Om Sunisa and Tom Deiters, representatives of NextGEN GENOA (Next generation of the Global Ecovillage Network of Oceania & Asia), and Gaia School Asia, are presently on a journey to the Himalayas, travelling across Sri Lanka, India, Ladakh, Nepal and Bangladesh to work with children and youth. Along the way, they are providing workshops for schoolchildren and village youth on connecting with Nature.
Our workshops aim to encourage awareness, love, respect and care for Nature. We are also raising awareness about global warming, climate change, waste, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and deforestation. We brainstorm with the children and youth as to what positive actions they can take in their direct environment, and we take some positive action together with them at the end of our
workshop. Our workshop is based on participatory and interactive learning that involves the head, heart and hands.
Our Principles are:
To be aware that we all are part of Nature and that everything is connected.
Nature is our home, our life, and it is amazingly beautiful. Loving Nature is loving ourselves. All living and non-living beings have their role to play in sustaining the web of life. All deserve respect. Humans also have a role to play in sustaining the web of life. We need to take care of Nature.
Our journey started in Sri Lanka, early in June, where we connected with the NextGEN representative of Sri Lanka, Trudy Juriansz. Trudy helped us, through her network, to connect with different individuals, organisations and youth in Sri Lanka. We connected with a Jesuit priest, Father Benny, in the Hill country. He arranged for us to teach the children of Tamil tea-pluckers at a pre-school on a tea estate in Hatton. We met a Buddhist youth, Danushka, in Udawalawe, and through him, we taught about Nature to children at a local Buddhist school.
We then travelled North to the Islander Center at Anuradhapura, where we gave a 3-day youth workshop for the Sewalanka Foundation, followed by a 3-day youth workshop for the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation (CPBR).
The youth who participated in these workshops came from diverse locations and cultures, representing Tamil and Singhalese, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic religions. In the youth workshops, we guided the youth to create an action plan for their village. The local NGO’s and our NextGEN representative will follow up with the Youth on their plans.
From Sri Lanka, we travelled to Tamila Nadu in South India, where we connected with the representative of GEN India, John George. He arranged for us to teach near Bangalore where we worked with three different schools on Nature awareness. At the SVISS School in Hosur, we gave a three day workshop for children, planting about 75 trees with them.
Following this, we went North-East to Orissa, where John helped to organize a 3 day training for
Tribal Youth. One participant commented: “I felt that I have experienced the beauty of Nature deeply” (Anuradapura, Srilanka).
We witnessed John’s impressive work with the organization, THREAD, and his connection to the Orissa Tribal people. We were inspired to see the work that has been done by THREAD to support the tribal women, and the mass movement they have created. We were also glad to see that the adapted one month “Ecovillage Design Education” courses are well received by tribal communities, and that many who have done this training are empowered to take positive action in their villages.
We are now travelling on our way to Southern Punjab, where we will be working with about 10 schools. We aim to be planting 1000 trees with schoolchildren over two weeks, then moving on to Nubra, in the northern region of Ladakh in the Himalaya’s, working with school children and providing teacher training.
After 2 weeks in Nubra, Ladakh, we will return to Dharmasala, India, where we will facilitate another workshop for socially engaged Buddhist youth, before taking the bus across the border to Kathmandu in Nepal to repeat the workshops.
The journey has been fun and hopeful, so far. We have been experiencing that children from
different backgrounds, religions, rich or poor, have a strong connection, love and care for Nature. They have been observing environmental issues around them and enthusiastically take action to solve the problems. We find that they only need a little bit of guidance and support. Seeing their passion gives us a lot of hope and faith in the next generations.
It has been two months since we started our journey in Sri Lanka, and we still have another four months ahead of us. We are doing this work voluntarily because we think it is important to raise awareness among the children and youth around the pressing environmental issues that will affect their future. It is important that they start to practice solutions now, even if it is at a small scale.
Our workshop is designed to have 8 steps that can be adapted for different ages:
Step 1. Community and Trust Building among the participants, and between the participants and the facilitators. We design processes and activities to open up communication and interaction. This enables us to also observe group dynamics, and to understand the participants’ backgrounds, so that we can adjust our activity in the workshop to suit them.
Step 2. Gratitude. This step is to help the children connect with Nature and to deepen this connection through love, gratitude and joy.
Step 3. Concerns. This step is to hear from the children and youth what concerns they have for Nature. For the older youth, this step includes what concerns they have for their village and their own future.
Step 4. Ecovillage Vision (Creating a Positive Vision). For the children, we help channel their energy from the sad and depressed feelings that are often generated in Step 3, to hope/faith and a positive vision. Also for the children, we will show them examples of other children who are involved in healing Nature. For the older youth, we give them an introduction about Ecovillage living, examples of Ecovillages, and other youth who are taking action to help Nature.
Step 5. Action Plan – Flower for the Earth. In this step, we guide the children and youth through the process of creating a simple action plan. This action plan is created in the form of a flower with four petals – “What will I do?”, “Where I will do it?”, “When will I do it?”and “Who will be joining me?”. This flower of commitment is a symbol of love and gratitude for the Earth.
Step 6. Networking & Group Strengthening. This step is to create a network of NextGEN –Youth. In this step, we guide them to think about how they can strengthen their group, and how they can stay connected with each other, and with other youth groups.
Step 7. NextGEN Spirit. In this step we connect to the heart, Spirit, and the inner qualities that are needed to heal the Earth.
Step 8. Group Action & Celebration. This step is to deepen and ground what we have learned in the workshop at practical level and celebrate actions taken.
We have experienced so far that the children and youth enjoyed the workshops, enthusiastically participating in every step. This gives us a lot of energy to continue on our journey.
Gaia School Asia is a voluntary organization that wishes to see a future where we, as humans, live
in harmony with Nature, with awareness, understanding, love and respect. We believe that we are inseparable from Nature, and that all beings have intrinsic value. In collaboration with schools, communities, NGOs and parents, we aim to support children and youth in Asia – through our education and activities – to deepen their connection to Nature, as well as encouraging them
to seek a sustainable lifestyle.
We are voluntary groups of the younger generation that try to give our best in this work. We
appreciate all kinds of support that will help us bring more impact to our work for Nature and
towards a sustainable world.
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