implement the SDGs. Staff from two El Salvadorian universities also explained how their educational institutions are working towards the Global Goals such as the USAN University health programme which sees student doctors go to rural communities to teach them about nutrition.
Mina Karimi enjoyed the unique experience of taking part in the SDG programme, commenting “You don’t usually have the chance to visit indigenous communities or meet refugees. This programme has opened my eyes to the problems of a country, and how we as youth can contribute to the change. The first step is awareness, then take action. For example, find a local NGO to support – it’s very easy to contribute to your local community.”