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Luke, one of our delegation members, talks about meeting up with young Kenyan climate activists while he was in Africa during the Summer.
One of the fantastic things about being in Africa this Summer was that it gave me the opportunity to hook up with AYICC Kenya. AYICC stands for ‘African Youth Initiative on Climate Change’, and is like a pan-African UKYCC. They have chapters in different countries, and the Kenyan branch is particularly strong.
UKYCC has had links with them since before Copenhagen in 2009, and have been fundraising for them throughout the year, so I thought that since I was going to be in East Africa, it would be worth meeting them face-to-face!
After I’d finished my project in Uganda, I had three weeks travelling. Having headed down into Rwanda and unsuccessfully attempted to enter DR Congo, I came back up through Uganda to Nairobi.
Nairobi has a reputation as a pretty dodgy place for travellers – so I was pleasantly surprised not to be mugged in the first 24 hours, and even more pleased to see the friendly faces of AYICC. We met in the YMCA, temptingly close to an open-air swimming pool.
It was comfortingly similar to a UKYCC meeting – a diverse group of good friends of different ages, clearly intent on saving the world while having fun doing so, whose enthusiasm and energy is incredible. The main topic of the meeting was the organisation of a march for the ‘Moving Planet’ day by 350.org on 24th September.
Despite being less than three weeks away, they casually started discussing the route, the permits they needed, where they could get audio equipment, which speakers they could get, if the Mayor would come, and how many people would turn up (they reckoned they could get 300 or so). They seemed bizarrely laid back about it all, and absolutely confident that their ambitions could be realised (and they were).
But then again, of course they did. These are people who make the word ‘overambitious’ sound like a good thing, and have the energy and dynamism to follow through.
There’s no better example of this than their main project of 2011, an epic undertaking that is climaxing in spectacular fashion as I write. I’m talking about the ‘We Have Faith’ climate caravan – an overland trip from Nairobi to Durban, South Africa, with 150 young African climate activists.
The logistics for this make UKYCC’s PowerShift 2012 look like a breeze. They were aiming to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable the 150 young people to undertake the journey and to participate at COP17 when they get to Durban. Meanwhile, they were coordinating with other AYICC chapters to organise workshops, concerts and accommodation in the countries they were visiting on their odyssey, as well as getting hold of and branding a number of coaches and overland trucks - and remember, just like UKYCC, this work is fitted in around the volunteers’ jobs, degrees and social lives.
They set off on 7th November after a concert in Nairobi, and as I write, they’ve just crossed the border from Malawi into Zambia. They’ll be arriving in Durban in time for the Conference of Youth, joining hundreds of other young people from around the world (including us!) in working towards a deal that secures the integrity of our collective future.
While their undertakings are extraordinary, what is more striking is what this shows about the young people of my generation in developing countries. While they are grateful for and appreciate any help we give them, they are achieving fantastic things on their own. Like other young people from all over the world, those from the poorest countries are successfully mobilizing themselves to take action on climate change. They’re proving to the world that rather than developing countries being victims, they’re instead determined to be a part of the solution.
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