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Sarah Fuller: Helping Children Learn and Thrive Around the World

Sarah Fuller: Helping Children Learn and Thrive Around the World


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Welcome! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Sarah Fuller, senior education consultant at The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Spiffy: Hi Sarah, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is UNICEF addressing?

Sarah: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Did you know that all children (including your audience!) have basic rights? It’s the job of the government to make sure that children are safe, have access to clean water and healthy food, and can go to school, learn, rest, and play. But in many places around the world, these rights are not fulfilled. As humans continue to damage the environment, it is becoming even harder for children’s basic needs to be met. My work focuses on making sure that children can go to school and learn, that they are safe even when disasters occur, and we all work together to address the climate and environmental crisis so that all children, now and in the future, can learn.

Spiffy: That’s inspiring! What motivates you to do it?

Sarah: Growing up, I loved learning so much that I wanted to be a teacher myself. I was lucky to have a family that could prioritize education and live in a place where I could spend time outdoors in forests and fields to learn even more. Some health challenges at a young age made me aware that not all education systems support all students. So, I got involved in my community to help those who face exclusion, such as children with disabilities. I soon learned that millions of children globally are excluded from school, many of whom also lack access to green space and fresh air. This made me determined to help children learn and thrive, including by understanding our role as part of nature and by helping the adults who care for them to do the same.

Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?

Sarah: We often use numbers to show impact. For example, a project I led in Nigeria with UNICEF helped 36,000 children to learn about climate change and take action in their communities. I think the impacts we cannot count are even more important. A framework I developed with TEACHRwanda is helping early childhood educators teach children who have experienced trauma, and research I do for an initiative called Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Projects (ECCLPs) supports California to bring climate and environmental literacy to all students. But the most meaningful to me are personal stories. I recently learned how young people were inspired by a resource I developed to restore a local ecosystem, which will have ripple effects for their communities and even other species.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone/initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make?

Sarah: One of the most interesting projects I had the honor of leading was convening young people through different channels to demand climate action in Nigeria. With UNICEF and other United Nations (UN) agencies, I provided tools and support to help gather and analyze inputs and helped these local and national activists and advocates bring all of their ideas together. This supported them in publishing their youth manifesto, calling on the government, partners, and the private sector to address the impacts of climate change in and through education in Nigeria.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Sarah: It is a great joy to do this work. But there is not a single thing I have done alone. I have been supported and encouraged by my husband, family, teachers, mentors, colleagues, friends, and communities. All the others who have gone before me and all who are working for the same goals, especially at the local level, have planted seeds that I am only watering and tending. And you can too! Never underestimate the power of an act of kindness to help build community, of sharing your time to help someone else learn, or of having a conversation with a friend to raise awareness of climate change. We must model the inclusive, just, and life-sustaining society we need. If everyone were to plant one tree, just imagine the size of the forest!

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Sarah—it’s been an honor!

Sarah Fuller is a senior education consultant at The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). She specializes in the impacts of climate change on learning, child development, and well-being. She has a background in pedagogy and educational neuroscience, training in mindfulness, trauma, and permaculture, and over eight years of experience in education, six with UN organizations. Sarah is motivated by her awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings and a passion for learning to drive meaningful change in support of human and environmental well-being. (Nominated by Pelayo Alvarez. First published on the Ladderworks website on February 20, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.