Study abroad programs in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Vietnam

by Ross Fletcher (GEI Director of Study Abroad Programs)
The UN SDGs: Background and Importance
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), put forth by the United Nations, were proposed in 2015 and officially enacted on January 1st, 2016 with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The goals cover a range of 17 key aspects that aim to, in a more general way, address poverty, inequality, climate change and a greater breadth of assistance to bring all people up to a sustainable and higher quality of life. While these goals could seem lofty and intimidating, each goal is broken up into very manageable sub-goals that can, if addressed across the world, step-by-step, lead to attaining the 17 goals by 2030.
This week, one year after the goals were proposed, during Global Goals Week 2016, social media channels have been buzzing with posts inspired from the 71st General Assembly of the United Nations, which began on September 13, 2016. This year’s assembly has already placed much importance on ramping up action towards attaining the 17 SDGs by 2030. In turn, supporters of sustainable development are pushing for each country, government, company, organization and individual to think of how they can address these goals to create sustainable work towards achieving the SDGs. Increasing awareness and education of what the goals are and how action plans can be created to address them, is one of the major suggestions made this year.
GEI’s Piece of the SDG Puzzle
So what is GEI doing to increase awareness and education of the SDGs? While each of our programs strives to address the SDGs through practical volunteer work and study, GEI is now developing new courses devoted entirely to the UN SDGs in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Vietnam! Our courses will incorporate practical local stories addressing the SDGs coupled with concrete education on each selected goal. Our development of the courses has so far focused on topics such as environment, education, infrastructure, water and sanitation. Our work will continue to bring in more of the goals with the aim being to address the vital SDGs needed to bring sustainability and higher life quality to the citizens in each of our focus countries.
In partnership with our local on-the-ground colleagues, we are working to tie these larger SDG topics to current work, projects and individual stories in each country. The courses will involve theoretical and practical instruction on each goal, but primarily and more importantly, the courses will teach students about specific stories that exemplify what is being done to address the SDGs in each country. Through the classroom introductions and hands-on experience in the field, intensified by reflective essays and evaluation, our courses on the SDGs will add a significant push to the awareness and education that is so vital to the success of these goals and reaching the 2030 deadline.
Course Value to future Participants
The question seems to answer itself! Attaining the SDGs by 2030 benefits each and every one of us. That said, the courses we are developing increase, in a practical way, our participants’ knowledge of the SDGs relevant to each target country through classroom instruction, site visits and hands-on experience with specific in-country stories. These stories exemplify how each country and its government, companies, organizations and individuals are working to reach the 2030 deadline.
The field experiences, lectures, and interactions with local experts on their country and its relationship with the SDGs are the keys to increasing awareness and strengthening education on sustainable development. With this increased knowledge our participants can not only add to their life-experience from the practical work and study abroad, but also, more importantly, be expert advocates for continuing the drive to reach 2030 with all 17 goals fulfilled.
Make sure to watch our social media platforms, website and newsletters closely for continued updates on our progress with this exciting and meaningful addition to GEI programs!