The Otesha experience

25th March 2011 by

I learnt quickly one of the golden rules at Otesha is; if you’re gonna make a cuppa, make an offer…it’ll earn you oodles of brownie points!

On my first day Calu made me the most amazing cup of coffee and gave me a lovely welcoming hug then Liz ran me through who I’d be assigned to each day and set me to work with Rochelle, my work experience buddy. We were to start researching videos for the facebook page and for the newsletters that I’d be producing. The videos were meant to be inspiring and to me they were. This year one of my goals is to get involved with power shift, doing a flash mob to make people aware of their impact and where their supplies are coming from.

I knew Liz wanted me to make the most of my time with them, so she quickly got me on to training to improve my cycling abilities with Bikeworks and money management with MyBnk. Which was so worthwhile as I gained so much knowledge that I wasn’t expecting to have now.

I also got involved with the ethical fashion event at the Childhood museum (which was on my birthday) making wallets out of tetra paks as they’re quite hard to recycle, I thought it was a totally great thing to spread to as many as possible, though I mainly helped set up and took loads of photos. Throughout the coming weeks Jo was on a mission to collect 200 tetra packs for a school trip they’d arranged which was lots of fun to see her beg for tetra packs, and a great feeling when she’s managed to gather 250.

It was a great five weeks of smiles, giggles, having lunches in the sun, friendly chats in the kitchen with MyBnk and FoodCycle (the others that we shared the office space with). I knew I wanted to work before I started there, but now I know why and what environment I want to work in and give my time to. The Otesha project has such a family atmosphere, it makes you want to work and help out wherever and whoever you can, it’s totally reassured my belief that working can be so rewarding.

To finish off my experience (as it is mine and Kristy’s last day) we went bowling to have a really nice end to a great experience and to show off our brilliant bowling skills. We divided the teams into interns against workers and because they had Iona, the workers won the game.

Goodbye Gear Up.. Hello East London Green Jobs Alliance!

15th March 2011 by

How time flies. It is March already, and that means our Gear Up programme is wrapping up. As coordinator of the programme, I have had such a fun time meeting all the young people we have worked with, mentoring them, helping them to gain more experience and start their journey towards green and meaningful employment.

We have worked with 18 young people in total, connecting them in internships and training in ethical fashion, waste management, green woodwork, green enterprise, and bike mechanics. They have also received training in local food production, money management, cv-writing, and cycling proficiency – Ozlem (above) loved her cycling training at Bikeworks so much that she is planning on giving up her car and buying a bike! I said goodbye to Ozlem earlier this week, sending her off with a reusable coffee cup and a copy of the Otesha handbook. But this isn’t the last we’ll see of her, or any of our Gear Up participants, as they will all be added to our alumni network, and continue to hear of job and volunteer opportunities, and other exciting things, through our weekly update. You can’t get rid of us that easily! Once you’re in, you’re in.

We’d like to say a big, heartfelt thank you to the Youth of Today for supporting this project.

And now, to pastures new! Our Gear Up programme might be winding down, but we have been squirrelling away in the background making even bigger plans for the coming year. Last November, we held our first roundtable discussion for organisations interested in local green job creation in East London, and we’ve had two more since then. Some very exciting people have been a part of the conversation – TUC, Friends of the Earth, Hackney City Farm, Bikeworks, Friends of the Earth, IPPR, UK Youth Climate Coalition, Aspire, London Development Agency, Tower Hamlets council, Tower Hamlets College, Young Foundation, Capacity Global, Fairbridge – I get excited just writing it out! Together, we have established the East London Green Jobs Alliance.

We have looked to the example of projects in the States, who have successfully created pathways into green jobs for young, unemployed people. We want to take that model and see how to make it work here in the UK. It’s all still early days – our mission statement is getting final touches to it as we speak – but we will be very excited to make it public in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the alliance, and how we plan to learn from projects in the US, please look at my blog entry below and sign up for updates from my learning trip to San Francisco!

Cycle Works

14th March 2011 by

Hey I’m Sammie, I’m on a work placement at Otesha to gain some experience to put on to my CV and open my mind up to the different opportunities the I could do as my profession.  And this is what the job center turned up with for me!

Liz from the office offered me the chance for me to do some cycle training sessions at Bike Works down Bethnal Green in East London with a guy called Jo.

For the total of 3hrs that I was with Jo. He taught me the basics in Victoria Park like signaling, how to mount the bike properly, the importance of keeping two fingers on the right hand break at all times, making sure your aware of your surroundings, emergency breaking, gears, tight u-turns and how to control the bike with constant peddling of which is a lot harder to do then to say! But is one of the most important skills to learn if you want to cycle on the road, which is the main reason why I decided to take up this opportunity.

The last time I was on the road on a bike, I managed to get stuck on the inside of Old Street round-about, for those that know of it you can see why I was scared off from cycling, but this was not to keep me off the road forever!

To be honest I did almost kill myself within the first 5mins because I didn’t realise that there was a mini-round about (something about me and round-about’s!) but once we were past that I found the enjoyment of being on the road not in a car or on a packed bus, and it was quite a nice day as well which made it even more enjoyable.

After I had mastered the basics, he took me off on to a road, which is where it all started to get a little more technical, with junctions, buses, rude white van drivers, u-turns, moving across lanes and…. the giant round about!!

I stuck to the main rule while cycling on the road (cycle in the lane, not the gutter!) and I felt confident and safe enough to lead the way back to Bike Works, when we returned I was safe, sound, informed and ready to go and get a bike with my level 2 in cycling.

Gear Up with…Sam Tobin. (And give him advice!)

7th March 2011 by

Two months ago, I posted a blog on the Otesha site outlining my ‘big idea’ for a project in my community as part of Otesha’s Gear Up internship.

Currently, I find myself, behind schedule, in the middle of the mildly scary stage called ‘people research’. The people research is one of the most important stages in the process of developing my project; essentially, it aims to find out what people do and what they want to do; this is essential because, obviously, there’s no point opening up a centre that nobody wants.

In the last few weeks, I have been handing out surveys on the sunny streets of Plumstead and Woolwich (which haven’t been too sunny recently), asking people to donate a few minutes of their time to talk about services in their local area. My surveys looked at what community activities, if any, local residents took part in (for example, a library reading group or religious organisation) and, more importantly, why they wouldn’t take part and what could be provided to help change the situation.

It has been difficult persuading people to spend their time of a cold wet morning standing on the pavement filling out a survey but the responses have been very useful – big thanks to everyone who took part!

The general consensus does seem to be in favour of a new community space in the area, with many respondents dismissive of the facilities provided by currently-existing centres; however, as there are pre-existing community spaces in the area, would the project be more effective focusing on improving their facilities and/or accessibility rather than opening up an alternative. The decision, therefore, becomes about whether to improve the old or begin the new – and that’s where you all come in.

Personally, I am leaning towards the founding of a new centre but, then again, that was my idea all along so I would say that, wouldn’t I? So some some feedback with suggestions and opinions as to what course of action to take would be much appreciated.

Gear Up for… Sarah Lin

22nd February 2011 by

Sarah has just completed the Gear Up programme *rapturous applause* and I really wanted to share her story with you guys, since she’s been an absolute star.

As a Gear Up intern at Hackney City Farm she helped out with their waste management project – monitoring the farm’s food waste, writing funding applications for a rocket composter (surely the coolest-sounding composter you’ve ever heard of?), and researching and making recommendations for a future waste management scheme. Considering Sarah’s love of waste management systems (to each their own), this was a perfect fit for Sarah and she described Hackney City Farm as an “incredibly inspiring place to work, full of nice people who love what they do”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Sarah also received training through the programme in sustainable food growing practices (and sustainable food consumption… some scrummy, sustainable food was had at the Rootmaster and Leon, pictured above). She also overcame her fear of roads and passed her Level 1 Bikeability cycling proficiency training with Bikeworks. Best of all, we helped her overhaul her CV and next thing you know, she has an interview for an internship with a great charity back home in Australia. We hope that this is just the beginning for our Gear Up participants as, after all, the aim of Gear Up is to help our young people stand more of a chance in this difficult economy, and grab one of those green jobs we’ve been hearing so much about!

We are really proud of Sarah for all she’s achieved with us and we’ll miss her down under! We can’t be too sad though – listen to her describe what her plans are for her back yard… very cool. Australia obviously needs her.

Big Ideas…

14th December 2010 by

My name’s Sam and I’m on an internship at the Otesha Project, which is all about training me up to be able to run my own project. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Firstly, of course, I had to think of a project. What do I want to change, what can I change? I’d always wanted to do something but I needed a big idea.

I thought about it for a while on the train home, staring into empty space with my headphones in. Surrounded by dozens of people doing roughly the same; twice a day, travelling from home to work and work to home. Then they get home, sit down and watch telly, maybe text someone or go on Facebook and finally sleep before repeating.

And people are becoming more and more isolated and introverted.

So I decided I wanted to get people talking again. Not just that, but being friendly to other people, maybe even being optimistic about ‘people they don’t know yet’ rather than ‘strangers’.

Essentially, the plan is to launch an open space in my local area (probably sometime around April-ish) with the aim of promoting a real sense of community and promoting the alternatives to what has created this antisocial society. I don’t really think the ‘Big Society’ is going to cut it.

This would, hopefully, provide everyone a place to sit and relax, away from home and with other people they share the city with.

In the fantasy world this open space exists in, the facilities available include an ‘open room’ of comfy chairs and tea and biscuits, a public meeting room for any group to utilise, also possibly a room with a few beds (read mattresses) to serve as a youth hostel and a community garden outside.

It’s very early days in an ambitious project but I’m optimistic. Feedback, ideas and volunteers would be much appreciated and hopefully you’ll be hearing soon about the grand launch.

Green jobs – what are they? WHERE ARE THEY?

25th November 2010 by

Here at Otesha, we have been doing quite a lot of work recently on the concept of Green Jobs, as we want to be able to hook up those unemployed young people in our area of East London with good, green and decent work. If it doesn’t sound easy, that’s because it isn’t.

The world of Green Jobs is a minefield, being a relatively new concept. Some people think a green job is manual labour in energy efficient industries – so stuff like insulating houses, installing solar panels and the like. Others think it is high-tech stuff, that can only be done by engineers and computer scientists. Others think it is much broader and could potentially include almost every job out there, so you could have a green teacher, or a green postman, or a green retail manager, because they had successfully made their roles more sustainable by changing the equipment, products or buildings they use or changing their modes of transport.

On top of all that, a lot of the rhetoric around green jobs out there has been around social justice issues, arguing that these jobs should be an opportunity to create pathways out of poverty for those who are chronically unemployed or underemployed, and provide career progression. We totally agree, but some people don’t! So as you can see, the conversation about green jobs at the moment is wide-ranging and sometimes confusing. Just what kind of a beast are we dealing with here?

More to the point, just where are they? Green jobs get talked about a lot in the media, and by politicians, but when we’re trying to find opportunities here for our volunteers in East London, sometimes they can feel a bit mythical (hence the unicorn). There aren’t many jobs out there for young people full stop, let alone green jobs, so if they aren’t there, how can we create them? It’s not as if the work of greening our economy doesn’t need to be done, and sharpish.

These are questions that we’ll be trying to answer over the next few months. We’re piloting our Gear Up programme with some fab young people who we’re helping to set up their own projects, or mentoring through internships at great organisations like Bikeworks and Hackney City Farm. We’re also getting our research on to map out opportunities in the area and hopefully kickstart some training and job creation. We hosted a really successful roundtable last week with lots of amazing organisations and council representatives to see how we can work together, so outcomes of that meeting and exciting developments will be posted here soon. Exciting!

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