What it means to be a Panda Champion

By Salma Nashef, UNDP Global Goals Champion

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Global Goals Champion Salma couldn’t believe her luck when she found out she won UNDP’s #Pandas4GlobalGoals competition.

It seems to me that the UNDP #Pandas4GlobalGoals video contest was designed especially with me in mind. It combines everything that I love.

First of all, I love animals in general and pandas in particular.

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Salma loves pandas — and now she finally got to see them in real life.

Second, I am a big supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals. I knew about the Global Goals even before I entered the competition. I knew that there were 17 goals, and that they were part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality around the world.

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Back in Jordan, Salma wants to teach her students about the Goals and the UN’s vision for a safer, more sustainable world.

Last but not least, I love the internet.

Since the beginning of the world wide web and up until now, I have been a rabid consumer of the internet. You might even call it an addiction!

Like most people, I get a lot of emails from known and unknown sources. So you can understand my suspicion when I received an email inviting me to enter a contest that claimed to give away a trip to meet panda twins living in China.

I was skeptical, but I couldn’t resist. I sent off the application and promptly forgot about it. Weeks later, I was completely shocked to receive a letter starting with the word “congratulations”.

I thought it was a joke, but I was intrigued. I followed the instructions provided in the letter and still couldn’t believe this was happening when, a few weeks later, I was sitting on an airplane heading to Chengdu, China as a UNDP Global Goals Champion.

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Salma at the Global Goals Champions appointment celebration at Panda Base in Chengdu, China.

What I love about the internet is its ability to connect people. I love that I can learn about things and events happening far away, see other people’s experiences and hear their points of view. And that’s exactly what this experience has been all about.

In China, I met 14 other Global Goals Champions from all around the world. We all were of different ages and walks of life, but we were united by our common belief in the Global Goals and their vision for a happier, greener, more peaceful world.

We were united in our belief that together we ­­­­can make a difference!

Despite our varied backgrounds, I felt a sense of closeness among the champions. We communicated easily, understood one another and cooperated effortlessly. I enjoyed meeting all them and getting to know their values and attitudes.

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The 15 UNDP Global Goals Champions from 13 countries met in China to see pandas and learn about the Global Goals.

The experience is one that will stay with me for years to come, and it could not have happened without the support of UNDP. I made profound connections with other Global Goals Champions during the trip, and we’re keeping in touch through Facebook and other social networks. Our plan is to stay engaged and help realize the 2030 Agenda, however we can in our home countries and in our own lives.

As a university professor, I want to incorporate the Goals into my classroom lectures. So I am currently translating some materials into Arabic so that I can use them in my lessons.

Through my lessons and by being a Global Goals Champion, I hope to help my students develop the skills and attitudes to improve their behaviour towards people and planet, for the benefit of their society and the world.

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Salma and three fellow champions visited a school in Chengdu to teach students about Agenda 2030.

About the author: Salma Nashef is a university professor in Amman, Jordan. She holds a PhD in education, is the author of nine books and has published numerous research articles.

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