“If you’re not even going to try, you’ve already given up.” Madison Kennewell
Knitting is a series of interconnected loops, beginning with a single stitch and strand of yarn. Together, these will eventually become a colorful pattern of comfy warmth. But first your fingers have to learn the pattern, like a language that trains new muscles.
It takes foresight and imagination to see beyond the first stitch. As with all things in her life, Madison Kennewell is not afraid of a new challenge.
Madison projects her voice into the world from Southern Australia. She shares her passions for dialogue, language, knitting, international relations, roller derby, and volunteering. I first crossed paths with Madison on the UN Online Volunteer Platform (UNV).
The UNV Platform sees about 12,000 volunteers a year from 187 countries around the world. Like that first stitch in a new knitting pattern, the UNV Platform knits each individual story into the whole design. I am fortunate to work with seven of these incredible individuals, including Madison, on a project for Caux Forum: Just Governance for Human Security.
Each provides a unique and crucial voice to the work, contributing dialogue, writing, and editing. With access to the internet and a little extra time, UN volunteers add their voices and talents to projects that have direct outcomes. It’s exciting because they also have the opportunity to share perspectives and learn from others, which makes each project truly global.
In an article for UN Habitat: Urban Resilience Hub, Madison spoke to the importance of intersectional equality and how women must have a voice in creating sustainable, resilient communities, “The sustainable development of urban areas relies on individual human components building resilience profiles at both an individual and societal level.”
“Resilience is inter-sectional, with urban resilience requiring both equality and women’s participation as a fundamental and essential component.”
Madison’s dedication to open dialogue around intersectional equality is clear in her direct and personal writing. She is a storyteller who advocates for others in writing platforms like Verse Magazine, a University of South Australia publication. Madison is also an advocate of language. She studied the French language at University of South Australia, where she was recognized for her leadership and global engagement.
Madison’s love of language and advocacy for inclusive dialogue is also very personal. She experienced hearing loss but continues to develop her fluency in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). In Seeing the Trees for the Leaves, Madison extends the lessons she’s experienced first hand, while advocating for others to have their hearing checked regularly.
Madison shared this poignant analogy in colorful detail after her newfound experience with hearing aids, after detailing the nightmare sounds of a seagull calling. I smiled when she described the immensely satisfying new sound of tapping her keyboard:
“Most of us will draw a trunk and a cloud-like outline of leaves, and we recognize it as a tree, even if we know that trees have individual leaves. My hearing is that basic tree, but I could never know that trees (hearing) were supposed to have leaves (detailed background sound).”
In a special Q and A with Madison, she shared some pretty revealing insights.
EH: What is the driving force in your work, volunteerism and passions? How has your work and time with UN programs provided an avenue for this driving force?
MK: It’s the simple concept of “service above self.” I believe that being a service to your community, both locally and globally, in order to build better futures and improve the quality of life for all members is an integral part of my life mission. The work I’ve undertaken with Initiatives of Change Switzerland and UN programs have allowed me to build more resilient communities, and actively effect change in the world.
EH: When you see a situation that needs a solution, time, or contribution how do you answer that “What Now?” question when taking the first step into action?
MK: I ask myself four questions before taking the first step:
- How can I be fair and beneficial to all concerned?
- How can I build goodwill and better relationships?W
- hat is the change I want to see in this situation?What are the steps
- I need to take to be able to achieve that change?
EH: What are your dreams for the future?
MK: I hope to graduate at the end of 2019, work with the Australian government for a few years, pick up an international internship in Tanzania and eventually apply for the Rotary Peace Fellowship. I aim to end up working for the United Nations in the long term.
EH: In being involved in UN programs, what has been the greatest lesson?
MK: The greatest lesson has been the enormous web of collaboration, and connection that occurs between an enormous amount of passionate and dedicated volunteers and staff who are actively fighting for positive change and human connection. Enthusiasm and passion are enormous drivers of change, and I am privileged to have experienced that.
Madison is a student of language and completing her degree in international relations at the University of Adelaide. She works as a freelance writer and is an active volunteer. Like her love for knitting, Madison is weaving her experiences and passions together bringing to life something all her own. Follow along!
As with each UN Volunteer, Madison is playing her part in advancing the UN 2030 Agenda. What examples, in your work and passions are you on a small or large scale way contributing directly or indirectly to the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals? Take an extra look, we often contribute more than we think!
As Madison says, “Make it count!”
Always seeking to be curious, brave, kind