Report on UAE’s first academy
This is Kehkashan, a 12 year old eco-warrior, reporting on the successful inaugural academy of Plant-for-the-Planet in the United Arab Emirates. Let me start by introducing myself. I was born on 5th June which is World Environment Day and thus have always felt that it was pre-ordained that I should grow up to be an environmentalist and take care of Mother Earth. This passion took me to Rio+20 where I came in contact with Plant for the Planet’s Mr Kjell Kuehne, with whose help and guidance I became a Climate Justice Ambassador and we planted two saplings right in the middle of RIOCENTRO while the Earth Summit was in progress.
It was also then, in June, that we started working on our plan to bring Plant-for-the-Planet initiative to the UAE, where I live. Over the next several weeks, plans were made, invitations sent out, meetings held with several schools and finally we were ready to roll out. I firmly believe that the fight for conservation cannot be won by one soldier, one needs an army. To help me with my academy, I enlisted the support of my peers and we formed a core group of 10 children. I must mention their names as without their support, the academy wouldn’t have happened. My team members are Komal, Kaushik, Rachel, Rebekah, Zakariah, Rahul , Aiswarya , Ann Mary and Shweta.
We finalized 22nd September as the day of the event. Hotel Intercontinental, located in the picturesque Dubai Festival City, very kindly agreed to provide us with a spacious ballroom to host the academy. I was also able to make arrangements for planting several saplings which was basically at the core of our academy. Our academy received an overwhelming response from all the schools we approached and we had a full house of 70 students. Some of them even drove down from different cities, such as Abu Dhabi (2 hour’s drive ), Ajman and Sharjah.
The academy started with an introduction given by the Academy Coordinator, which is me, and was followed by a tree planting session. In all, we planted 64 trees.
After that we started our main presentation about climate change and what role do children and youth play in order to combat climate change. The presentation also included details on the history and vision of this organisation. This was followed by the World Café and enhanced our knowledge on how to combat climate change. This was followed by group breakouts where each group calculated their carbon footprint and came up with ideas on how to reduce the same in future. Each group chose a leader who then shared their suggestions with everyone, with the help of diagrams. It was amazing to see how everyone came up with excellent ideas on how to reduce our carbon footprint.
This was followed by a song which was composed by me as we wanted to spread the green message through music. All the participants joined in the chorus. The last activity was the distribution of certificates which certified that each participant was now a climate justice ambassador.
I concluded the academy by quoting Mark Twain, who said “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” All of us agreed that this academy was just the first step and together we could and should work towards a more sustainable future.
The academy was a huge success and drew media attention as well, being reported in the leading newspaper Gulf News ( http://www.gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/environment/uae-s-first-plant-for-the-planet-academy-takes-flight-1.1080185 ). I have already received requests from several children to hold the next academy soon. It looks like the green word is spreading fast.