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16 April, 2009

Giving Nation winners set out to the rainforest of Cameroon

On 15th April 2009, national winners of the Citizenship Foundation's Giving Nation Awards set off on a once in a life time journey to the heart of the Cameroon rainforest.

The winners, six 11-17 year olds from Rushcliffe Comprehensive School, Nottingham will begin their adventure in Yaoundé, the capital of the Central African country, before they travel to the depths of the forest to experience first hand the work of the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), to protect the forest and the rights of tribes indigenous to the Cameroon rainforest.

The Nottingham teenagers were awarded the prestigious Giving Nation award in October 2008 in recognition of the outstanding charity and community action organized by the students at their secondary school and in their local community. As national winners the students have won the top Giving Nation prize: the chance to spend a week with the Rainforest Foundation UK, a charity committed to long term human rights and environmental protection.

The young activists will spend a week meeting and living amongst local indigenous Baka community in Nomedjo, Eastern Cameroon, immersed in practical lessons on plant and animal life from the hunter-gatherer people. Alongside lessons in how the Baka derive medicine and their livelihoods from the plant and over 350 animal species in the forest, honey collection, fishing and a football tournament with children at the Nomedjo village school, they will learn about the threat that deforestation and climate change pose for the livelihoods of the Baka people in the remote forest.

An important part of the students interactive experience living with the Baka will be dedicated to learning about the discrimination faced by young people from the Baka community and the Rainforest Foundation's work to support Baka children to access education in the region. The Baka are one of four pygmy groups indigenous to the Cameroon rainforest, but despite living in the forest for thousands of years, like the Bakola, Bedzang and Bagyeli 'Pygmy' peoples, they are still denied basic rights of citizenship and their use of the forest is not recognised in Cameroonian law. Commercial forestry and deforestation pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of the Baka.

Upon their return to the capital, the students will be invited to present what they have witnessed in the forest to local and international media at a special press conference at the British High Commission.

Their field trip to the remotest region of the rainforest, interaction with the Baka and the press conference in Yaoundé will prepare the Nottingham for their roles as youth ambassadors for RFUK and the world's rainforests; carrying the message of the need to protect the world's rainforests from deforestation and climate change to other young people, schools and communities upon their return UK.

"Helping people is really important to me and I really enjoy talking to people about the causes I feel strongly about, I truly think that through our actions and the amazing experiences that await us in Cameroon we can show people how easy and important it is to help others and care about the environment." Stevie Greaves, aged 13 from the Rushcliffe Comprehensive School team explained.

The Rushcliffe student team first demonstrated their potential as champions for local and global causes when they entered the Giving Nation Awards in July 2008. To enter the student charity team recorded all the fundraising, campaigning, and volunteering actions that had been organized entirely by students in school and the local community throughout the 2008-9 academic year.

Competing against 91 entries from schools around the U.K. on the Giving Nation website, the Nottingham students entry documented over 200 charity team including a campaign set up by students to lobby local residents to donate their mobile phones to save 169 square feet of rainforest and inviting MP Kenneth Clarke to a debate with the school's Citizenship Club on whether the UK should apologise for the slave trade to be broadcast on the BBC East politics show.

Bex Bailey, aged 17, from the winning team explained:

"At Rushcliffe School Citizenship Club we are lucky to have access to education and the support to raise money for charities; we want to use that opportunity to help others and inspire others to do the same. Our work as a charity team is really important to us so being recognised for it is simply a brilliant bonus and going to the rainforest has been a lifelong dream for me, so this is literally a dream come true!"

The student team return to the U.K on Thursday 23rd April. For a full press release, interviews, footage and photos please contact the Giving Nation Team.

Giving Nation (G-Nation), a project of the Citizenship Foundation that supports and promotes young people's learning and engagement in charitable activity, volunteering, social enterprise and campaigning through free teaching resources, the Giving Nation Challenge, the Giving Nation online awards programme and a website for young people and schools: www.g-nation.co.uk.


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