Last weekend, on July 5- 6 2014, a few selected youth environmentalists, including myself, made their way into the beautiful scenery and accommodations of Ten Cents to Heaven in Tanay, Rizal alongside the Greenpeace youth camp coordinators. Walking out into the unfamiliar landscape, I clutched my bag hard and opened myself into what would be an incredible weekend.
There seemed to be a collective air of optimism from the other school representatives for what laid ahead, but it was clear from the awkward exchange of names and organization titles that we were, for the most part, unfamiliar with each other. Likely so, as there were representatives ranging from schools as large as Lasalle Dasmariñas to relatively smaller schools such as Montessori (IJMC), from international schools such as my alma mater British School Manila (BSM) and even some students all the way from Davao, Mindanao. We familiarized quickly as within a few hours we were thrusted into a series of entertaining and engaging icebreaker and teambuilding activities.
Although at first these activities seemed irrelevant to me, most probably due to the nature of the environmental camps or programs that I had previously attended, I allowed myself to enjoy it. This camp uniquely deemed its focus towards networking; this lent to a more casual and laidback atmosphere that was foreign to me. Despite this initial thought, I soon realized the importance of building relationships with people who share the same aspirations and objectives as me. Greenpeace captures this idea beautifully with their saying “simple acts when done collectively will help stop climate change,” and this was the entire purpose of the camp. It seems like the standard school setting, has more often than not, forced us to engage in very school-exclusive activities; this then translated into our environmental activities. However, Greenpeace addresses this problem and in effect, organized this camp in attempt to engage the different schools and cross the lines drawn by many years of competitiveness. After all, we were all essentially members of the same cause: overall sustainability. It was not long until many interesting personalities aroused and we all got a sense of what each school organization upheld, which was very interesting to witness and learn about.
In this camp, we not only shared rooms; we shared new perspectives, new approaches, ideas and opinions. I feel that this was critical in the learning process of each participant, and after watching each school present its past activities and work ethic, everyone left the hall with a heightened sense of motivation and inspiration. This transcended throughout the entire camp, and hopefully throughout our experiences as future activists.
Aside from this, we were also given a chance to meet and listen to official Greenpeace members talk about certain campaigns that they specialized in. These ranged from familiar campaigns such as climate change, to less familiar like that of GMOs. This gave us critical information on the extent of the urgency that each campaign required, but this was also not simply a lecture. What I feel Greenpeace did particularly effectively is how they explained each cause, but more importantly concluded with possible solutions and even gave examples of approaches they have personally tried and tested. They showed us what worked and what didn’t, and more significantly, they taught us that sometimes failures are the most important lessons learnt, which was obviously hard to swallow being a youth born and raised in the 21st century.
When the last day finally dawned upon us, we all left the venue with heavy hearts probably from the attachment we all felt to the place and the people we grew to enjoy, but alongside this was the sense of a newly found ambition. We all left knowing that we were not alone in the causes we defended. Greenpeace gave us the opportunity to create connections with people we otherwise may have never met. Our hearts felt heavy, because we knew that our causes could only be fought more effectively and driven forward more intensely through collaboration and we can only thank Greenpeace for imparting their knowledge and support to the youths that participated.
Jacqueline Teer is a youth representative for The British School Manila.