Single Mother Walking the Talk… 2014’s Lessons

7th January 2015 by

Happy New Year y’all!

Before I joined Otesha in February 2014, I think the areas of my life that were environmentally conscious and active were because of:

  1. My financial situation and my ‘make do and mend’ attitude because of it.
  2. The fact my mother raised me as (and when) she was raised (1940’s Philippines) and the influence of another culture and generation made me ‘waste not, want not’.
  3. Wanting my children to be responsible and conscious of their actions and their impacts on their local and wider environment.

So, these past 11 months as a member of Otesha HQ, has taught me a lot and I wanted to share these lessons with you all.

Here they are:

  • Eating flowers is fun… and TASTY! Allium flowers from onion and garlic chives are my favourite – they taste like little floral intense pops of oniony and garlicy goodness!
  • The water footprint of beef (15400 litres of water per kilogram of beef) and coffee (140 liters of water per 125 milliliter cup) is horrible. Calculate your water footprint here.
  • Making deodorant is really easy and no fuss! Not only does it work well, it doesn’t give you cancer! Click here for a good recipe.
  • Nestle owns BOTH Perrier and San Pellegrino!!!!!! :( :( :( These brands tend to be the only ‘easy to find’ naturally carbonated water – and since I don’t drink ‘fizzy’ drinks, I’m rather partial to carbonated water with fruit for a bit of taste.

Now both bottled ‘still’ and carbonated water are on my ‘do-not-buy’ list.

  • Nestle is stealing developing countries’ groundwater to produce its ‘Pure Life’ bottled water (oh the irony), this is leaving whole areas uninhabitable and essentially forcing people to ‘buy their water back’. Oh, and let’s not forget that Nestle’s CEO doesn’t believe that water is a human right, click here to watch him saying it.
  • Thrifting is my favourite thing of all time EVER. I’m passionate about slow fashion, recycling, reusing and rummaging around charity shops! I love a bargain, I think it’s great when everything you own has a story and a past and I love me some retro (the 1990’s were a great era for fashion)! I’ve even started chronicling my thrifting adventures on my personal Instagram account!
  • I like chutney! And, yes it takes a bit of time to make, but it keeps good for a year and goes with EVERYTHING! I personally like this recipe. I made mine with marrows from mum’s allotment and apples from the tree in my back garden.
  • The kids love making paper. The mulch is fun to play with! Thanks to Sarah at ECOactive for showing us how. We like the good ole’ fashioned clothes hanger and tights method – as outlined here. :) In 2014 we taught ourselves how to bind homemade books with string. 2015 will be handmade books with handmade paper!
  • If you take cuttings of your friend’s plants you never have to buy potted plants or seeds again! This year I got Aloe Vera (thanks Orsetta) and pineapple sage – which is great in cocktails! Here’s how-to.

Until next time folks!

Peace and bicycle grease!


New chair for Otesha

24th May 2014 by

Otesha needs a new chair of our board of trustees, to take on the challenge of leading a non-hierarchical organisation.

We’re looking for a chair with excellent facilitation skills, who’s into making non-hierarchical organisational structures work and supporting charities in a strategic and governance way. Although the staff team at Otesha has a flat structure, as a charity we still have a board who have overall responsibility and so need to approve, and take responsibility for, all the big decisions.The board ensure the charity is well run and support our staff team to achieve Otesha’s aims.The chair will take on additional responsibilities of facilitating board meetings, ensuring the board acts well as a team together and being a spokes person for the organisation.

Otesha mobilises young people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles and become inspiring leaders on climate change, social justice and ethical consumption. Since 2007 we have worked with thousands of young people aged 11-28 from a diversity of backgrounds across England, Wales and Scotland. We work with young people and schools; organise educational cycle tours around the UK which resemble a two-wheeled sustainability circus; and work to combat growing youth unemployment by helping young people find their way into fair, decent and meaningful green jobs.

The role of the chair:
– Facilitate board meetings
– With staff and other trustees facilitate and participate in quarterly strategy days
– Ensure strategy is developed by the staff and trustees in strategy days, board meetings, staff meetings and by working groups
– Keep the board functioning well as a team and ensure all board members are fulfilling their roles
– Review board performance
– Recruit and induct new trustees as necessary
– Oversee staff team appraisals
– Maintain a risk register for the charity
– Be a spokesperson for the Otesha Project UK

Commitment required:
- To attend bi-monthly board meetings and quarterly strategy days
– To participate in board working groups and additional meetings with the staff as needed
– Be willing and able to take on tasks between board meetings, and communicate over email between meetings
– Able to commit to this role for a minimum of 2 years

Please apply if:
– You’re interested in non-hierarchical structures and want to support this one|
– You love what Otesha does and stands for
– You have time for occasional evening and weekend meetings
– You get that being a trustee is quite a bit of commitment (you take on legal and financial responsibility for Otesha) and are only a little bit fazed by that

To apply: please send a CV and covering letter telling us why you want to be a trustee for Otesha to by Monday 30th June. (Interviews will take place early July with a new chair invited to our next board meeting on 21st July, 6.30pm)
If you think this is you, but aren’t totally sure about it, email me ( and we can arrange a time to chat about it.

Please note: The Otesha Project UK is an equal opportunities organisation and encourages applications from underrepresented groups. We do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, place of origin, class, citizenship, system of belief, gender, sexual orientation, language, marital status, family status, physical and/or mental disability. However, all employees (and trustees) will be chosen on merit.

Working the Workshops with Totally Tasty

22nd July 2013 by

I am lying in Lynn’s garden hammock looking out at the massive oak tree in the park next door. “You look extremely happy”, Jessie says as she walked past. I am a bit. I feel really enriched after everything I have experienced and taken part in today. This morning we woke up at 6.37am. All ten of the Otesha tour members were sleeping in the Rope Walk Permaculture Project’s garden shed just behind a mosque.Yesterday was our first day on the road and today we were introduced to the world of environmental and social workshop facilitation.

This morning we cycled to a local school to spend the morning at the, maybe paradoxically named, “inclusion unit”. It was for children who had been deemed not adapted to be within a conventional class room. The average number of children in these inclusion classes were between four and six. Students would stay on a single floor on which all of their needs were catered for. All their subjects, tutors and even lunch was provided on this level. The teachers were all amazing and it I think we learnt much from seeing how they spoke to and engaged the students. While one team delivered another workshop, my group was presenting a workshop on Fair-Trade which looks at all the different people involved in the production on bananas; from the logger who has to clear-cut his beloved rainforest to earn enough money to get by, all the way to the consumer in the UK.

Later that day, I was shown a feedback sheet with Alex, one of the students had written after the class but had seemed one of the hardest to engage. In it he  recalled with great detail several of the facts concerning fair-trade and gave many interesting suggestions for how we could improve the workshop. In the second group, also four students, was one girl who was full of enthusiasm, excitement and charisma. We had one who wanted to read many of the character cards describing what each person in the supply chain has to do. After each card she would give a particularly conscience summary of what had just been said and apply it to examples she was familiar with as well as explaining it within the greater whole of the exercise. After class, the teacher, told us this student was normally the most introverted and shyest member of the class. He had never seen her as enthusiastic and engaged as she was. We felt we had been of use and that our presence at the school was being appreciated.

The last workshop was the one I thought was most successful. The four boys in the class seemed genuinely interested in what we were talking about and shared their knowledge about pesticides and GMOs. Later in the day, we discovered that this last group we had worked with were reputed to be the most difficult to engage with. Quite a result, we told ourselves.

After some not-so-vegan egg and cheese sandwiches the school kindly provided, we headed back over to Southampton Common [we had cooked an epic dinner for ourselves there the night before] to meet a home education group. These were children who were educated by their parents or grandparents and all met up on a regular basis so as to learn and play with their kin. These children take an active role in deciding what it is they are most interested in and would like to learn more of. “I drive my grand-daughter around 200 miles a week so she can receive lesson from all the specialist teachers in the region” one parent told us. The children now in front of us couldn’t have been more dissimilar from the ones we had spent time with that morning. Surrounded by supportive, reassuring parents, they spoke, read and posed questions with clarity, self-assurance and calm. At one point when talking about the distribution of money amongst the different actors on the supply line, they took the debate completely into their own hands and we  no longer needed to facilitate and actually stepped back and watched (slightly in awe) as children of six and seven discussed who in the supply line deserved the most pay. This seemed like a million miles away from the disheartened students we had met earlier that same day.

Personally, I felt greatly privileged and enriched to have had the opportunity to experience these two polar opposite worlds. We had witnessed first hand how socio-economic segregation is passed on from one generation to the next as a result of systemic causes within our society. These skills and experiences are fantastic to get, and the whole team is developing in leaps and bounds ready for all the schools we have ahead. Thomas

Six Months on from the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ Report at Otesha.

8th July 2013 by

Back in February 2013, Otesha joined forces with Intentionality to launch the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ report reflecting on Otesha’s experiences delivering their Green Jobs Programme.  The initial plan was to follow a pipeline model, guiding participants through training, work experience, environmental literacy and ideally towards employment.  Otesha tried to create connections with the renewable energy construction industry to underpin the development of participants.   The report describes the barriers that were overcome and the important lessons learned.  The Green Jobs programme has since evolved from this formative experience, and now largely flies under the banner of ‘Branch Out’, as well as broader campaigning through the East London Green Jos Alliance  and our Roots of Success course.


The report found that a significant barrier to the Green Economy’s growth has been the uncertainty surrounding national policy.  Unfortunately this remains the case with the blocking of the Energy Bill’s decarbonisation amendment.  However, this has not stopped Branch Out from reaching young people and making successful connections with like-minded organisations in Hackney that aim to provide these people with skills, training and opportunities.


A switch in the course’s emphasis from construction to horticulture has been key.  Once a week, the participants attend a session at St Mary’s Secret Garden working towards a City and Guilds Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture Skills.  Additionally, there have been trips to induction days at Streetscape and Cre8 Arc for the participants to gain some work experience.  Overall, the horticulture sector seems more receptive to cooperating.  This is perhaps due to being less dependent on long-term investment that is required for  growth in the renewable energy construction industry.


Although gardening and growing healthy food sustainably is close to our hearts (and stomachs) at Otesha, Branch Out offers much more.  In fact an impressively comprehensive suite of courses have been organised.   Throughout the 12 weeks that Branch Out runs, there are sessions in the kitchens at Made in Hackney; there is the accredited Roots of Success environmental literacy course; employability skills workshops; finance and money management sessions with MyBnk; individual mentoring sessions with Otesha’s Green Jobs Programme directors; and the option to be assigned a mentor once the participant has completed Branch Out.  Best of all, the course can be shaped by the participants themselves who are encouraged to suggest ideas for trips and talks.

In the 6 months since the ‘Green and Decent Jobs’ report, Otesha’s Green Jobs programme has come a long way.  We have a full compliment of activities, a dedicated network of supporting organisations, and most importantly, participants with loads of enthusiasm.  Our first batch of graduates have gone onto further horticulture training, and various other apprenticeships including solar panel installation.  Otesha are welcoming applicants for one more Branch Out in 2013, and three in 2014.

By Phil Aubert, green jobs volunteer

Trusty trustees

7th March 2013 by

Since leaving the Otesha staff team in 2012, I’ve been on the board of trustees. So far it’s been pretty good: I’ve kept in touch with my Otesha friends; still had a say in the development of the organisation; worked alongside other trustees from backgrounds I wouldn’t come into to contact with in my usual life (like lawyers); eaten a lot of biscuits and humous (not together) and learnt loads.

We’re looking for more fabulous people to join our board of trustees.

Although the staff team at Otesha has a flat structure, as a charity we still have a board who have overall responsibility and so need to approve all the big decisions.

Here’s why you should think about joining the Otesha board:

  • You learn a lot about how a small charity operates
  • You get to help develop our strategy
  • You get to be involved in supporting a small team and working out how a flat structure can be most effective
  • We’re all nice people here
  • It looks great on your CV, not that that’s a good reason to become a trustee, but it looks good on your CV for a valid reason because you learn a LOT
  • Otesha is a wicked little charity. We’re 5 years old now which means in some ways we’re quite stable and know some stuff, and in other ways we’re dynamic, up for new ideas and still figuring lots out
  • We have nice biscuits and humous (not together) at our meetings

We’d particularly like to sit round a board table with people who bring some relevant skills but are also wanting to develop new ones by being a trustee, for example you could be wanting to learn more about the charity sector and bring skills from another sector.

Get in touch if:

  • You’re interested in non-hierarchical structures and want to support this one
  • You love what Otesha do
  • You’re willing to commit one evening a month to meetings, plus a bit of time in between supporting staff or preparing for meetings, and one strategy weekend each year
  • You get that being a trustee is quite a bit of commitment (you take on legal and financial responsibility for Otesha) and are only a little bit fazed by that

It would definitely help if you have any of the following:

  • Experience or an interest in any of the areas of Otesha’s work (like green jobs, young people, cycling, sustainable living etc. etc.)
  • Know the East London communities we work in
  • Experience in finance or fundraising
  • A solid strategic head on you
  • A background or interest in HR, staff development and mentoring
  • Experience of or an interest in consensus decision making and flat structures

So it’s a real commitment, but one that shouldn’t be too scary, and the effectiveness and dedication of the board members has a real impact on Otesha. Board members have the opportunity to make a positive difference to Otesha and to the people we work with, and a contribution towards our aims. And if we all do it well, we won’t be bored in board meetings.

Download more info: Otesha trustee role description2013

If you think this is you, but aren’t totally sure about it, email me  ( and we can arrange a time to chat about it.

To apply: please send a CV and covering letter telling us why you want to be a trustee for Otesha to
Deadline: 28th March 2013

Green and decent jobs: Alliance-building for a Green Economy

18th February 2013 by

We’re pleased to announce the publication of a new report by Intentionality CIC and The Otesha Project UK:

Green and decent jobs: Alliance-building for a Green Economy

The report is available for download here (PDF).

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.31.17

In 2010 The Otesha Project UK started to deliver their first Green Jobs Programme for young, unemployed people in East London. Intentionality CIC and Otesha have undertaken joint analysis of what can be learned from this Programme, drawing on Otesha’s experience over the last two years combined with Intentionality’s interviews with key stakeholders and background research about the wider political and economic context.

Being an account of real on-the-ground experience, illustrating how and why the growth of green jobs in the UK is being held back, both Otesha and Intentionality hope that this report can be used as a tool by other groups seeking to start their own green jobs initiatives.  It has been written with a diverse readership in mind, in particular:

  • for public bodies interested in job creation,
  • for young people and their youth workers interested in finding a career with green credentials,
  • for campaigners and environmentalists, and
  • for policymakers at a regional, national and international level.

Our nine recommendations are aimed primarily at local groups engaged in creating green jobs, or thinking about doing so.

Please circulate the report to friends and colleagues – and if you can promote it on social media and blog about it, we’d be hugely grateful.

As we slide into a triple dip recession, the picture for many of the UK’s young people is bleak. It is time for us to match the people that need the work, with the work that needs to be done.

Branch Out! Join our FREE horticultural work training programme

13th February 2013 by

GREEN JOBS ARE A-GO! Grow your way to a green-fingered career on Otesha’s newest programme -‘Branch Out’! Want to work outside, get some environmental qualifications and find a great green job at the end? Then join our 1st programme from April- June in Hackney!

Branch Out is totally FREE and open to ALL 16-25 year olds who can travel to East London 2 days a week. If you, or someone you know, wants to join this course and find work then get in contact with Tamsin by emailing or calling 020 3609 6763.

Registration deadline March 18th 2013.


Western Quest goes West Country proper!

8th October 2012 by

After a wonderful stay at the West Town Farm in Ide, Exeter, it was sadly time to move on and head further West to the gorgeous hilly countryside of the Dartmoor National Park. After a difficult start to the ride (anyone who knows the giant hill to Dunchideock leaving Ide will know what I am talking about) the rest of the 20 miles to Ashburton were relatively flat and really beautiful, a wonderful ride. On arrival at The Husbandry School, a few miles outside of Ashburton, we were greeted by yet another steep climb to the farm itself but were rewarded  by arguably the best view of the whole Western Quest cycle tour at the top.

Thanks to Jonty and Carole we immediately felt welcomed and at home on their lovely farm and were treated to the luxury of a bath and comfortable night’s sleep – much appreciated with an early start and hilly six mile cycle to Landscove primary school the next morning. Despite our fears, the six mile cycle across the Devonshire hills to Landscove raced by at 8am, due to the lack of trailers, tents and panniers weighing us down.


We were immediately welcomed at this small but friendly rural school in Landscove and enjoyed performing our play to the whole school. Although the play is aimed at students aged 8 and over, the years 1 and 2 really seemed to enjoy it and some of the songs had the best audience participation of the whole tour – a great start to the morning. After the play we split into two groups and led workshops on transport and energy. The school were impressively already taking many ‘green’ measures, such as an energy saving campaign and signs around the school informing us to switch appliances off when not in use, a small allotment in the playground where students were learning to grow their own vegetables and school lunches made from ingredients from a local organic farm. The students were therefore very receptive to our workshops, which seemed to both refresh and embellish ideas on what action we can take in our everyday lives to be more sustainable.


The energy workshop was interesting to build on the work the school was already doing and the students enjoyed energy charades and were very surprised at which electrical appliances use the most energy. After doing an energy audit of the school the students had many great ideas on how we can continue to reduce our energy consumption, at school and at home, which we were really pleased to hear. The transport workshop with year 6 also went well, with students eagerly learning about different forms of transport and which are least polluting. As a result of the workshop many students pledged to use public transport when possible and car share to school with people who lived near them. They also said that they felt more confident to maintain their bikes, which we were really happy with.

All in all, we had a great experience at the small but pro-active and welcoming school, which was really interesting both for the students and us. We happily left the school to meander back to The Husbandry School, along the country lanes in the September sunshine, filling our tupperwares with blackberries as we went; a wonderful and inspiring morning’s work.

An Otesha farewell with food

13th September 2012 by

We always knew that Charlie would only be with us for half of the tour, but the moment of her departure had seemed so far away. With sad faces and heavy hearts, we bid her farewell in Bristol.

But of course, this being an Otesha tour we were going to celebrate and not cry about the loss of one of our members! So the cooking team got to work on a 5 course feast made up of local ingredients from the fabulous Feed Bristol, where we were staying, and the Bristol Sweetmart.

One thing we’ve all taken out of this tour is how easy it is to cook healthy, local and organic food on our budget of 5 pounds per person per day. As we’re promoting a sustainable, local lifestyle, it’s important to us that we walk the talk. Our food mandate means we’re eating vegan food that is from the UK, or the EU if it can’t be grown in the UK, and we’re avoiding soya and palm oil.

We buy most of our foods from the farms we stay at or the nearest farm shop and local greengrocers and wholefoods shops. At first, wading through the packaging was hard work – just because something says it’s ‘made in’, ‘manufactured in’ or ‘produced in’ Britain, does not mean the ingredients are British. So we check for signs saying EU agriculture and use our common sense to decide if products are likely to be British. Unless we’ve got it all wrong and cumin seeds do grow in Guildford, we’re hoping we’re doing okay… and all without a supermarket in sight. Woo! For Charlie’s leaving party, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of homemade houmous, English melon, Italian olives, local curried vegetables, tabbouleh, beetroot and green salad and blackberry and apple crumble.

After a delivering our workshops and performances all over Bristol, we rode on to our next stop in Chew Magna. We arrived later than expected due to two punctures and a burst tyre but we timed our arrival perfectly to see the sun set over the pituresque Chew Valley lake where we set up our tents. We were staying at The Community Farm and were greeted by the lovely Claire and the infamous mid tour retreat package from the Otesha office.  As expected, it contained a lot of postcards to spark pupils’ individual actions, ideas for the retreat and a big bar of chocolate. Less expected were wonderful, positive messages from the Otesha team, thanks guys!

We contemplated the previous two weeks, what we had achieved, what we hadn’t, what we wanted to get out of the next few weeks and the Otesha experience as a whole. We then reconvened to chat over our thoughts and celebrate the tour so far with ‘The Great Big Pat on the Back’ where we counted up miles cycled, projects visited, punctures, best views, and highs and lows in general.

The second day was more relaxed and began with volunteering on the Community Farm, with jobs ranging from picking cucumbers to pruning raspberry bushes. We then had a wonderful feast with all the volunteers, well deserved after a morning’s work. The Community Farm, a co-operative vegetable box scheme farm seems to be really established, despite being in its early stages. We were treated to a tour of the farm by Ben and heard about big plans for the new education centre, where numerous courses will be run, ranging from foraging to bee-keeping, so if you are interested and in the Bristol area watch this space.

We had a wonderful, relaxing, mid tour retreat, thanks to the Otesha team, the Community farm and the beautiful weather. It was a great chance to reflect and re-cap on our play and workshops, thoughts and aspirations, which helped us to feel prepared to enter schools; the next phase of the Western Quest tour.

Tasty Tales – Bread Matters

8th August 2012 by


Welcome to the second blog post of the Tastetastic food sustainability tour! We write to you from the magnificent Scottish Borders, a land of beautiful rolling green hills, many happy sheep, and an enthusiastic bunch of foodie cyclists, who have come from far and wide to embark on a 3 week Otesha extravaganza.

We started our tour in sunny Edinburgh, our first task being to cycle en masse through the capital and navigate our way to our first host – Bread Matters – who have kindly welcomed us to their home on Macbiehill Farm for our five days of pre-tour training.

Bread Matters, in Peeblesshire, provides weekend courses teaching people about the importance of slow fermentation, a traditional method of making nutritional and tasty bread. Recently, industrial bread-making techniques have arguably led to a rise in many health problems such as wheat intolerance and other digestive ailments. Bread Matters is seeking to educate people about the benefit of Real Bread – better bread for individuals, communities and the planet.

Bread Matters has been a great place to start our tour, as it is an example of a local initiative that is building a vibrant (and resistant) local food economy. The founders of Bread Matters have grown varieties of wheat (and other grains), and processed it by gently milling on a small scale. The flour that is produced is crafted into beautiful bread, and this bread is sold locally through innovative community-oriented distribution networks. This approach to local food is a ‘message’ that we hope to take with us on tour, to inspire a new generation to become more engaged with where their food comes from, and how it’s produced, as well as forging community ties through the sharing of nutritional, wholesome food.

During our time on Macbiehill Farm, we have been thrown into a whirlwind of learning workshops, thought-provoking discussions, scrumptious vegan food, and (perhaps most importantly) sowing the seeds to build our own tastetastic community. As a group, we have shared our stories, experiences, knowledge, and values with each other. There’s also been lots and lots of laughter (and some tears, too). Not to mention, being treated to use the most LUXURIOUS compost loo EVER! Courtesy of Andrew and Veronica of Bread Matters.

It’s really hard to believe that we are only 4 days into the Otesha experience – it’s as if a magic spell has been cast to temporarily stretch out space and time, with everyone happily saturated with ideas, excitement and positive energy.

This is just the beginning, and everyone is itching to get on the road, get cycling up more hills (!!) and start putting into practice everything we’ve been preparing for during training week. (But first, we are spending a vigorous afternoon tending to the small-scale agro-forestry project at Bread Matters, as a work exchange to thank our generous hosts).

Are we ready? Yes we are!

PS. A massive thank you to Amy and her team for spending 2+ hours sharing with us how to love our bikes (and maintain them).

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