Women-Fix-It

11th May 2016 by

Working with the Otesha team to get a women’s bike maintenance project up and running has been the highlight of 2016 in my world: here’s the story:

wfiWomen-Fix-It came about whilst cycling across Portugal solo. I had the map reading down, chunky calves, panniers, and a sweet touring bike – what more can a woman ask for? Ah yeah… the knowledge that is needed to put your bike back together after it’s been in a box. Alex a good pal helped me to box it up for the flight over to Portugal. Yeah I’ll remember all this – easy…

I’m not saying that as I stand looking at my handle bars off at a peculiar angle, the brakes are rubbing on the wheel and I’m unnecessarily covered in grease. Frustrated, I begrudgingly head to the nearest bike shop, where 2 guys attempt to teach me bike basics in Portuguese. I felt pretty stupid with my ignorance, not to mention scared that I had to keep the steed in one piece for the next 3 months. I couldn’t but notice that it was always men serving me in bike shops, or I’d likely ask a male friend to help out with bike related stuff. Pedalling up and whizzing down the mountains of Portugal I was lucky to keep my bike in one piece – but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head as to why I didn’t know to fix her up.

The more I discussed this with other women who liked bikes, it became clear that I wasn’t on my own… reverberations of the same comment kept coming back to me: “I feel uncomfortable to ask stupid questions” “I always feel pretty silly when I go into bike shops” “I wish I knew more about bikes” “I’m just not very good at it”.

I felt happy that it wasn’t just me… but also sad that so many strong, independent women that I knew and loved had the same block as me. I wanted to learn with other women and to be taught by a non-judgemental woman who could share her knowledge. I searched around my local area in South London and struggled to find that space, but alas it was not there.

A friend put me in touch with Bikeworks – a fantastic social enterprise delivering community based cycling activities across London. They took me onto a course in Level 1 bike mechanics and I commenced a journey totally out of my comfort zone… loads of tools, jargon, and a good dose of testosterone. I was feeling the need for Women-fix-It in my life.

It seems fitting that this project is a collaboration with The Otesha Project UK, as it was this wonderful charity that has empowered hundreds of young people to cycle hundreds of miles and educate thousands of people in issues of environmental awareness, sustainability and social justice. As tour alumni, tour coordinator and workshop facilitator with Otesha, It felt like the right time to join forces to run Women-Fix-It. Winning a bid to Transport for London’s Cycling Grants, the project finally got legs.

Camberwell Subterranea offered us their garage workshop for us to run 3 week maintenance courses from Feb-June 2016. The project aims to work with women from diverse backgrounds, bringing together women from all over South London. It is important that it’s a safe and comfortable environment for all to enter into. We’ve run 3 courses so far, working with 27 women to teach them the basics – an m-check, parts of the bike and how they fit together, punctures, brakes and cleaning/ general maintenance.

wfi1The essence of the project is that we want women to go away with enough skills to keep their bike safely on the road. If it needs to go into a bike shop, then they might have a better idea of what’s going on. We want women to feel empowered to ask those “stupid” questions that we might not normally ask. Courses will continue until June and we’re running women’s social rides around South London this summer.

Fancy finding out more, or want to be involved?

Check for updates on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/womenfixit/

Reclaim the Power Guest Blog

26th May 2015 by

RTP camp may - june imageSo, many of us are angry about the new government. But now is the not the time to mourn, it’s the time to organise and take action together.  On Friday 29th May 2015, Reclaim the Power will hold a family-friendly action camp near Npower’s Didcot power station and we want you and your crew to come!

 

The new Tory government are in bed with the fossil fuel industry.  They think they now have free reign to subsidise their friends and relations in the fracking industry and commit to another round of gas-fired power stations. They plan to build infrastructure that will lock us into burning carbon for years to come while killing off renewable technology. Like the communities who have held off fracking for four years, people on the ground will take action to stop them in their tracks.

The ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp will help to get us skilled up and ready to take action against corporate power and its stranglehold over our democracy. This camp is part of an international weekend of action against the fossil fuel industry’s  grip on the UN climate talks in Paris this December.  Didcot is owned by RWE Npower, one of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies who control the UK’s energy supply and one of Europe’s biggest fossil fuel polluters.  In Paris we know that RWE will put their profits first – no matter the cost to us – we can’t afford to let that happen.  

This doesn’t have to be the end – we all know that an alternative future is possible. Britain could be carbon neutral by 2030 using current technology. Even in Didcot, when a fire shut down the power station, it was wind power that kept the lights on. Community groups local to Didcot are building their own energy future through solar, wind and hydro projects that they control.

We’re inviting you because the struggle for a clean, safe and sustainable future is on, and it needs you. If we want to win, we have to stand together, build power and take action. And that is what the camp will help us do together.

Reclaim the Power has something for everyone – kids, families, seasoned activists and those who are new to taking action. Come along for the whole weekend, or pop in for an afternoon!  There will be workshops on everything from planning creative actions, fighting the housing crisis and austerity, to making your own solar panel.  We will provide a Kids Space every day.  Monday 1st June will be a day of decentralised actions against fossil fuel targets all over the country.

The camp will be fully accessible – please let us know if you have any specific access needs on accessrtp@gmail.com

Three ways you can help:

  1. Facebook and tweet about the camp!  Please share the facebook event through your social media channels – at the bottom of this email is a suggested facebook message and some tweets to inspire you.
  2. Forward this email to your members/group. We want the camp to be as open and diverse as possible
  3. Come! Drag out your tent and join us – in order to win, we need everybody.

If you’d like to come but want to talk to someone first, or have someone there to say hello to, please do get in touch with Reclaim the Power by emailing info@reclaimthepower.org.uk

PS: Head to http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/guides-and-info/didcot-programme/  to see our programme of exciting activities, workshops and entertainment

Generation Bee

3rd March 2014 by

Generaton Bee

Hello

I am writing from Bosavern Community Farm in deepest Cornwall where I have been WWOOFing for the last month.*  It is a wonderful place and I would highly recommend it to any WWOOFers reading this.

I left London to WWOOF around the UK at the end of January, a move partly inspired by the 3 wonderful weeks I spent almost entirely outside in the sunshine on my Otesha tour last summer.  I am very excited about my year as I’m planning on farming in places I’ve wanted to visit for years – lambing in Shetland, cycling round the Outer Hebrides, Crofting on the Isle of Eigg and learning Beekeeping in Dumfries.

The beekeeping is uncertain at the moment.  It is part of a project I am involved in to cultivate new beekeepers both through training and through the production more affordable starter hives which we hope will encourage people to start beekeeping.   We need to raise £5000 for this project to go ahead, and are trying to fund it with a crowd-funding campaign found here: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/generationbee.

Bees are struggling at the moment, they are afflicted by parasites and disease, by pesticides, by poor management and, surprisingly, by disinterest.  Although the plight of the bees features regularly in the media, Beekeeping in Europe, either as a hobby or a livelihood has fallen by 54% in the last 20 years, leaving us with far less than the optimum number of colonies for crop pollination.  As bees are a crucial pollinator, responsible for a third of our food, this loss of bees is detrimental to both our food security and the health of our ecosystems.

The UK is no longer a friendly place for bees. The parasitic varroa mite has destroyed most, if not all, wild bee colonies and is seriously affecting the health of ‘domesticated’ bees.  Furthermore, the increase in mono-crop farming, pesticide use and loss of hedgerows and meadows means that nectar is in much shorter supply.  These problems have affected honey yields and made beekeeping a less profitable and riskier business.

In November last year I saw a host on the WWOOF UK website seeking keen young people who wanted to learn beekeeping.  I have been interested in beekeeping for years, I’ve WWOOFed with many beekeepers, and had the luck to work for the London Honey Company where I enjoyed tasting delicious honey from around the UK and further afield.   Besides really liking honey, the variety in flavour, clarity, colour and consistency just amazes me, as does the history of beekeeping which has been practised for thousands of years all around the world.

I immediately emailed to ask if I could come and learn beekeeping and Luisa (the beekeeper) was very keen to host both myself and another trainee over the summer season.  However, as her young business only just covers the rent of one room, she has nowhere for us to stay.  I suggested doing a crowd-funding campaign to fund both the trainee beekeepers and another project to produce more affordable bee colonies and starter hives to encourage people to start beekeeping.

In January I took the night bus to Glasgow and met both Luisa and the 4 other volunteers working on what was soon to be christened the Generation Bee project.  The name is meant to reflect both aspects of the project, we want to train up a new generation of beekeepers, and we want to generate more bees by selling young colonies at an affordable price to interested individuals and schools.

There is more information and an exciting video on the campaign website – www.crowdfunder.co.uk/generationbee.  We have only 33 days left to reach our £5000 goal and there are some fabulous rewards for pledges including E-booklets on how to cook with honey, make natural beauty products, plant bee-friendly flowers and more, all written by the team (the Gormet drone recipe e-booklet is mine.)  There are also the workshops on beekeeping and beauty product and candle making which are going to be run in Dumfries on the 26th and 27th of April (only £35 for a 2 hour session).  I feel a bit cheeky asking people to support this campaign, as I will directly benefit from it.  However this year is the trial run and crucial for building up the business.  Luisa is very passionate about training young beekeepers so I am sure that the success of this campaign will lead to more training positions available each year, as well as starter hives with young colonies sold at about half the normal price.

Please pledge if you can and spread the word by sharing the campaign with anyone who might be interested in supporting it.

Thank you,

Jessie.

*WWOOFing aims to provide volunteers with first-hand experience in organic and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement, and to let volunteers experience life in a rural setting or a different country.

Alumni Spotlight: Ellie and Robin en route from the West Bank

18th June 2013 by

In the fourth edition of our ‘ alumni spotlight’ we’re speaking to Ellie and Robin – currently cycling their way from the West Bank (yes you read that correctly) to the UK.

1. What tour did you go on?

We went on the Land’s End to John O’Groats tour in 2010.

2. What were your tour highs and lows?

Tour highs (of many) include: pedalling along sunlit country lanes to the beats of Borris our boombox, conquering hills with trailor in tow, watching Sarah Hunn do a comic plunge into a canal (bike, panniers and all!), the play- especially the tuppaware rap, a little girl telling us her action point was to recycle dead hedgehogs. OH, and meeting each other was a
slight high!

Tour lows include: Robin’s day of 8 punctures, Ellie map reading her group 10 miles in the wrong direction, taking a dip in pond then realising it was filled with the run off from surrounding cow fields…and ending up with a suspicious rash.

3. Briefly, what have you been up to since the tour?

Since LEJOG we have been living and working in Bristol. Bike related extra curriculars have included volunteering with FoodCycle and Ellie with LifeCycle, a charity which gets adults and children with visual impairments out riding tandems.

4. Tell us a bit more about your project – Right to Movement.

right to cycle posterInspired by the power of conveying a message through pedalling, we have embarked on our most recent project. We are currently cycling from the West Bank to the UK – 4000 miles, over 3 months. We are doing this to raise awareness of movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territories, contrasting it to the freedom of our ride. In addition, we are fundraising for a village school bus. This village of 350 people is completely encircled by an Israeli settlement. Unfortunately, bright children are not receiving high school education as this would involve travelling through the settlement, which they are too afraid to do. There is no public transport for them and taxis are expensive. We are working in partnership with Amos Trust to raise money for a bus, costing in the region of £15-20,000. If you’re interested in finding out more about this have a peek at our fundraising page, or follow us on Facebook or twitter.

5. What impact has the Otesha tour had on you?

Our Otesha tour had a big impact on us, and being part of it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It especially made us think about the impact of our daily decision making, and our individual responsibility to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’. It inspired our yearly challenges including Ellie’s ‘dairy free’ year, and our ‘only buying second hand’ year. We’re thinking that next years challenge may be a ‘year without plastic’!

6. Are you still involved with Otesha and how?

Since LEJOG, Ellie has enjoyed a week alumni touring in Wales, and has attended one of Otesha’s planning days in London. We are both moving to London in September and look forward to being in closer proximity to general goings on! We love receiving Otesha’s updates and bi-monthly bemusings, it enables us to remain connected to what feels like an extended family network of people with similar passions, interests and ideas.

7. What advice would you give to new tour members?

Maybe up your pre-tour fibre intake to get yourself used to your potential tour diet (We decided to go vegan – which gave many of us good wind in our sails)! Perhaps double check the waterproofing on your gear in the case of any unexpected canals! Get out on your bike, climb some hills, and perhaps simulate the weight of a trailer with a heavy bag or two! And maybe make the most of your hot shower and soft bed pre-tour comforts. But have nothing to fear, as it is guaranteed to be an amazing, potentially life changing, adventure. And you will, without a doubt discover new and exciting things about cycling, how to create positive change, and yourself.

8. Describe your Otesha experience in 3 words, a picture, or an action
Here’s a photo which sums up for me the joy felt reaching our destination together, donning facepaint and high vis jackets, energised by our oat-filled bellies.

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Alumni Spotlight: UpCycling Chris

3rd June 2013 by

In the third edition of our ‘ alumni spotlight’ we’re speaking to Chris, from our very first year of cycle tours with the Wild Wild West gang.

1.  What tour did you go on?

Wild Wild West 2008, the first year Otesha began their cycle tours in the UK.

2. What were your tour highs and lows?

Ah. Tis too far away now to clearly remember. A low was that most of the cycle team became ill at some point on tour and had to struggle on even so. We also had only three days of sunshine over the whole five week tour which was also tough! A high was skinny dipping in the freezing sea somewhere off the Welsh coast.

3. Briefly, what have you been up to since the tour?

Since the tour I spent eight months in India mostly learning how to teach Yoga. I then returned to the UK and did my conventional classroom teacher training and then spent three years teaching Religious Studies in a secondary school in London. During the summer holidays I became involved in our UK festival culture and now run Upcycle and am involved in the production of Cloud Cuckoo Land festival.

4. Tell us a bit more about Upcycle.

upcycleUpcycle is the most exciting work for me. We provide the Eco-Rangers and a Free Shop to small, environmentally conscious festivals. Its creative, dynamic and energising work and the project thrives on the enthusiasm of teams of brilliant volunteers. Each summer we visit four or five carefully chosen festivals and we’re looking out for volunteers at the moment. If you’re interested to work then please see our website (www.up-cycle.org.uk) for more information or e-mail me (chris@up-cycle.org.uk) with any questions.

5. What impact has the Otesha tour had on you?

The tour gave me a huge sense of adventure and confidence to follow my dreams. Meeting the other cyclists and sharing so much passion and love for life has stayed with me since. I’ve also been on four or five cycle tours, having had the safe experience with Otesha. I felt well prepared to create my own adventures on a bicycle.

6. Are you still involved with Otesha and how?

Not on a daily basis but I often go to meet ups in London, bump into cyclists on the Critical mass cycle ride and workDSCF0412 with many other tour participants over the summer months at various festivals.

7. What advice would you give to new tour members?

Dream big and share your passion with other tour members. So much can come out of the connections made on tour.

Feminist maths…

9th May 2013 by

Read more from Sylvia’s Mother here.

Alumni Spotlight: Edible Ellie!

25th March 2013 by

In the second edition of our ‘ alumni spotlight’ we’re shining our energy saving light-bulbed lamp on Tastetastic cycle tour member Ellie who has done some pretty incredible things since her tour last year- read on and be inspired!

ellie-225x300

1. What tour did you go on?

I went on the Tastetastic tour of the Scottish Borders in August 2012. It was a three week tour with no upper age limit, which is why I chose it, because (at 29) I was too old for the other tours!

2. What were your tour highs and lows?

The highs of the tour were probably the friendships made with the other tour members and meeting such amazing, creative and inspiring people. Group living can be quite intense at first but the bonds formed are so true and tight that you feel that you can conquer anything together.

The low, for me was a long awaited day off, staying at a venue with particularly basic facilities (just imagine a tap in a small woods surrounded by muddy fields and cows). It rained all day and none of us could muster the courage to venture across the huge field of mud towards civilisation. Thankfully the day was saved by my solution focused Otesha buddies and together we erected a communal shelter for us to huddle under and play games.

3. Briefly, what have you been up to since the tour?

Since the tour I have been keeping busy with writing a blog about my journey into sustainable living and setting up an organic food co-op. I have done lots of little things that I wouldn’t have done before such as joining the heritage seed library, talking to a fair trade coffee grower, joining amnesty international and opening an ethical bank account. The other main activity which has been keeping me occupied is applying to become a foster carer. This should be interesting given that we have no television and don’t shop in supermarkets. I’m sure the blog will be taking on a new angle when that starts. Most of all I am looking forward to teaching the Otesha message to our foster children for years to come.

4. Tell us a bit more the food coop and your blog

Ellie food face

My blog is www.lifeaftertesco.co.uk. It mostly covers the food aspects of sustainable living and documents momentous occasions such as my first veg box delivery. I know I’m not a great blogger but quite a few people have contacted me to say that they have tried new things after being inspired by the blog.

At the start of the blog I was researching organic food wholesalers, which, If I’m honest, was just for myself, but I soon realised that I couldn’t afford the minimum order of £325 and even if I could I didn’t have room to store it. This is when the idea of starting a food co-op became a goal. It took a while (I took a gap month to learn how to knit) but with the help of some of my friends we managed to decide how the co-op would work and how to make it socially inclusive, by omitting a membership fee and having the food delivered at a community venue. I am proud to say that we had our first delivery in February and have been enjoying some really top quality food, which we couldn’t afford to buy in the shops.

5. What impact has the Otesha tour had on you?

The Otesha Tour really changed the way I think about my personal actions. I would say that I was fairly disempowered when I came to the tour. Having spent most of my adult life working as a carer and then working in betting shops I used to think that the green movement was limited to middle class people. Even though I was interested in the issues I thought it was a group I could never join. “I would love to do more for my fellow man and the planet but I can only just afford to look after myself thank you”… I used to think. About half way through training week I realised that the only barrier to living more ethically was my own way of thinking. I stopped putting my energy into supporting unsustainable systems and started to think of ways I could make an impact where it mattered.beachgroup1

Since the tour, family members have said that the changes I am making are futile in the face of things, which is what I used to think so I try not to take it to heart. I believe that we can never know the true reach and impact of our actions, but the most obvious impact my actions have had is on the way I feel. More connected to nature, more meaning to my daily actions, more time spent in the present moment, more involved in my community.

6. Are you still involved with Otesha and how?

I am a proud member of the Otesha alumni and this group provides me with loads of information and networking opportunities. Unfortunately because I live so far away from London I feel that I have missed out on some amazing Otesha opportunities and get togethers, however I have met up with tour members since the tour and continue to stay in touch with Otesha-ites wherever they may be.Ellie and trailer negotiating stream - credit Emily Connor

7. What advice would you give to new tour members?

Ellie’s top tips to tour members would be:

· don’t take any white clothing with you whatsoever,

· don’t bother with “waterproof” shoe covers but do take waterproof socks

· Avon skin-so-soft not only repels the Scottish midge but also can be used to start a damp fire

· take lots of photos- it is a magical experience you will want to remember

· make time to play games

· take every opportunity you can to have a wash

· and most of all -keep going!- the universe has a funny way of providing you with exactly what you need at the right time and never gives you a challenge you can’t handle.

8. Describe your Otesha experience in 3 words, a picture or action:

Life. Affirming. Experience.

T South handstand at sunset - credit Emily Connor

Alumni Spotlight: Amazing Abby

28th February 2013 by

bike scrapOur cycle tours have a huge, many would say life-changing, impact on those who take part.  They turn peoples lives upside down, inside out, shake them all about in a way that no one expected when we did our first tour in 2008.  Since then over 100 young people have joined our sustainable summer cycling adventures and thousands more have been inspired to make our world greener fairer and basically, much cooler for all of us.  We want to celebrate our alumni because they make Otesha what it is.  Not a week goes by when we’re not blown away by a past tour member doing something awesome.  So we’ve started an ‘Alumni Spotlight'; each month we’re going to shine our (green powered) spotlight on an alumni to showcase to the world how great they are.  First up it’s Abby Nicol.

OTESHA: What tour did you go on

Wild West 2008 around Wales and Caledonian Road 2009 as a tour liaison

OTESHA: What were your tour highs and lows?

Highs:

Swimming in stormy seas below rainbows on a huge white sandy beach all to ourselves in the Gower peninsula in Wales, ah hoc spontaneous street performances of the play, storming a bank in Carmarthen demanding (in song) to see their ‘ethical policy, collectively building a bicycle at a scrap shop, re-learning how to knit, bed time stories from a magical Welsh Story teller,  tea and cake stops in many picturesque villages, superhero days, reading poems around a tree filled with bike lights in Chai Ovna cafe in Glasgow, evening circles in a hand painted yurt in Moniave, meeting people behind inspiring projects- Magpie’s Nest in Govan, Greener Kirkcaldy, campaigning against open cast coal mining in Merthyr Tydfil and more, being impressed by school children during workshops, playing a compost bin, gaining confidence cycling on any kind of road, seeing the UK countryside from the seat of my bicycle, and on the whole meeting the bunch of mad and amazing people in my tour groups, collectively overcoming challenges, learning from each other and building a wonderful, supportive, crazy, nomadic cycling community.  
wheel
Lows: 

Wales was wet and soggy, a mystery illness started going around the group pouncing on an unsuspecting member each night, I was actually one of two (out of 18!) who managed to avoid it so maybe this should be one of my highs. One day we cycled 70+miles up and down Welsh hills in the incessant rain to be greeted by a leaking, smoke-filled tepee in tepee Valley where fellow oteshites were huddled around the fire eating rice flavoured with marmite crying ‘this is an emergency situation!’ Very comical looking back on it but not the welcoming to the utopian community we had envisioned. The situation was turned around when we managed to all find shelter in a cosy yurt and snuggle down listening to excerpts from Roger Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’.

Scotland- Deciding to adopt a porridge-only diet in Glasgow (a solidarity action with people around the word who exist on very little and so to appreciate the wealth of food we have at our finger tips) now I’m a porridge fan but our first batch for breakfast was laced with charred oats and the flavour lingered for the rest of the day, we then somehow, in a wave of blind enthusiasm, decided to opt to continue porridge-day for a second day…this was when cracks began to emerge and bellies rumble at the thought of the tasty vegan meals we’d hastily agreed to give up, cue big long consensus decision making meeting which thankfully ended merrily with us abandoning the porridge and resuming our vegan feasts.

OTESHA: Briefly, what have you been up to since the tour?

I got a degree then fled to the fields! well..finished uni, environmental food projects with Transition Edinburgh University, traversed Spain just me and my trusty bicycle (Beryll the Mountain Goat), wwoofed, got horticultural working on organic farms around the UK, I’m studying Organic Farming at the Scottish Agricultural College, campaigning with the Combe Haven Defenders in Hastings, working on an Organic market garden and community garden in Hastings and exploring the quirky towns of the Southeast.     

sevilla OTESHA: Tell us a bit more about Combe Haven Defenders…

Combe Haven Defenders formed in summer 2012. We are a campaign group of people local to Hastings who are part of the “Stop the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road Campaign,” – the ‘first and the worst’ of over 190 new road projects that the Government, big business & local councils are pushing throughout England and Wales.  We are campaigning for an affordable, sustainable transport system for our area, that improves the quality of all our lives without costing the earth.

The BHLR is a 3 mile road planning to devastate one of Hastings and Bexhills’ most beautiful natural treasures, the Combe Haven Valley, at a cost of £100 million and rising. The East Sussex County Council are prioritising this at a time of mass cuts to public services claiming it will alleviate congestion (when new roads mean more traffic), create jobs (the numbers of which have been grossly inflated) and housing (opening up Trinity College Cambridge’s land for development). It is a road that the Department for Transport calls ‘low value for money,’ in a report that’s been heavily redacted. In fact our next action is called: Operation Disclosure, calling the DfT to release the report’s recommendations on the BHLR to the public by 5th April or we’ll peacefully come and get them ourselves. See: combehavendefenders.org.  As the Combe Haven Defenders we’ve been behind lots of actions: organising trainings, setting up and supporting protest camps, dressing up as Zombie roads, running information stalls, fundraisers, ceilidhs, exhibitions, public meetings and more and more, it’s been a busy 6 months but there’s more to come! Sign our pledge and receive updates,  join an action, support us.  The BHLR is the first of 190 new road projects we need to nip this madness in the bud.     

OTESHA: What impact has the Otesha tour had on you?

Oh in so many ways- I’d just come back from a year in Canada and had experienced many incredible things there. I was feeling a little apprehensive about returning to what in my mind was a comparatively boring UK, Otesha blew that concept away. My first tour was an eye opener into all the eco/activisty goings on on this little island- permaculture projects a plenty, transition towns, inspiring youth projects, farms, education centres, bicycle projects. It catalysed my love of bicycles, I haven’t really had a day off a bicycle since my first otesha tour and because of it took off toute seule around Spain, I couldn’t have seen myself doing that without having experienced cycle touring with Otesha. It introduced me to wonderful friends, I’m part of this vibrant community of Oteshites who share similar values, follow their interests, question and work to change the norms and narratives that are taking the world down such a destructive path at the moment. It gives me hope!! Ha!

OTESHA: Are you still involved with Otesha and how?

Yes, once an Otesha member always an Otesha member! I cycled lands end to John o groats as an otesha fundraiser. I keep up to date with otesha shenanigans through the alumni newsletter, go to events where I can and keep up with the friends I met on tour.

OTESHA: What advice would you give to new tour members?

Ooo you’re in for a treat! Take in every minute, make a tour video even, embrace the consensus meetings they will end…eventually! It is such a unique time to have pedalling, performing and skill sharing around the country, every day is so full of experiences. An Oteshite from Canada came to see our play in Edinburgh and said “I’m so jealous, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that beats your Otesha tour” and he’s right. My tours have very special places in my heart. So challenge yourself, get some waterproof socks (my practical tip) and let the Otesha adventure begin!

O moustache

OTESHA: Describe your Otesha experience in 3 words, a picture, an action or video.

 Mad, challenging, hilarious.  In fact this video puts a smile on my face!

 

Alumni Power!

27th February 2013 by

Back on that snowy weekend in January, we had a bit of a special O-gathering. Right afterwards I wrote a blog, to share some of that joy and learning with the rest of you, but unfortunately a few technical hitches meant that very blog has disappeared into some hidden and inaccessible world inside my computer. It was once, but is no longer saved. So this little blog is a nice memory test for me! I’ll cast my mind back to that briefly pristine snow, the little slip and slide I had off my bike (perhaps I should get something like this if we’re in for more regular snow?)

photo 2

It’s always great to get a bunch of people together who between them have more ideas, passion, and desire to create change together than can possibly be expressed in a short weekend. Nigh on 20 Otesha alumni and friends met in Workshop 44 (our great new office space, do pop in!) to get trained up to facilitate Otesha workshops. The training ranged from trying out our workshops, to discussing and acting out ways to manage challenging behaviour. We explored innovative facilitation techniques and also ate plenty of dal, soup and some vegan chilli brownies. There were of course a few games thrown into the mix!

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Why did we do all this? Well, after every cycle tour, our avid cycling environmental-social justice campaigner friends become part of a strong network of alumni and loads of them want to stay involved, doing a bit of what they loved so much during their tours.  In London there are lots of opportunities for our alumni to stay involved through our Change Projects programme.  But, our alumni aren’t just in London, so we needed to do something about this. Our cycle tours visit towns and villages all over the country too, and sometimes these schools want a bit more Otesha joy, and just cannae wait until the next tour! So – alumni everywhere, schools everywhere, what’s the answer? That’s right, I think you got it – we train people up to outreach and deliver workshops wherever they are.

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By involving a few people who haven’t (yet) been on an Otesha cycle tour, we were able to increase our capacity. We now have friends in Edinburgh and Shropshire raring to go. So if you are an educator in and around these parts, get in touch (iona@otesha.org.uk) and you could be the lucky recipient of some inspiring, hand-on, creative workshops to help young people tackle the environmental and social issues through their everyday lives.


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