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Laura Cook, Communications Manager for All We Can, reflects on the power of togetherness and the need to unite as a global community in order to meet the challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals
Summer BBQs in the UK require a lot of collaboration. Even with a summer that has been as hot as this one, you always have to prepare for every weather eventuality. Teamwork truly begins when relatives negotiate the preparation of food, the organisation of the garden and who is buying what. High-level debates take place on the best way to make sure the burgers are cooked properly and there is always that one person who considers themselves a BBQ king or queen who needs to be gently guided away from the grill!
As I enjoyed times of community and connection this summer in the UK, I reflected on just how important the spirit of togetherness is when we consider some of the greatest problems facing the world today. The biggest challenges – a changing climate, extreme poverty and global inequalities – are challenges that needed to be faced by a united world. A world committed to seeking the common good for all. These challenges force us to gather with people we might not normally consider gathering with.
When I think of the power of togetherness, I remember a very special time gathering with older people in northern Cameroon. In Elemighong village, I spent time meeting with an inspiring group of older people who had decided that working together would be far more effective than working alone. Elemighong older people’s group was created in 1998 and later, through the support of All We Can, was able to benefit from training in sustainable farming techniques and other income generating activities. When the older people came together, they started to feel energised and more enthusiastic about life. One woman described her newfound zest for life: “I used to just sit in my house, but now look at me! I even go out and play with the ball and dance with my friends.” The older people meet weekly as part of their club, and now nearly 20 years after its inception, the group is still going strong and no longer needs outside support. The group’s members support each other, solve their own problems as a community and have shared skills that have enabled the whole village to substantially improve its prospects for the future.
Beyond simply meeting and benefiting their own community, the Eleminghong elders have gone on to form part of national change in Cameroon. They joined thousands of other older people groups, marched, and petitioned for older people’s rights, eventually seeing a change in the country’s laws and provision for the elderly. The group explained that one of the advantages of working together is that everyone has a skill to contribute, “Each one of us has something we can do to help another.”
We see the value in connection in our own families, neighbourhoods and towns. The same values of commitment to one another, generosity and a willingness to engage are desperately needed in our world today. At All We Can, we believe that the Christian Church has an important role in gathering people together around the Sustainable Development Goals. Just as communities like the one in Elemighong in Cameroon are seeing change through the power of working together, we can also enable change for our global neighbours through the actions we commit to in collaboration with one another.
Laura works for All We Can as the Communications Manager. She is also an internationally acclaimed photographer with a passion for women's rights. She is studying MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in her spare time and lives with her husband Stephen in Essex.