#12months12issues by Tara Geoghegan
I was fortunate to meet up with Tara Geoghegan on her travels, taking an unconventional gap year to travel the globe to research into and experience some of the global issues facing the world for her 12months12issues project.
Staying at an Air BnB in the nearby Lennox Head, she stayed with photographer and chef Bryce Wegener, who’s work captures the intriguing faces of people passing through the vegan cafe Manna Haven and their unique and truly moving stories.
By coincidence a fellow traveller and marine biologist Marta Gomez Agenjo occupied the other Air BnB room in Bryce’s space - making them the perfect trio to explore Byron Bay and marine conservation in the area.
We caught up with Tara a year after she first began her 12 months to find out more about the project.
Read the full interview and scroll down to see more images of her trip.
Tell me about #12months12issues?
#12month12issues was a project that I began after finishing college in July last year. Since the age of 13 I always knew that I wanted to a volunteering gap year after leaving college at age 18. However, I didn’t want to do the whole ‘conventional’ gap year volunteering packages that are on offer. Although these may have been much easier, I instead wanted to work with smaller charities around the world and do a range of different volunteering projects. I used the United Nations global goals as my basic structure. They were set in 2015 with the aim of being achieved but 2030. They include goals such as ‘ zero hunger’ , ‘good education’ and ‘reduced inequalities’. The project took me to the Amazon Rainforest, working on the issue of climate change. Bangladesh, working with a large UK government charity on issues such as child marriage and human rights. I also set up a school and taught at Greek Syrian refugee camps, made a film about human trafficking with a charity in Cambodia, got my 80 year old grandma out to meet with government charities in Vietnam and finally came to Australia to work with you lovely bunch on the goal of ‘Life below water’.
What made you start this initiative and get involved in this year long adventure?
I remember looking at the UN goals and simply thinking, well how is this all possible in 15 years? But then again...if we all thought like that of course they wouldn't be. So I thought that I just had to see just some of the main issues that affect our world and how I can make just small changes to help out.
I also saw a lot on tv about war, hunger and poverty and I felt that I could not just watch it anymore and had to do something to help. I also feel strongly about finding new ways to communicate the stories of individuals and these issues in a more personal and creative way, and one that actually makes people want to get up and help each other out.
What was you most interesting project you worked on with 12months12issues?
Probably working with ‘British Exploring Society’ in the Amazon Rainforest. We wild camped in unexplored areas of the jungle for 5 weeks. It was my first project and EXTREMELY out of my comfort zone, but it certainly gave me the confidence to take on my other projects. I saw the effects of climate change first hand and how native people are aware that their climate is changing, even though they are living near a virtually untouched environment. I heard from local people that the amount of animal species has suddenly dropped, water levels are dramatically fluctuating and fish are being born deformed due to oil spills in the Amazon river, It proved to me that climate change really is relevant everywhere right now.
We met up when you were in Byron Bay last (Aussie) Summer- what did you think of our little paradise?
I absolutely loved it! Unfortunately I was only there for 3 weeks but I could honestly see myself living there. I’ve lived near Brighton (England) most of my life and it reminded me of a sunny version of that! I loved going down the street and just seeing so many bustling independent businesses. I was there making a documentary style podcast on the effects of plastics on our oceans and volunteered at a cafe in Byron, so I was able to meet so many interesting people and hear so many cool stories. I need to come back soon!
Tell us about the Beach Clean Up you took part in while you were here?
Yeah, so I took part in a beach clean up with Parley for the Oceans and Corona whilst in Byron Bay. Parley are the company behind the Adidas range made up of plastic bottle waste from the oceans. I thought Byron was a pretty clean beach but we found a horrific amount of waste that day, the majority of it being litter and fly tipping from people. It was honestly so sad to see and definitely made me realise that sometimes we only see the real problems when we look hard.
What did you learn from travelling around Asia and Australia?
I spent 3 months living in Bangladesh and I was shocked at the horrific range of problems the area I was living in had. I worked with the local government on issues such as Child marriage and human rights. I was working with a charity where it wasn't about swooping in and ‘helping people’.It was about educating people on the alternative opportunities they have and giving them a voice to get what they want from their lives. The whole experience definitely made me see poverty in a whole new light and made me question as to whether we actually have too much, instead of these ‘poverty stricken’ countries having too little.
You did a little collaboration with our mates at A Beautiful Weirdo Eco Glitter - what’s your top eco beauty tip?
Yes I did! I found their work so interesting. I can't believe there is such a simple ethical alternative to plastic glitter out there that so many people don't know about yet!
So I think my tip is always look for an ethical alternative to your everyday routine items. For example there are some many products that act as alternatives to palm oil based products, wet wipes, plastic cotton buds or micro-beads, I just think its worth actively searching for them if you know the product you are using could be harmful, because the chances are that there is probably an affordable alternative out there!
What’s in store for you for the rest of the year and 2020?
Well before undertaking my project I had no plans to go to university but after stepping into charity work a little bit I know humanitarian aid work and using media as a tool to help with global issues is what I want to do, and hopefully a degree will give me more knowledge to make a bigger impact with this, so I will be studying ‘International development and media’ in England from September. I hope to still work on some creative projects and continue to work with charities and brands throughout my studies and I will be spending half of my 3rd year abroad, hopefully working with a charity/brand overseas.
We love your style - who are your go to eco designers and brands?
Liar of course! Ha! I have to admit, I’m still pretty new to the ‘ethical scene’. I try to shop on second hand sites and charity shops wherever possible. I’m really liking the ‘H&M CONSCIOUS’ range right now. I think it's quite a good thing when big brands bring out ethical ranges or claim to be ethical as it forces people to scrutinise this and insure they actually are. It also put pressure on them to become more ethical in more areas of their business which is obviously a good thing too.
If you were to give our readers one piece of ethical advise - what would you share?
Oooh this is a hard one. But I think the biggest thing is just talk about it! Let's make it cool. I think too often people are too embarrassed by the concept, especially when going plastic free. But I just think you’ve got to be strong with it and stick with it, even if you get a funny look when you refuse to pick up a plastic bag for your veggies at the supermarket!
Any stand out differences in sustainability between the UK and Australia?
I think the UK is definitely behind Australia in terms of sustainability. We have many areas like London and Brighton that support upcoming sustainable brands but I think it's tough for small/new business still here, it's getting better though.
It may sound cringy, but I always say to myself ‘Don’t overthink it, just do it’. I was always such an overthinker and especially because of my struggles with mental health, I often let it stop me from doing anything. But since doing my project I've tried to always follow that mantra and encourage others to do so too! Often people say ‘I want to do what you did but….’ so I always say ‘Don't overthink it, just do it!’.
I love the work of people like Bonnie Wright, Shaline Woodly and Emma Watson. I like how they make being environmentally, ethically and socially conscious part of their everyday life. They make it easy for their followers to understand how they too can make small changes, and I admire anyone that uses their platform to share that. I’m also obsessed with Greta Thunburg atm (who isn't!?) and literally every one of her interviews makes me cry.
My mum used to send me random quotes when I was travelling. There was one that she sent on Christmas eve, after a tough week at the refugee camp. It said ‘Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place’.