Category: SDGs

Song Spark Recovery Magic by Nico Roman

My short story Song Spark Recovery Magic won first place for the 2021 LUNE SPARK Short Story World Contest and is part of the book A Few Drops of Hope.

Song Spark Recovery Magic synopsis:

Magical music comes to the aid of a young blind immigrant struggling to wake her adopted city, in order to secure a spark of real recovery and build back better lives in the aftermath of a global pandemic.

Get your own copy!

Song Spark Recovery Magic
By Nico Roman Cordonier Gehring (12)


“Something important is missing…” mused Song, as she helped her mother carry their battered chairs and worn rugs up the cold concrete stairwells to their council flat. Since they first saw the grim, looming halls of the housing estate, she had felt an icy absence – like a gap opening in her shattered world. It was a whispered warning, spoken over and over in the background, too soft for conscious grasp, but ominous in its subliminal impact. The omission haunted her: their new building had no song!


Where they had lived in the West, before a terrible global coronavirus pandemic had ripped her grandmother away from her tiny family, also taking her mother’s low-paying janitorial job, life had been different.


Although she had learned not to mention it to strangers, to Song each building hummed with its community’s unique spirit, celebrating their shared ideas, dreams and lives. Each edifice, each neighbourhood sang its own special tune, woven from the shared history and harmony of its people and place. Sightless since birth, Song relied on textures, tastes, scents and especially sound – music – to make sense of her world. Her service dog, Mozart, a small husky granted to her family by a local charity, helped her to navigate when her mother was away. But she used to revel in the quiet music, entering a home for a morning playdate, or tiptoeing past and listening, on a peaceful evening, could learn the purpose of an office-building or the courageous mission of a hospital.
Here in the East, even as vaccines slowly reached each generation and the pandemic slowly wound down, things were strange. Her new building sounded heavy, chill and empty, the long hallways echoing with dust and neglect, the inhabitants disconnected and alien. Not even the sad, tattered sparrows on the grimy windowsills were singing.


Song could not see the towering, imposing glass structures far above her, nor the flashing neon lights that attracted others to the city, even in days devastated by the disease, with its millions of losses, the fear, distrust and economic collapse. She only felt the disconnect, and suffered.


Song tried to settle into their flat. Her mother had to leave very early each morning to labour in the chemical sewers of a factory that had re-opened, making personal protective equipment for hospitals, and Song was left alone with Mozart. The winter was oppressive. Song sensed deeply the hopelessness and grief of the grim city, polluted and silent. The scents of iridescent diesel oil spills wafted from the puddles on the roads and discarded rubbish rotting uncollected on the curbs. Slimy discarded masks, gloves and other plastics clogged the drains, making Song and Mozart slip if they went out. Already, the constant horns of traffic again blared and roared along the highways beside their grimy flat, melding with the constant background wail of ambulances.


Song sat on the faded linoleum next to the open window in their tiny kitchen, taking tiny shallow breaths of the cold, polluted city air. She was sad and angry. She wondered how her world, so full of joyful tunes, had somehow –in the midst of the global pandemic and the disastrous move– turned so silent. She wanted to change things, but she couldn’t imagine how.


Her one cheerful thought, which she held close to warm her like a glowing golden ember, was her special flute. Once her grandfather could visit, bringing the ancient instrument that he had reserved just for her, Song hoped the crystal notes would form and dance around her as they always did when she played in his tiny cabin along the white cliffs and turquoise heather moors of the West.


Finally, after nearly two weeks of painful pause, the day arrived! Masked and cautious, Song and her mother travelled through the cluttered, noisy but somehow dead streets of their pandemic-struck city to the train station. When Song’s grandfather stepped smiling from the carriage, his wrinkled arms outstretched, Sybil barely needed the pressure of her mother’s light hand on her back to fly towards him. His answering laughter, and the pure notes of greeting that she heard from the precious instrument he carried carefully, made all the waiting worthwhile. On a bark of welcome from Mozart, as he too heard the notes leaking from the battered but beloved black case, a bit of her former confidence returned.


With her flute, Song’s grim life in the dead, silent, cluttered city of the East improved. Cold, lonely halls and silent sadness still formed a cage around her tiny soul, but her music surrounded her, clear and pure, the notes cascading through her days. Unfortunately, the only teacher available in the city was much more expensive. As she set out with Mozart for her first lesson, she had a spark. Rather than burden her tiny family, she could contribute to the cost herself, by playing her flute!


Song’s first clandestine concert took place in the centre of her new city, at the intersection two major alleyways, next to an abandoned street market. Her trusted Mozart guided her through the crowds. Secretly she hoped that they all had been vaccinated because she felt people gathering, and some seemed rather close.


Song unpacked her instrument and started to play. The indigo notes of the ancient, slender silver instrument flowed like a crystal river through the grey, silent city streets, touching the lives of each person, and planting seeds of hope in the crushed hearts of the homes, buildings and neighbourhoods themselves. As Song shared her very soul, the city around her slowly stopped. Pedestrians, cars, buses froze to hear the lovely music. The notes formed a warm waterfall of beauty and light. And as the people of the soundless, soulless, songless city learned to listen, many for the first time in their lives, they became inspired to build back better.


In the crowd, a boy on a skateboard with gleaming raven-wing hair and purple high-tops stopped, astonished, and then quickly pulled out his mobile. His light fingers sped across the keys, and an app glowed with indigo energy as Song’s music engraved electronically. After the performance, Song crumpled in exhaustion on the stone stairs beneath the arches of a stone doorway. Then Mozart barked in greeting. The boy approached, with awed eyes, and asked her permission to post her performance online. Scarcely recognising herself, Song agreed.


The music went viral, travelling everywhere through the city, and transformation travelled with it. A sad, pointless prison for the poor broke the chains of solitude and started rapping its rhythm out from the ground. A polluted petrol station and a greedy fast-food restaurant realised their destiny, and lifted an upbeat, jazzy saxophone duet number. A rubbish tip heard her music, waking from its methane-laden haze and throbbing with deep, happy, decomposing bass notes. The cut-rate pawnshop awakened from its uncaring mist of mangled memories, to pluck a guitar string. With Song’s music came a spark, and with the spark, recovery.


Millions of views and new listeners later, the entire city began to slowly awaken, as if from hibernation. Song and her new friend, Raven, composed new melodies directly online, activating his music apps and her flute talent, and more and more people tuned in to listen, and to transform themselves.


A visiting playwright teaching a story to a group of children in a sad, underfunded schoolroom with a special indigo ink pen paused to listen, as Song’s notes played through the public address speakers, and smiled softly to himself, as the building began to hum the notes back, and recovered into a handsome library brimming with books. A travelling street artist spray-painting an endangered orca and her calves onto a tall shipping company wall with shimmering indigo paints laughed in delight, as the high-rise responded with a soaring soprano solo, and transformed itself into an ocean-wise sustainable aquaculture co-operative.


As Song’s music washed through the city, relentlessly recovering, more and more buildings changed. The clawed pawnshop became a public museum, open to all and housing a tiny delicious bistro and an antiques hall. The dank prison became a community centre with rehabilitation programmes and a legal aid clinic. The petrol station and a fast-food restaurant became an electric vehicle charging station, with renewable solar panels on the roof, and a farmers market in a green corner nearby. The busy highways and rushing traffic calmed, replaced by bike paths and electric trams.


As Song’s mother explained, leaning over the counter of her new job in a tiny global coffee shop that had opened in the revived arts, crafts and organic foods market: “The children have almost invented a whole new form of music… and it’s changing our city, for the better.” Unheard by the adults, the little shop itself began to giggle, as its own lilting jig awoke in response to the flute’s magical notes. Song herself heard the music of her own building awaken and fill the air around her with joy, and stepped confidently with Mozart out into the warm sunshine of their new jade and olive green rooftop garden. She smelled the lavender bushes as returning bees buzzed softly around her and her friend, felt the balconies of their green flats bursting with new fruit and flowers below, and smiled in delight as once-grim halls echoed with children’s laughter, and with the music of a real recovery.

INTERNATIONAL ONLINE JOURNAL FOR AND BY YOUTH

I’m happy to announce that I’m a junior editor of an international online journal for and by youth.

Harmony was launched in the UN’s COP26 climate change events in Glasgow on November 6, 2021. This online journal was built on special links that the youth created during the global pandemic lockdowns. They hosted a series of short online tutorials with professors and heads of institutes from world-class universities to inspire young people that were left stranded by COVID-19 school closures.

Harmony was launched in the UN’s COP26 climate change events in Glasgow on November 6, 2021

Go to Harmony Online Journal here: https://harmonyyouthvoices.com/

The Cambridge Schools Eco Council – Cam YS4C Actions

We rallied outside Great St Mary’s at 5:30 pm on Friday, Sep 24.

Then on Sep 25, 2021, we were l at the Cambridge Climate Fair on Parker’s Piece.

For the last 18 months, the Covid-19 pandemic has overtaken all other issues of discussion. We made a stand with thousands of other youths across the world to remind everyone that the climate crisis has NOT gone away. It’s real, it’s dangerous and – as shown by the recent floods in
Germany and London – it is already upon us.

This November, world leaders fortunate enough to get the vaccine will gather in Glasgow, UK, to participate in the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). They are supposed to be implementing constructive solutions to the climate crisis and be initiating real, meaningful action.
However, over a period of time longer than most of the lives of Eco Council members and Youth Strikers 4 Climate, they have obfuscated the issue with greenwashing and avoidance of accountability.

In such chaotic times, it is up to us, the activists, scientists, engineers, lawyers, ordinary individuals – and children to raise the alarm bells. We thus return to the streets to protest with youth across the world for a brighter future. And that is why we show our support this Saturday to the many other climate activists fighting for meaningful action to be taken.

We thank everyone, children and adults, who joined us on Friday and Saturday, but these actions are just the beginning. They are a prelude to the strike from school on Oct 22 and the COP26 actions in November. Get ready, Cambridge. Change is coming whether you like it or not.

We also made into the press, check this article by Cambridge Independent:

Climate fair, school strike and a walking activist – Cambridge looks to COP26 for change

In Cambridge, Cambridge School Eco Council and XR Youth Cambridge organised a protest – the first such public event this year – outside the Senate House on Friday evening, on the same day Greta Thunberg spoke at the Bundestag in Berlin. Hundreds of school strikes took place across Germany ahead of their election on Sunday in the week the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the world was “seemingly light years away from reaching our targets” on climate change.

“As the world slowly reawakens from a horrid pandemic, youth strikers across the world are rising up with actions to say #BuildBackBetter,” says the schools eco council, as speakers repeated their concerns at the prospect of having no water in Cambridge, and demands for “a Green New deal now!” on King’s Parade.

By Mike Scialom

Read the full article here.

ONLINE INTERNATIONAL ROUNDTABLE ON EDUCATION, THE UN CRC, AND THE WORLD’S SDGS

WED 08 SEP 2021 | 9:00 EST | 14:00 BST

This note invites you to save the date for a very special online nowThe registration is already open; please just click here to register at no cost.

The International Roundtable on Education, hosted jointly by the Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative, in partnership with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), and experts from the University of Cambridge, McGill University, and the University of Nairobi, among others, convenes teachers, child and youth leaders, mentors and experts on intergenerational equity, children’s rights and sustainable development for an interactive dialogue to raise awareness and speak up for education, children’s rights and the global Sustainable Development Goals.

This special online event celebrates the global launch of ten beautifully illustrated new children’s books. 

The event features VoFG CI Child Authors and Ambassadors from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, the Middle East, Oceania and the Pacific Islands. 

Further, honoured invited chairs and speakers include: Judge Prof. Marcel Szabo*, former Ombudsperson for the Rights of Future Generations and Chair of Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative, Adv. Neshan Gunasekera, CISDL Lead Counsel, Prof. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger of the University of Cambridge and the University of Waterloo, Senior Director of the CISDL, all leaders in the VoFG CI International Commission; alongside keynote remarks from Ms. Roda Muse, Secretary-General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, together with Ms. Isabelle LeVert-Chiasson, ASPnet Coordinator with Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Prof. David Boyd (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment), and Isobel Abulhoul OBE(CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation & International Commission, VoFG), 

The Voices of Future Generations new children’s books being celebrated with UNESCO, CISDL and partners on International Literacy Day 2021 include:

Script Climate Change Magic – by Nico Roman

My short story Script Climate Change Magic won the third place for the 2020 LUNE SPARK Short Story World Contest and is part of the book Through Their Lenses.

Script Climate Change Magic‘s synopsis:

Story’s plays change reality, and reveal potential futures. As the terrible impacts of climate change advance across his land, the young boy in the wheelchair discovers he is capable of great transformations, harnessing his unique magic as a playwright to inspire youth movements who can change their world. Finally, by writing his own soul into the most important drama he has ever dreamt, Story tries to save his Troupe and the children they shelter from the storms.

Get your own copy!


Award-Winning Short Stories by Tweens

“Yet another gem of a book.” ~Tim Ellen, Blogger
Through Their Lenses is a collection of twenty-nine award-winning short stories by tweens. These stories encompass a wide range of genres, inviting readers to explore a wealth of important themes passionately crafted by these young writers: from a girl going on a quest to release a curse bestowed on her by a witch to a guy trying to escape after being stranded in a different time.

FEB 2021 Free Online Eco-Seminar Mini-Series for Students – Register Now!

I’ll be chairing Free Online Eco-Seminar Mini-Series for Students – Register Now!

Together with the Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative, the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council has been organising a mini-series of free 60 minute Online Eco-Seminars to raise awareness of key sustainability challenges and solutions, while schools have been forced online in many countries. Children, students, families and members of the public can register for free over Eventbrite and participate online over Zoom, 4:30-5:30pm (UK time) on 17 February and 24 February.

Each Online Eco-Seminars focus on a key sustainable development goal, such as Access to Fresh Water (SDG 6), Sustainable Consumption (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14) or Life on Land (SDG 15).
Eco-Seminar speakers include both student leaders and experts on the subject!

Eco-Seminar 1: Saving our Steams and Rivers through Sustainable Water Management – Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Focus: How can we better protect and sustainably manage our beautiful freshwater resources, preventing floods and depletion, and saving our streams and rivers?

Chairs: Nico Roman (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Co-Chair, Voices of Future Generations Child Ambassador, Kings College School Eco-Society Co-leader) and Paloma Bargh (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Deputy Chair and Eco-Activities Committee Co-Chair, Saint Johns College School Eco-Society Co-leader)

Speakers: Child author speaker: Rehema Kibugi (Gold Award Laureate, Voices of Future Generations (VoFG) Children’s Rights Initiative, Child Author for Africa) tbc
Ecocouncil speaker: Junayd Islam (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council former Co-Chair, key organizer of student climate strikes and city council livestreamed Eco-Council meetings).
Experts: Ian Halls (Leader, Cambridge Friends of the Earth) and Fabiana Piccoli Araújo Santos (LLM Candidate at the University of Cambridge and co-founder of Itacaré Water Caring Project Brazil)

Eco-Seminar 2: Promoting Sustainable Lifestyles through Preventing Plastic Waste – Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Focus: How can we better promote and practice more sustainable lifestyles at home and through our shopping habits, even during lockdown, preventing plastic waste and protecting our fragile rivers, oceans and ecology?

Chairs: Nico Roman (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Co-Chair, Voices of Future Generations Child Ambassador, Kings College School Eco-Society Co-leader) and Ginny Denmead (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Co-Chair and St Bedes College School Eco-Society Co-leader)

Speakers: Child author speaker: Freya Tikva (Gold Award Laureate, Voices of Future Generations (VoFG) Children’s Rights Initiative Child Author for Europe, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Deputy Chair and Co-Chair of Eco-Activities Committee.
Ecocouncil speaker: Luana Fernandes Seixas (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Communications Officer, Student Leader of Long Road Sixth Form Eco-Council, key organizer of student climate strikes and eco-seminars).
Experts: Emma Thomas (Co-founder and Director, Full Circle Zero Waste Retail, Ecologist) and Ben Thomas (Environment Manager, Cambridge Waitrose Grocery Store)
Over zoom, after a 15 mins for tech testing and interactions from 4:15pm to 4:30pm, student Eco-Councillors and UN Voices of Future Generations child authors / ambassadors, together with world-class experts, will provide a 20-minute introduction to a sustainability challenge, and discuss creative local and solutions. For a further 30 minutes, participants can ask questions and discuss potential solutions and ways to raise education and awareness interactively, followed by a 10-minute closing from the experts and youth speakers by 5:30pm.

Register here

Please note: Children and youth participate with permission under supervision of parents/guardians from their homes.