Take yourself back to Year 8 in High School. What ‘things’ took your fancy? Where did your dreams take you? Did you have fears or was your life fairly carefree? Now just imagine being a Year 8 student today.
Regardless of their personal circumstances, today’s students are living with the existential threat of climate change and what this will mean for their futures. The enormity of this reality must be impacting every youth in some way, driving some to anxiety, others to switch off from the constancy of the rhetoric and others to want to make the changes needed to turn things around.
Marie Black (on left) and Niamh Pollard (on right) are two change makers who are determined to make a difference. These year 8 Bellingen High students, working with OzGREEN’s Tomorrow’s Change Makers Program, have spent months organising the free Sustainability Picnic happening next Saturday May 1st, 11 am- 2pm at Maam Gaduying Park Bellingen.
The Tomorrow’s Change Makers Program aims to empower regional youth to deliver youth inspired community projects that address their top most concerns. And our youth have concerns aplenty…
“This is our future, our planet. We are scared. The past generations haven’t made it a liveable place for our generation. It’s not very fair,” says Niamh.
“We have to act now. The situation is bad and soon we are going to reach a tipping point where no matter what we do, we won’t be able to return the earth to its former state,” says Marie.
Such enormous issues and responsibilities falling onto such young shoulders.
The Sustainability Picnic is a way for the girls to educate our whole community about sustainability and the need to act now to protect against and reverse the impacts of climate change.
“This is a free event. People can come and go, learn a bit about sustainability in our education tent, buy a coffee from the coffee cart, listen to the music, hopefully buy some of the cordials, jams, crafts and beeswax candles that our fellow Change Makers have made and have their kids join in the Nature Play activities,” says Marie.
“We also hope the community will donate and help us raise funds for the Friends of the Kalang Headwaters and the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital,” says Niamh.
The Sustainability Picnic is just one of the initiatives to emerge from the Change Makers Program. Marlo and Evie have secured a plot at the Northbank Community Garden to grow native plants. The girls have researched plants at the library, met with a Gumbaynggirr elder to learn about plants and are now making cordials and jams with produce donated from the community, to raise money for the native plants they want to buy. The Jams and Cordials will be sold at the Sustainability Picnic.
Tyler, Harper and Erik are very passionate about Bees and raising awareness of their plight. They have been making beeswax candles to sell at the Sustainability Picnic and will donate money to the Wheen Bee Foundation. They are also interested in learning more about Bees and have considered raising money to purchase a native beehive.
Eadie, Bronte and Kirra are keen to reach a larger audience and spread the sustainability message. They are skilling up in the video and podcasting worlds and will be producing and editing their own podcast.
These young eco-warriors understand not only the need to ensure a sustainable eco-footprint, but the need to educate and spread the word.
“This program has given me the opportunity to learn leadership skills that would then enable us to project our knowledge into the community,”says Marie.
“I’m not sure if we see ourselves as leaders on a bigger stage, but we certainly want to do more in this community,” says Niamh. “We are acting and trying to get our voices heard so the leaders hear us and make the changes needed.”
This event is an absolute must-do!! We must support the efforts of our youth, who are spending their time trying to correct the mistakes of the past in order to ensure a safer future. For me personally, chatting with two such passionate young women gave me a sense of hope for our collective futures.
Marie and Niamh would like to thank Kombu Wholefoods, Ritual Chai, MidWaste and Bellingen IGA, their sponsors for the picnic and of course OzGREEN, for their ongoing support and resources.