Climate Crisis is one of the most vogue crises people are facing in this dystopian era. Currently, it is the most popular topic on this planet. To solve this crisis, young people around the world are working vividly - focusing on the do's and don'ts.
However, looking at the glass ceiling of Global South, the young people of Bangladesh are also trying their hardest to save their communities - as it is currently the seventh most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Likewise, Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI), a Youth-led Organization, works to ensure a peaceful environment around the people and protect the planet. It is one of the initiatives that have worked to save the planet since its beginning and a platform for youth allies. To be precise, the platform believes in 4C - Courage, Character, Compassion, and Competence. With more than 10 years of environmental actions - BYEI has empowered young people from all over Bangladesh. BYEI believes that a new generation of planetary stewards with consciousness, capacity, and motivation to act can transform the vision of a just, equitable, sustainable, and prosperous Bangladesh into a reality.
As a part of its intervention to fight the environmental crisis, every year BYEI arranges an Earth Champions Program (ECP) designed for youths who are enthusiastic to protect their community, hence the planet. Earth Champions Program (ECP) is the signature youth environmental stewardship program of BYEI designed to equip aspiring change-makers of Bangladesh with environmental knowledge and leadership capacity to be an agent of change for a just and prosperous Bangladesh. The three major components of this fellowship program are Learn, Lead and Act. The ECP 2022 Journey follows six steps process-oriented intervention which begins with the Selection of Fellows, Earth Camp, Knowledge Session, Earth Club Formation, and Environmental Action Project, and ends with a grand Graduation Ceremony in September 2023.
BYEI's determined team has been successfully organizing this fellowship program for the last 11 years. This year, BYEI has recently organized a five day Earth Camp for the Earth Champions Program fellows across the country. The fellowship is sponsored by the US Embassy in Dhaka, Ambassade de France au Bangladesh - French Embassy in Dhaka, and Arannayk Foundation. ECP 2022 fellows represented thirty different academic institutions all over Bangladesh. Moreover, nine hundred applications from one hundred and fifty institutions were submitted across Bangladesh. From these, BYEI selected forty-two fellows for this year following a rigorous process of a written application, and two-step interviews. Among the selected 42 fellows, 17 were female and 24 were male fellows who successfully participated in this year's cohort, whom BYEI recognized as the "Planetary Stewards". Alongside the fellows, BYEIs supervised their entire camp with a designated pool of mentors, facilitators, and experts who have given their dedication to every possible problem.
The ECP 2022 cohort has been a diverse and dimensional cohort as fellows have joined from different geographic areas and cultural backgrounds. Most of the fellows have witnessed the worst effect of the environmental crisis and have battled hard life situations with their own experiences. During the camp, these fellows shared the environmental challenges in their community and the knowledge following a coping mechanism they adopted during those hard times.
This 5-day camp was designed with meticulous activities which gave fellows a rollercoaster-like ride, filled with many activities and layers of experiences. It gave every fellow the most profound understanding and impacted their perspectives. They realized how actions and knowledge can make a huge impact, and how they can change the planet through a shared humanity and mutual efforts with small steps altogether.
As you may have read before, this cohort is a much-diversified team. With this team, fellows have learned to adapt to new skills, and environmental challenges by designing innovative solutions, and got huge opportunities to learn different kinds of opinions. To mention one of the key learnings - the methodology of discipline has been intentionally installed among fellows to follow. On the other hand, fellows learned how solidarity can create a huge impact with small steps in society. Throughout the process, fellows across the country realized the process of utilizing their leadership abilities, strong communication skills, and coordination proficiency to shape a sustainable future and contribute to this purpose. To be precise, the camp days were dedicated separately to the extensive sessions on Planetary Boundaries, the Colonial Legacy of Ecological Crisis, Political Ecology and Environmental Justice, Planetary Stewardship for an Ecological Civilization, Dissecting Cases on Agriculture, Rivers, Natural Resources, System Thinking, and Problem Mapping, etc. Every session picked up every fellow's thoughts and they embarked on their new journey to protect their community. These young fellows kept the camp always fulfilled through their active participation in every capacity and activities. After three days of intensive activities, fellows had a field visit at Lakkatura Tea Garden, Sylhet, where they were divided into four different groups to find out about the details of Lakatura's Biodiversity, Labor Relations, Agro-Ecology, and an Oil Factory inside the Tea Garden.
On the closing day, guests from Dhaka joined these young fellows to inspire them. Shivani Rasanayakam, Environment, Science, Technology and Health Officer of the Embassy of the United States of America in Bangladesh congratulated the fellows saying: "You all are the champions of the earth." Additionally, Rakibul Hasan Mukul, Executive Director of Arannayk Foundation; Masud Alam Khan, Head of the Program, Arannayk Foundation, and Naser Alam, Chairperson of the BYEI Board of Trustees joined the closing ceremony to recognize these young fellows with encouragement and awarded the official ECP Fellow badge among Leaders. All the fellows successfully completed the Earth Camp with unique enthusiasm. In the end, BYEI Founder Shamir Shihab and Co-Executive Director Syed Muntasir Ridwan conveyed their gratitude to the fellows and everyone associated with the camp. They assured to continue their intervention through the process of building knowledge and leadership with their capacity to build future leaders for socio-economic well-being to achieve sustainable development goals.
The ECP fellowship has allowed fellows to meet and connect with like-minded individuals who share the same passion for fighting the injustices in the world. Having representatives from several districts of the country will help fellows to evaluate the contexts of our problems that will suit the individual needs of a nation. This immense movement will help young fellows like myself gain a deeper understanding of the role of individuals, and create pathways for the youth - to have a meaningful impact on society.
Jarin Tasnim Mim is one of the Earth Champions Program Fellows 2022, organised by Bangladesh Youth Environment Initiative (BYEI). She can be reached at - [email protected].
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