Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Environmental Youth Leadership Course

32 young environmentalists took part in a three day course held by the Durban Branch of WESSA, from 29 April to 1 May, 2012.  The course aimed to develop a network of young leaders, to achieve a range of learning outcomes, to build commitment to a sustainable future, and to form a platform for further learning.

The approach taken was to provide some information and theory, but to focus mainly on three specific environments: Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve, the built environment, including Durban's Priority Zone, and the Beachwood Mangroves and Lower Umngeni River.  

The response to the course was overwhelming, and applicants had to be turned away.  There was a very diverse group of young people from ages 15 to 25, from both urban and rural backgrounds.  Attendance was consistent and each session elicited keen interest.

At the end of the course, a thorough evaluation, led by the participants, indicated that they placed a high value on the course.  They wanted more time at each venue, and felt that they had not sufficiently addressed the leadership aspects of the course - it became clear that simply learning to use the diversity of the whole group is an important challenge for environmental groups.  

From here on, the intention is to run a similar course for those who were not able to enter the course, and then to hold a follow-up course for both groups together.  

Crispin Hemson, chairperson of the branch, said, 'We have been highly impressed by the resourcefulness and commitment of the participants.  Our task is to build a new generation of environmental leadership; the potential in this group is obvious.'  Other branch members in the youth leadership team were Sbo Mkhize, Jenny Duvenage, Margaret Burger, Chen Read, Wendy Groom and Heidi Cox;  Stella Martin shared the experience since she too is a student of the environment.

Natasha Else (Danville GHS) and Layla Suffla (Westville GHS) relaxing after lunch on the last day

The whole group gathering at the end of the course.  Participants covered a wide range of backgrounds and experience.

Jenny Duvenage speaks passionately about the mangroves in Durban Bay

A visit to a green building was a new experience for almost all course participants

Katherine Byron of the Priority Zone explains how the issues of the environment impact on the city centre of Durban.

Scenes from the roof garden at the Priority Zone - the idea of a roof garden in the city was a novel one that raised new issues on the urban environment.

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