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Jacqui Walsh

Innovators Blog

Jacqui Walsh

Jacqui is currently studying a Joint Honour in Economics and Asian Studies at University College Cork and took part in the YSI Action Programme in 2012.

When did you take part in Young Social Innovators and what was your project about?

I took part in the YSI Action Programme in 2012. I was a part of the “Forget Me Not” campaign, an awareness campaign for missing people. Our mission was to raise awareness of the issue of missing people in Ireland, to create funds for continued searches and spread the message of change. We achieved this mission through different initiatives.

We created the “Forget Me Not” Calendar in conjunction with the families of the missing. Each month highlighted a different person, sharing photographs and messages from their loved ones. The sales of the calendars were given to organisations that search for the missing. In January 2012 we directly funded the search for a missing 19 year old boy in Galway. We came up with an “Exit Point Strategy”, posters that contained some faces of missing people, contact details to give further information and information if you, yourself, intended to leave the country without alerting your family. Our “Exit Point Strategy” was put in place in airports, ports and ferries in Ireland.

We lobbied the government for a National Missing Persons Day. In March 2012, three members of our team and I presented 12,000 signed petitions to The Joint Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality in The Oireachtas. We also had a billboard campaign strategically located outside Dáil Eireann, urging our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to declare a National Missing Persons Day. They unanimously agreed and the inaugural day took place on the first Wednesday in December 2013.

What impact did your project have on your local or wider community?

The stories of the missing and the “Forget Me Not” calendar had a profound emotional impact on people in our community and all around Ireland. We were greeted with welcoming support from all areas of the community, Deputy David Stanton, Minister Seán Sherlock, President Michael D Higgins and even Kate McCann. We were especially thankful for the support of our school, Davis College Mallow, and our YSI guides, Kathy and Siobhan. We wouldn’t have achieved our mission without all of this unending support. They envisioned our goals and enabled us to complete them. We showed people, of all ages, in our community that everyone can make a difference, all it takes is a small community of driven people with a common goal.

However, our greatest impact was on the lives of the families of the missing. Only on the first National Missing Persons Day, when I spoke on behalf of our team, did it hit me how much this day really meant to the families. The unity of their hope lit up the room. I felt undeserving of their thanks and appreciation, as it is their hope that makes the day so special and it is for them we created this day.

What impact did taking part in YSI have on you?

Working closely with the families was very emotional but their hope motivated me to want to create change. I cannot emphasise how much of an impact YSI has had on me. It allowed me to view my community as a place to initiate change. It helped my realisation as an individual of the difference you can make and how to use your skills and resources to help others. It is, undoubtedly, my most cherished experience from school. Working as a team for a shared passion gave us a special bond and a closeness, my peers became an inspiration. As a team we delegated tasks playing to our individual strengths, this allowed us to identify skills we were good at and work in the most efficient way. YSI taught me compassion and the power of persistence, things not found in a regular class room.

How has your YSI experience influenced the person you are today? Has it had any impact on choices you have made regarding your life, career, study, travel or volunteering etc?

As a direct result of my involvement in YSI I became aware of my potential to create change, how to be an active citizen. I believe that each and every citizen should be treated with dignity and respect, to enable this I think everyone must play their part, no matter how small.

Opportunities arose in areas of my new found passion and my experience with YSI only increased my desire to help people on the margins of society. I’m currently studying at University College Cork as a Quercus Active Citizenship Scholar. This scholarship was awarded to me for my work on the “Forget Me Not” campaign. UCC stands out in this regard, recognising the importance of social innovation in our society and providing an opportunity to nurture and grow talents such as Active Citizenship. This summer I’ve been awarded EIL Irelands China Travel Award. I am currently on a 10 week internship with an NGO in Shanghai. My ideal combination - charity and China! Without my experience with YSI I know I would not be who I am today.

YSI aims to empower young people to realise their own potential as positive change-makers. Why do you think this is important for young people and for the world we live in?

I think it is important for young people to develop skills not used in the class room, like finding solutions to real issues they care about. These young people are the future of our country. If you inspire social innovators from a young age it can only improve society as they bring this inspiration with them throughout their lives.