Journey to the SDGs: An Adventure with Children

by Li Xue

Students in Nanjing holding papers with SDGs up

Once upon a time, children lived happily with animals and witcheries in a walled garden called Arcadia. It was with stories that children triumph by virtue of resourceful imagination and make sense of the world. However, as our blue planet becomes increasingly uninhabitable for lives it accommodated for thousands of years, it comes the time for a courageous departure. The world placed great hopes in children for the journey to the SDGs, for they hold the magic keys to the future; and since the little citizens of Arcadia needed fellowship to set out, a young fellow named Amity volunteered as a companion.

“Fairy Tales for a Fairer World” is a compass bestowed by the UN, and Amity fetched it without delay from Geneva for the children in Nanjing. This compass, when open it, tells stories which invert traditions while inherit them. Rapunzel, three pigs, Snow White, Little Red, Aladdin...the heros and heorins are no longer young and energetic, instead, they become old citizens living in the Old Home, struggling to make positive changes in a changed world. At each step of their journey they encounter cruel problems: poverty, educational inequality, gender discrimination, pollution, species extinction, etc. The great comfort is, that they walk hand in hand with other fellows and their bonds helps them through difficult challenges.

Using this UN compass, Amity adventured together with the children in Nanjing in a journey towards the SDGs. Over three hundred little ones from five local schools participated the reading and selection of texts. Together they tried a participatory cultural translation of the SDGs. The result was a surprise. Different from John Locke's theory, children's mind is not a blank slate to be written. Instead, their creative readings bring out diversity of lives, and their imaginations contour the shape of the future world.

“What our world would be like in 2030?”

“the earth will be destroyed”; “ I'm gonna be happy”; “We will have blue sky”; “I will be jobless”; “Gonna have war!”; “I wanna go the US, oh I wanna go to the moon!”

“Do you agree that the SDGs could be actualized? Could we let all children no longer suffer from

hungry and war?”

“No. It's not possible. There is too much inequality. It can never change”; “Yes! My father works at the Environmental Protection Agency. He takes care of water quality”; “We must be brave and protect our country” ; “We can! I won't litter around.”

“The actions of the adults decide how your future world will look like. Can you ensure your

parents to take responsibilities for their actions?”

“Yes, we can do ”; “If you say this to your father, he will probably get angry”; “My mom works for the bank. Her work is not related to us.” “My father sells steamed buns.”

Amity staff introduces and discusses the Sustainable Development Goals with students in Nanjing

The SDGs retain messianic zeal to change lives and society for the better, and yet to the children, such a journey involves farewell to Arcadia and entering on the awfully complicated adventure that is life. Channeling the meanings of the SDGs to the children in China and prepare them for the future world is a very demanding task. However challenging the task is, Amity is very proud to play a part in this journey, to be able to touch the vivid minds of the children and to accompany them through moments of growing pains.

During September 2017, the Amity Foundation held classroom activities on SDG storybook with over 300 children from 5 local primary schools. Children actively took part in the reading and selection of texts. You can find the story 'Fairy Tales for a Fairer World' at