I so often take gifts like safe drinking water for granted! It’s crazy to think that one in ten people do not have access to something so readily available in countries like Australia.

Sustainable Development Goal 6, titled ‘Safe Water and Sanitation’, forms part of the United Nation’s 2030 agenda to alleviate poverty. In total, there are 17 goals that extend from the former Millennium Development Goals, this time proposing a more holistic approach to fighting inequalities. The SDGs recognise that poverty is a multifaceted problem by nature and must look beyond mere economic growth. Societal AND environmental factors must also be considered and inform our approach to development.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with 907 other University delegates from 78 countries in Bangkok, Thailand. While it was pretty cool travelling outside of Aus for the first time and going to the United Nations, it was most encouraging to meet so many people keen to make positive changes in the world. Further to this thought, the highlight was considering the concept of ‘change’ and what really underpins the compassion that spurs us on.

Throughout the symposium, we heard from a number of speakers with valuable experience and knowledge to share. From the outset 3 Cs were highlighted: concern, commitment and courage. Further to this, we were encouraged to live for others — to “serve and not be served”. But the question is, what can make people truly selfless and willing to consider others above themselves? One talk that resonated with me in particular was by renowned speaker Francis Kong from the Philippines. In his highly entertaining and interactive speech, he highlighted the need to look inwardly, before we can make outward actions of love towards society. Consideration of our own values, conviction of truth, and development of character were given emphasis. Quoting the good old Black Eyed Peas song ‘Where is the Love’, we were reminded, “If you never know truth, then you never know love”. A key phrase that really summarised Francis’ underlying message was, “So many people want to make a difference, but they don’t want to be different”. A new heart and a new spirit, he explained, is the key!

All in all, it was a really encouraging week… I sincerely hope some practical action may extend from this experience, with the Love of God as the driver. I am so thankful to have met so many incredible students from across the globe who also share in my desire to reduce poverty. Thank you to Humanitarian Affairs and the UNDP for running this fantastic program: the University Scholars Leadership Symposium. Furthermore, thank you to Federation University for providing some financial assistance that enabled me to make the trip.


by Jess Powell