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?)

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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.

Calling all Educators!

15th November 2012 by

Do you care about social justice? The environment? Young people having a voice and taking positive action for a fairer world? 

You can bring something new to your school, youth club or Prince’s Trust group by inviting the Otesha team to work with your students. Otesha has worked with groups in London for over three years facilitating young people to set up their own active citizenship projects.

Active citizenship projects, what does that mean?

Otesha’s active citizenship project model helps young people to set up their own projects to create change in their communities and the wider world.  The key thing is that the groups we work with decide what matters to them, and design a project that they’re passionate about.  We’ve found that when young people get to choose their project for themselves, they are more committed to it, and their project is more successful.

What sort of things do young people do?

Young people’s projects have ranged from going for Fairtrade status for their school to planting trees and vegetables in community spaces to doing energy audits to see where energy could be saved, and so reducing the school’s carbon footprint! If there’s already a group who want to work on something specific, we can facilitate the group to design a great project. Alternatively we can start from scratch, introducing the group to a range of themes to help them explore what they really care about.

What skills do the young people gain?

Young people will develop their skills in: teamwork, listening and communication, facilitating discussion, public speaking, project design and implementation,  setting achievable goals, entrepreneurship, research skills and consulting, and possibly mentoring younger students too. They also gain practical leadership experience and everything they learn is fantastic preparation both for the world of work and further education. (Loads!)

How many people can you work with?

Groups of around 12-15 work brilliantly.

What are the people like?

Each project will be co-facilitated by one of our permanent staff members, alongside a highly trained lead facilitator. All our lead facilitators have participated in our Cycle Tour programme – an intensive training week and up to 8 weeks on the road, living as a sustainable community and facilitating workshops in schools and youth clubs across the country. This experience, alongside our in-house training creates unique, fantastic facilitators who are excellent role models to the young people we work with.  All facilitators will have an enhanced CRB check.

What do I need to commit?

All we need is you, a group of young people, and a time we can all meet regularly – this could be during curriculum time, at lunch, or after-school.  We like to work with a group for at least six hours, e.g. once a week for a half-term – but we’re pretty flexible so we can work intensively over a week, or several days, and the longer the project, the more the young people can take ownership and achieve results!

“You guys have been a great addition to the programme and we really appreciated your input…you have really managed to open some eyes and hopefully touched some of the young people to think more sustainably about their actions and their impact on the world.” – Sandra Jarzeskba, London Youth

I want a taster, how would that work?

Well, funny you should ask. We have a range of workshops designed to introduce young people to a variety of environmental and social issues.  They’re great as stand-alone workshops, or can be the beginning of something bigger.

Sounds interesting, I want more info!

If you’ve got any questions, you can give Iona or Edd a call on 020 7377 2109 or drop us an email to either iona@otesha.org.uk or edd@otesha.org.uk.

You can also read more about how it all works, and past projects by clicking here. 

 

Western Quest – tales from a slick and well-oiled performing machine

21st August 2012 by

Friday 17th August

Last Friday, a sweaty, slightly confused-looking group of strangers heaved their bikes up a stony track and arrived at a barn on the top of rather large hill in Gloucestershire. It was the start of Otesha’s Western Quest Cycle Tour. One week later and we’ve been transformed into a slick and well-oiled performing machine, ready to bestow our dramatic talents onto unsuspecting school children. Sort of.

We’ve spent our training week camping at the beautiful Highbury Farm near Redbrook, Gloucestershire. The farm is 25 acres of rolling countryside and ancient woods, including a section of the Offa’s Dyke trail.  The community living here, The Stepping Stones cooperative, are aiming for self-sufficiency and responsible land use with rainwater harvesting, sustainable woodland management, food growing and efficient heating. They’ve even built some of their own houses with reclaimed materials.

However, despite being in a beautiful place, we have been working VERY hard! Our days have been filled with rehearsals for the play and workshops that we will be performing in the schools; learning about and using consensus decision-making; getting to know each other with numerous ridiculous and imaginatively-named games such as ‘poor little kitty cat’ and ‘Bipedibop’; deciding on our food mandate and then implementing said vegan diet. We’ve also learnt a lot about bike maintenance – be prepared to be impressed by our ability to fix our own brakes. Wowee.

The play is quickly taking shape. Jamie Oliver, Simon Cowell, Jessie J and AntorDec make regular appearances in the barn on the hill. Jenny is learning quickly about sustainability and the banana pirate has been banished from this fair isle. Soon to be famous characters include the ‘udderly exhausted’ Morag the cow, Tom the ‘blushing’ tomato and Ant or Dec with their questionable Geordie accent. It will be a hit.

As preparation for the cycling that we will be starting next week, we went on a training ride to Symonds Yat on Tuesday.  A near-vertical hairpin hill made for a bracing start to our first group adventure, especially for the poor Sara and Katie who were bravely battling with the effect of gravity on two rather large trailers.  But after stopping for a breather on the Symonds Yat Rock and munching on our celebratory quarter-of-the-way-there flapjack, we were soon well on our way to a local, free-range ice cream and a bracing dip in the river in the village of Symonds Yat.  OK, we were over an hour late back for dinner at Highbury Farm, and had to reluctantly pass the leisure centre and its promise of the our first showers of the week, but we have high hopes about our stamina, if not our hygiene, for the weeks ahead.

When managing to dodge the (frequently) torrential rain, we’ve spent evenings huddled around a camp fire, watching shooting stars and occasionally sampling Highbury Farm’s homemade apple wine.  The fabulous Jenny Tree and Ally have cooked us wonderful meals of vegan fajitas, quinoa stew and apricot soup. The pulses and beans are producing rather predictable results, but they’ve kept us well-stoked for the endless play rehearsals and gruelling schedule.

We’re looking forward to moving on on Sunday and taking what we have learned on the road. We leave behind fond memories of bananas cooked in the fire; Himalayan Balsam; the beautiful Wye Valley; stunning sunsets; our inspiring Otesha gurus, Sam and Iona; and our wonderful hosts. Look out Stroud, here we come!

The Green Teacher Network

8th July 2011 by

Environmentalism is often thought of as a middle class hobby, a domain only for those who have the time and the resources to consider organic food, hybrid cars and other trappings of the eco-consumer lifestyle. Although climate change affects the poorest in the world the most, the same poorest that have always suffering environmental injustice the most.

But here in the UK with our well stocked supermarkets, multiple transport systems and energy on demand, it’s hard to make it all seem real. At Otesha we promote lifestyle change through small personal actions, and could definitely be accused of the occasional bout of eco-consumerism, which doesn’t always seem like much compared to drought, floods, famine and severe seasonal changes. But, as the new proverb goes, ‘look after the parts of carbon and the parts per million of CO2 (and CO2e, that’s carbon equivalents, other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere will look after themselves.

Environmental education (we don’t usually call ourselves that, but we do fit the bill) takes on other forms in countries that closer to the climate change frontline. The Green Teacher Network in Indonesia is working with teachers like Ekowanto (who uses just one name, a high school teacher) “to integrate environmental issues, particularly mangroves, into school subjects to make our students aware of the importance of mangrove reserves in dealing with abrasion and rising sea level.”

Indonesia is home to one-third of the wold’s mangrove forests, which mitigate the effects of climate change by acting as a carbon sink, but deforestation is happening fast. Mangroves are destroyed by seawater contamination and industrial waste, and many mangrove forests have been converted into residential and fishpond areas.

The Green Teacher Network are educating other teachers, advocating for mangroves to be integrated into the curriculum and taking students to visit mangrove forests. Many Indonesian schools are located near mangroves.

Ekowanto vowed to teach some 1,200 students in his school how to grow mangroves. “I have collected mangrove seeds and this coming academic year, my colleagues and I will teach our students to germinate the seeds in the school compound and plant them later in destroyed mangrove sites in Labuan district, Pandeglang regency.”

This is exciting and much more tangible stuff than the carbon counting we sometimes get bogged down in in the UK, and it probably has a much greater impact on reducing carbon too. Besides which, having just looked on google images, mangrove forests are completely beautiful, what more reason do you need to take school groups to visit them and protect them?


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