By: Sarah Whipple, UNA-University of Texas at Dallas
On the ten-hour flight home from the WFUNA Human Rights Training in Geneva last summer, I remember not being able to sleep. I knew that I needed to- my fall classes started two days later, and I had spent a long week packed with trainings, discussions, and presentations centered around taking action to promote human rights. Although sleep was tempting, I had left the training with a challenge: to create a yearlong project for UNA-USA that addressed some sort of human rights issue in my area. After receiving inspiration from young people from across the world that attended the training, I spent the flight thinking about how I could leverage my skills and resources to create a human rights project. I decided to use my experience in videography and working at immigration organizations in Dallas to create a video that uplifted the work of immigrant and non-immigrant communities who are working to make Dallas a more welcoming and integrated city.
One of my favorite Sustainable Development Goals is Partnership for the Goals, because it recognizes the importance of cooperation across societies to make them more just, equitable, and sustainable. I certainly relied on partnerships over the course of my project, and began my timeline by pitching my project proposal to the City of Dallas Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. I knew that working with a branch of City Hall would allow me to access organizations and information I would not have otherwise, as well as give me an official platform to share my video. We decided to center the video around a community event that happens in Dallas every Thanksgiving, hosted by a family at a local synagogue who organizes a dinner each year to welcome refugees. The event featured catering from Break Bread, Break Borders, a catering company that employs refugee women to develop cooking and business skills. Art pieces from local refugee youth hung around the hall, and Participant Media came to screen Ai Weiwei’s film Human Flow. I filmed interviews with some of the organizers, and fellow videographers conducted videos about refugees telling their stories and local government officials discussing Dallas issues. After the event, I worked with the City of Dallas and Participant Media for five months to create a short film from the hours of footage we had collected.
After editing seven different cuts of the video, we decided on a final version (which can be viewed here) and began working on disseminating the video. During this stage, partnerships proved necessary once again as I gained viewers by sending the video to local immigration organizations, and having screenings at the Dallas Festival of Ideas and a meeting of the Dallas Immigration Task Force. When I laid out my project plan on my flight home from Geneva, I could not have imagined the outpouring of community support that lay ahead. While the Global Goals may sometimes seem like grand and impossible tasks, creating a community project gave me tangible proof that achieving the SDGs is possible at the local, national, and international level. The work of UNA-USA and all of its members is critical inspire local action for global goals, and I was lucky enough to experience this firsthand from Geneva to Dallas.