Blown away by first full day in Africa!

The end of my first full day in Africa is drawing to a close, with much laughter, dancing an merriment from the whole conference and caravan delegate, as darkness falls on the Multimedia University. I really love it here: Everyone is so welcoming and kind-hearted. I am enjoying conversations and meeting so many new people. The conference centre in Nairobi is also very comfortable.Warthogs roam carelessly around the campus, and the heat of the sunny day begins to fade. The people here are so free, and spirited! I have never seen such enthusiasm and passion for life 😀

This morning, we had the session in the main conference from which I posted the jumbled ramble from my iPod (apologies for such a scrambled message)! I’ve got the wifi working on my laptop now, so hopefully this will get more comprehensive..! We were given the brilliant opportunity for a Q&A session with a lady from the Global Climate Advocacy group, speaking about everything from partnerships and teamwork, to Carbon markets and intellectual property rights hindering effective technology transfer to developing countries.

The key points that interested me were to hear real debate in the conference hall about issues surrounding forestry and reliance on selling charcoal and wood for livelihoods (see video below), exploring the difficulties of alternative solutions such as briquets and implementing more efficient cooking equipment and methods. There was much interest in renewable energy and methods of improving sustainability in all fields, and the diversity of interest here is proof that Climate Change touches those in all walks of life.

People have come to this conference to learn, to share experiences, to find solutions to community and regional problems relating to the changing climate, and spreading advocacy for action on these issues. What struck me most was the importance of networking and sharing ambitions globally. “Sometimes we choose to work alone. This is why we are not achieving change quickly or effectively enough.” For these planet-scale issues, we certainly require a planet-sized movement for action. Nothing less is acceptable. I realise that this has applied quite notably in my own life – that the more I separated from my colleagues and social circles, the less I was able to achieve. Whereas with partnerships and support from many people and organisations, the transition to sustainability will succeed. I will take this lesson back with me to the UK, and definitely work and partner more with all the green initiatives growing there.

The second part of the morning saw the caravan participants break away from the rest of the conference to introduce all the different groups and nationalities represented. The largest group, quite naturally, comprises Kenyan nationals – young people from the Kenyan Youth Climate Network (KYCN) – a hugely energetic group, with equally huge ambition for Durban. They have already managed to collect an astounding 30,000 signed petitions, out of our quarter-million target to present to the world leaders at Durban for the We Have Faith campaign (http://www.wehavefaithactnow.org). The second largest group is the Norwegian delegate, including many subgroups, with various connections to Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), an organisation running projects in Kenya:

– Change Maker Norway is NCA’s youth organisation;

– Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) aims to equip and encourage municipal authorities to act on Climate Change;

– Y Global & “Go CY” – an 8 month youth internship on Climate Change;

– Communication for Change (CFC)  is a YMCA/YWCA global volunteer programme for youth to work for positive change; and

– Tensing Norway is a fantastic initiative, bringing music, dance and entertainment to our Climate Change message.

Then there’s the wonderful media crew, from the USA and Canada (Ruth, Karmen & Ryan), many youths from other African countries, some involved with the AYICC (African Youth Initiative on Climate Change), and me! 160+ in all, travelling in 6 trucks as from Monday, all the way to Durban, promoting the petitions and amplifying the African call for Climate Justice! We also had a logistics talk, revealing a few more details about our camping arrangements (2-man tents on large campsites, with showers and loos!), the cooking equipment in the trucks and our typical schedule for the long-drive days (waking at 4am, leaving at 6am, and driving through to 6-7pm, some days!). We also set ground rules, expectations and a group code of conduct, to bond the group together, and recognise our need for teamwork and tight time management on the journey! At the end of this long meeting, a lively song burst out and people sang and danced!:

I can feel the excitement building in the atmosphere here, and people are certainly firing up to make the caravan’s impact as significant and far-reaching as possible. We see our own potential and opportunity to influence the UN process in South Africa at the end and goal of our journey.

Today, I have secured my new Safaricom phone and data on my simcard for use with my USB modem (my planning paid off!), so news, stories and media coverage will be flowing at least until we cross the Tanzanian border and change mobile network 🙂

I am really looking forward to this evening, and the continued celebration of the group we are building here. There’s such a buzz at the conference tonight! Tomorrow will bring more insight into the African cause, and continue to prepare and build the group ready for our epic journey. My aim is to balance talking to plenty of people, with giving myself enough time to reflect on what I hear. While people are amazed at my education, I am amazed at their diverse experiences, culture, and broad smiles on every face. I know this is going to be the opportunity of a lifetime, both for broadening my own horizons and for securing the future of our climate. We have BIG ambitions for the Climate Justice Caravan – we hope to get 250,000 (a quarter of a million!) petitions signed, recognising the equivalent number of African voices and experiences of Climate Change to present to our world leaders at Durban. Very exciting times…

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One response to “Blown away by first full day in Africa!

  1. Heather Clarksen

    Amazing!!
    Really inspiring Claire, what a great start to your amazing experience!
    Prayers xx

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