Wikipedia for Peace: Climate Justice - Online Volunteer Project
The project took place in:
Written by Maria Conte and Aine Boyle from Ireland
Before signing up for the Wikipedia for Peace: Climate Justice online project, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about volunteering in an online space. I couldn’t grasp the idea of interacting and connecting with other volunteers in virtual reality while still being able to do meaningful work for a just cause. How would I be able to connect with people and volunteer virtually? Nevertheless, I was eager to take advantage of being stuck indoors during the pandemic and decided to take the plunge as I wanted to continue volunteering despite the craziness of 2020! I was excited to see how I could contribute to peace activism from the comfort of my bedroom.
The project was created as a part of the initiative Wikipedia for Peace that Service Civil International (SCI) and Wikimedia have run since 2015 in the hope of improving content on peace and social justice on Wikipedia and of inviting people from all backgrounds (young people, activists, women, queer people) to join together to write and edit Wikipedia.
Normally, the project is run in a physical setting where volunteers can meet and connect with one another in an Alpine chalet overlooking the beautiful Swiss Alps. While that does sound tempting, this project was well organised to take place in a virtual landscape. Even a technophobe like myself found that everything was very straightforward. The coordinator of the project was the brilliant Thomas Schallhart, a climate justice activist and Wikipedia veteran. He was always happy to answer any of our questions, IT or otherwise, taking us through what we needed to do step by step.
He patiently waited for us to log onto Zoom at the same time every day for a three-hour venture into the world of climate justice and Wikipedia editing. We also committed to around two hours of editing a day but we could organise this time ourselves. The flexibility of the project meant that some of the group were able to take part in the project alongside their work or university studies. The daily meetings were an impressive mix of educational content, lively discussions, and wacky energiser games with volunteers from countries all over the world.
I came into the project not knowing a lot about climate justice but I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t the only one! We started by learning the basics about climate justice and climate activism through informal presentations and discussions. We then got to look deeper into the topic in workshops which focused on how climate justice intersects with the coronavirus and classism and later in group discussions about climate change in the media and climate activism. I learned so much from these activities. We were also able to hear the other volunteers’ experiences of climate activism, which I found very inspiring.
The activities and discussions were made even better by the input from people with very different backgrounds and perspectives, as there were participants from all sides of the globe, including Russia, Malaysia, Armenia, Nigeria, and Spain. Every day we learned more about each other’s lives and cultures. Evening activities were a great way for all the volunteers to get to know one another during informal and relaxed hang-outs. This was the highlight of the project for me. I was amazed by how easy it was to socialise with people from all over the world in a time when everyone is stuck at home.
The project was a great opportunity to learn and develop important personal and professional skills, including teamwork, cultural awareness, and conflict resolution. We showed that we could work well in a multicultural team of people and in the online space. At the end of the project, we received a voluntary service certificate from SCI acknowledging these skills.
I feel very proud of the articles that I completed during the project and love the idea that people might learn from my articles in the future. There was a great sense of achievement on the final day of the project when the team celebrated the 44 articles that we had published altogether that week with a virtual ‘cheers’! All in all, it was a really positive experience and it has inspired me to keep learning about climate justice.
Now that the virtual barrier is broken, I’m eager to take part in another online volunteer project. If you’re keen to learn more, develop skills and meet new people, don’t hesitate to participate in an online volunteering project – even a technophobe like myself found it fun!