Nottingham Teens head to Cameroon to Save the Rainforest
On the 23rd of April, six Nottingham teenagers, national winners of the Citizenship Foundation’s Giving Nation Awards, returned from a once in a lifetime journey to the heart of the Cameroon rainforest experiencing first hand the work of the Rainforest Foundation.
The young representatives from winning school Rushcliffe Comprehensive in Nottingham began their adventure in Yaoundé, the capital of the Central African country, before traveling into the Rainforest to experience first hand the work of the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), to preserve the Rainforest, its wildlife and habitat and to protect the rights of the Baka, a people who have lived sustainably in the forest for thousands of years.
Rushcliffe Comprehensive were awarded the prestigious Giving Nation award in October 2008 in recognition of their outstanding commitment to charity and community action at school and in their wider community. Their prize for outstanding achievement was this once in a life-time trip enabling six students and three teachers a chance to work with the RFUK in Cameroon. The aim of the trip was to stimulate the young people to become ambassadors for the important work of the RFUK and for the value of supporting the many other Third Sector organisations who serve causes both at home and abroad.
The majority of the students' seven-day trip was spent staying with and learning from the Baka people; a community of some 50,000 people currently living across Southern and Eastern Cameroon. Immersed in the Baka way of life, the teenagers were taught to fish by Baka women; were taught how the nomadic hunter-gatherers derive medicine from the threatened plant and animal life and they experienced the wealth of local culture and traditions through ceremonies, festivals and the daily activities of the community.
In true British spirit the young Brits also organised a friendly football tournament with children at a local school. On leaving the village the students presented to their hosts, and in particular to their new young friends, gifts of thanks they had personally bought and collected from their school and community in the UK and carried to Cameroon.
"The Baka people have lived in the forest for thousands of years, yet their rights to basic things like education and the land they live on are not recognised by Cameroonian law. One of the young girls we met, Aelena like lots of young Baka people had experienced bullying and even though she was passionate about becoming a teacher, the financial circumstances of her family thanks to their lack of access to land, were preventing her from achieving her dream." Bex, a student on the trip from Rushcliffe explained.
Through consultation with Baka village elders and young people, the Rainforest Foundation are sponsoring the education of sixteen young Baka girls and boys at two local schools.
Education up to seconday school age, however, is uncommon amongst the Baka. A range of causes including school fees which the Baka can often not afford to pay, the difficulties which are presented in accessing education for people who do not have Cameroonian citizenship status (as is the case with the Baka) make accessing education difficult for the Baka.
Through meeting young Baka people of their age and hearing of their dreams and aspirations, the British students learnt of the urgency to protect the rights of the Baka and improve access to education.
Leaving the Baka community in Nomedjo, the students followed logging trucks on their route back to the capital. Richard John of Giving Nation who joined the students on their trip said:
"Deforestation and commercial logging thraten the Baka way of life daily and it is devastating to see these trucks piled high with trees so precious to the forest environment and the Baka but we can seek a small amount of comfort that the students from Rushcliffe will become powerful ambassadors for protecting the rainforest and the work of organizations like the Rainforest Foundation UK, educating their peers and others on the importance of protecting the lungs of the earth."
Upon their return to the Cameroon capital the students took part in a press conference and radio interviews with national and international media. This was followed by an invitation to share their experiences and insights with the British High Commissioner in Yaoundé.
Now back in the UK the students have expressed their passion and determination to build links with the Cameroonian communities they were hosted by through letter writing and an international school partnership. The group of young people also hope to drive a campaign in Nottingham and across the UK to encourage other young people to recognise the unconscious role we can play in the act of deforestation and how we might make consumer choices or lend our support for a better solution for the Rainforests of the world and the people and animals who live in them.
"Back at school I want to research and let people know about the changes they can make, like not buying furniture made from rainforest hard wood, to prevent deforestation. I want every one to know the impact their lives and needs are having on a forest and way of life thousands of miles away." Fliss Cooper, 17, explained.
Programme Director, Anna Reid, summarised the importance of the trip for Giving Nation and the Citizenship Foundation.
"The students from Rushcliffe Comprehensive are a great example of the power of young people to reshape their world through getting involved and giving to others. Giving Nation is about supporting the next generation of engaged, caring and generous citizens. We believe with more young people engaged in causes, such as these Nottingham teens with the Cameroon Rainforest, we can support better, stronger communities for us all."
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Your commentsFrom ama biney -
As a historian and teacher of African history for 15 years, I think its not just politically incorrect to continue to use the term tribe when referring to communities in Africa (used at least 4 times in the article). This word is pejorative - even without intending to be so. It's origins derive in European colonialism and conveys a primitive, backward people stuck in time. Implicit within it is the belief that such a people will with time and Western input evolve to a more modern way of life and standard. Secondly, we need to ask: Is there a Serb, Croat, Roma, or Slav tribe? Or what about the Scottish, Welsh, English or Irish tribe? In short, why are tribes only found in Africa and nowhere else? We should as educators seek to educate our students away from such negative associations as words, concepts influence how we perceive people and realities. Less value laden terms are: community or people.
From Felicity Tyson - London
Dear Ama,Thank you for your thoughtful response. We have changed all reference to the term 'tribe' to people in the article to avoid any possible negative associations. Please understand that our use of this word was in no way meant in a pejorative fashion and simply followed much of the information we had gathered from sources on both continents in preparation and during the trip.On consulting with our friends at the Rainforest Foundation UK today we realised that whilst the term is used heavily, they do try to avoid its use themselves for very similar reasons as those you have outlined. Please be assured that we have the utmost respect for all of the communities and people we had the pleasure of visiting and working with and would never knowingly insult them. We thank you for pointing out that this word could be taken negatively and we hope you will accept our apologies for any offence we might have caused.On behalf of Giving Nation, Felicity TysonCommunications Officer and Web Editor