Small Steps Together …

Oscar Wilde once said ‘The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention’.

I recognise how agonising it may feel when lecturers continue to brag about the important of volunteering in order to enhance your CV, but last summer volunteering became much more to me, much more.

‘’We are delighted to be in a position to offer you a place in our 2019 Volunteer programme.’’ The email that started my African adventure, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet my team, it all happened so fast I literally blinked, and it was time to go.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment we stepped of the plane, that overwhelming feeling of ‘I can’t believe I am actually here in South Africa with nine other people’.  We were all as apprehensive as each other and didn’t really know what lay ahead of us. As we drove for hours upon hours upon HOURS, I had the opportunity to absorb what would be a defining experience for me.

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While in South Africa I had the opportunity to teach in Michael’s Secondary in Supinstad. NM3It wasn’t like teaching at home where you have 25 children in a class, along with an interactive whiteboard and a multitude of resources. Instead, my class (yes, my class) had 35-45 children per day with a blackboard being our only resource. We had to get very creative when making lesson plans which kept the children interested. Words cannot describe how the children absorbed every word we said, they literally loved to learn. (Unlike children here; school as a heaven of peace, not a punishment.)  It was so humbling to see how children with nothing more than a pencil and paper tried so hard in the classroom. I will never forget how excited the children got when we did a science experience with a balloon and Dearbhla’s hair- it is a moment I will never forget. Also think of the best teacher you have had in your life and multiply it by 100 that is the equivalent to the principal Shaki: he is the most inspirational teacher I have ever met. While we were in South Africa, he traveled 8 hours to Johannesburg so a child could sit an exam with the hopes of attending university. This is just one of the amazing things he did to give the children of his school the best opportunities he could.

After two and a half weeks in Supinstad we moved to Phokeng, a much larger town than we were used to. Within this town, situated a shopping mall…a very different type… IT HAD FIVE SHOPS!

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While in Phokeng, we worked in a squatter’s camp… breath-taking is all I can say. Everywhere I looked it was just tin huts with no electricity or running water and small shacks which people lived in. The most heart-breaking part of it all was seeing children run around these homes, with no care at all because they obviously don’t know any different at all. The Tsholofelo Community (Community of Hope) which we worked with run the crèche’s, school and clinics within the camp, the camps have around 15-20,000 people living in them. While teaching at the creche and school it was amazing to see how interested the children were as they would literally move their chairs as close to you as possible, they were so eager to learn… there was no such things as too close for comfort.

Volunteering for Friends of Africa gave me the chance to meet 9 of the most amazing people I have ever met, I had a chance to get to know them in a way that I never would have, had not for that experience. They are the only nine people in the whole world who can relate to this experience with me.

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Don’t get me wrong it was also very hard at times, hearing about the natural everyday hardships that they face every day and seeing the strength they must overcome them while knowing the only problems I have truly faced are nowhere near in comparison.

South Africa will always have a special place in my heart. If you ever have the chance to do international volunteering, please do it you will not regret it.

It took me until I was leaving Africa to fully grasp the fact that I had arrived.

Niamh McNally is a Final Year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – NiamhMc_Nally

My Top Favourite Campaigns!

Ever since I started to study PR and started to understand the effort that goes into creating a PR and marketing campaign, I have gained an appreciation for a campaign that can make me stop and think!

For me, the campaigns I remember the most are those were companies use their platforms to highlight the social issues happening all around the world to gain consumers attention to the social issues as well as the product they are promoting.  These campaigns are always very controversial and inspiring, social media however allows everyone to post their opinions and views without focusing on the issues being promoted. Campaigns are becoming increasing more difficult to promote as consumers are always finding ways to avoid watching or listening to ads, which requires companies to work harder than ever to gain our attention.

Here are a few of my favourite Campaigns that focus on social issues:

Nike

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

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Like many, I didn’t really understand the sacrifice that Kaepernick made when taking a knee during an NFL game, it wasn’t until I seen the Nike campaign that I actually researched what it all actually meant. Nike took a stance on a social issue for their 30th anniversary campaign, the campaign featured former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Kaepernick took a knee during a pregame playing of the American national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice America, as a result of this he has not been signed by another team. This caused outrage among many people including President Trump who attacked the advert ‘’I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it.’’

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Many went as far as to burn or cut the Nike logo off their products in solidarity with their country, many felt it was unpatriotic and incited rage among consumers.. However, the campaign actually increased Nikes stocks by 5%.

Following this controversial campaign, Nike also launched a campaign featuring women in sports.

 

‘Dream Crazier’

Nike also released a campaign focusing on ‘crazy’ women in sport. This campaign worked to redefine what it means to be a ‘crazy’ woman and remove the negative connection of the word. It focuses on female athletes who have worked to break down barriers, to inspire the next generation of female athletes.

It features tennis champion Serena Williams who speaks throughout the campaign as she has personal experience of being called over emotional. She was questioned by both the media and social media when she returned to the sport after giving birth to her daughter.  Throughout history women have always been seen to be inferior to men within sport, to this day these negative stereotypes still apply.

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I have always appreciated Nike’s ability to tackle the most controversial issues without worrying how it will affect their brand but focusing more on bringing attention to issues that they support. Nike founder Phil Knight, said “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”

Jigsaw

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Jigsaw is a luxury British Fashion clothing and accessories retailer, that took a stand on immigration with their ‘Heart Immigration’ manifesto which challenged the idea that  anything or anyone 100% British.

NM24This comes at a time when no one knows what is in store for us in regard to Brexit and what this means for immigration. It focuses on the idea that is nothing is ever completely British, it is a little of this and a little of that. This was done exceptionally well by working aside ancestry UK to show how diverse fashion is as ‘British style is not 100% British. In fact, it’s just as diverse as we are’. It received a lot of support from social media as well as critiques who felt that it is not the brands place to speak on such a controversial issue.

Are we ever just one thing, if you look within your family or friend group are they a mixture of different nationalities or all one? I don’t believe any of us are just one. By using none traditional ways of promoting there brand they made me click into their campaign and look at the clothes in a more in-depth way than I would a brand who just use the same pretty pictures with pretty clothes as everyone else.

Gillette

It is  impossible to not know what the ‘me too’ movement is unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years. Gillette is just one of many brands who had to change their stance. They changed their tagline from ”The best a man can get”, replacing it with ”The best men can be”.

As a well-known men’s brand, Gillette challenged sexism, the dangers of toxic masculinity and the importance of setting a good example for boys. Throughout the ad, it shows examples of cyber bullying, sexual harassment and mansplaining. The advert also highlights the proliferation of the phrase “boys will be boys” as a means of excusing harmful or violent behaviour exhibited by young boys.

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This ad has been praised as being ‘pro humanity’ as opposed to ‘anti-male’. Actor Terry Crews supported the campaign ‘I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”

Throughout the ad, there was many examples of ways for men to improve the negative stereotype surrounding them following such a huge #metoo movement, I felt it was a very well thought out campaign that used the timing of the #metoo movement to their advantage. This is only one step they have take to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man. As a company they have promised to donate $1m a year for three years to non-profit organisations with programs “designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation”.

Piers Morgan tweeted ‘I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this is absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away’. Does he really think anyone cares about his opinion?

Project 84: Calm

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Did you know that 84 men every week commit suicide? It is one of the leading causes of death among men in the UK. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) started a conversation about male suicide On World Mental Health Day, by creating 84 sculptures standing on top of This morning Studios in London.

NM20On the projects websites there are names and details of each of the men, who stories were told by those close to them. It shows that no matter where you’re from, what age or race you too can struggle. This campaign was implemented to put pressure on the government to make a change, this was achieved by the first UK suicide prevention minister being appointed. This campaign raised awareness for a every growing issue within the UK with  powerful message in a dignified way.

 

I can’t wait to see what campaigns are coming in 2020, as I embark on a carer in PR myself.

Niamh McNally is a final year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @NiamhMc_Nally