Green Roots: Empowering Youth For Environmental Action

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On a sunlit morning that marked Earth Day 2024, beneath the vintage trees of West African Senior High School (WASS), a remarkable scene unfolded. This was not your average school day; it was a gathering energized by the spirit of Earth Day, buzzing with the energy of young minds ready to confront the interconnected challenges of the climate crisis, plastic pollution, and the pursuit of good health and well-being.

The “Green Roots: Planet vs. Plastic” event under the theme “Roots & Reclamation: Planting for Tomorrow, Resisting Plastic Pollution”, organized by GAYO Eco-Clubs alongside Travel Wings and Edu-Sustain Hub, brought a refreshing twist to environmental activism.

Partnerships were formed with key stakeholders including the Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO), Break Free From Plastics, the West African Senior High School Old Student Association (2005 year group), Upcycle It Ghana, and Healthier Diets 4 Healthy Lives (HD4HL), all contributing to the program’s holistic approach to environmental and health advocacy.

The venue itself was a statement – opting for the natural coolness provided by leafy branches rather than the hum of air conditioners, setting a genuinely green stage to reduce the carbon footprints of participants. The day kicked off not with the ringing of a bell, but with a thoughtful prayer led by a student, reminding everyone why they were there – to plant seeds of change.

Mr. Enoch Kwame Mensah, who walked these school halls back in 2005, shared heartwarming words about blending learning with leadership – leading in efforts to heal our planet. He nodded with pride at the school’s leaders and praised the organizers for turning the school into a cradle of environmental stewardship.

Madam Lucy Asare-Nelson (Assistant Headmistress, Domestic), then stepped up, her welcome speech brimming with enthusiasm. She was all in, ready to back up more green events like today’s. Her energy was infectious, making it clear that the school was more than just a backdrop for the day’s activities; it was a key player.

Mr. Nana Minta Asiedu Ampadu-Minta (Manager, GAYO Eco-Clubs – Africa), neatly laid out the day’s mission: appreciate trees, and dislike single-use plastic. Simple, right? But as he spoke, it was clear that these simple ideas could stir deep change if everyone took them to heart. During his address, he emphasized the pressing need to actively involve young people in sustainable practices. “We cannot do the heavy lifting only for others, who are perhaps positioned elsewhere with the skills to assess and benefit from carbon credit activities, to reap the rewards,” he asserted.

This highlights the need for empowering our local communities with the knowledge and capabilities to participate fully in these environmentally significant opportunities. GAYO is committed to leading this charge, he declared, urging all NGOs to rethink their approaches.

His call to action was clear: transform the engagement with the youth from mere participation to real empowerment, enabling them to innovate and sustain environmental efforts. This strategic shift is essential to develop a resilient, informed generation poised to advance global environmental advocacy.

Mr. Wilfred Lamtaaba Sa-Ambo (GECCC – UG President), the driving force behind the Eco-clubs popping up in universities across the region, shared how these clubs were not just extracurricular; they were incubators of tomorrow’s environmental champions. The narrative was compelling: small clubs can make big waves.

The coordinators from Travel Wings, Mr. Neeraj, and Mr. Bathija, delved far beyond the ordinary discourse of trips and tickets; they painted vivid pictures of journeys toward sustainability. Their dynamic collaboration with schools and clubs transcended mere commercial interactions, embodying a profound shared commitment to navigate our planet towards safer, more sustainable futures. Their engaging presentations sparked enthusiasm and a sense of urgency, illustrating that every journey booked could be a step forward in the global quest for environmental stewardship.

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The hands-on moment of the day? Planting seedlings. Each young hand that touched soil and seedlings was touching the future, crafting a green legacy right there in their schoolyard.

Mr. Patrick Abbeyquaye (GAYO Eco-Club – Programs Officer) then took the stage to tackle the tough topic of plastic. With a no-nonsense approach, he invited everyone to kick the plastic habit and look towards greener alternatives. Echoing his sentiments, Mr. Reuben Kwame Komla from Upcycle It Ghana turned what could have been a dull stats session into a show-and-tell of how old clothes could turn into cool, eco-friendly tote bags.

Before the day wrapped up, Mr. Nana Minta circled back to something we can all relate to food. He connected the dots between what is on our plate and what’s happening to our planet, urging everyone to think before they eat which centred on the Healthier Diet for Healthy Lives project.

As the event drew to a close, the students were not just buzzing with excitement; they were brimming with ideas. They talked about what they could do, right there, right then, to start making a difference.

Mr. Kow Aboagye-Ghunney summed it all up perfectly. Gratitude was the word of the hour – gratitude to everyone who made the day possible, and gratitude for the fresh wave of hope that was palpable in the air.

“Green Roots: Planet vs. Plastic” was not just an event; it was a beginning. Here, beneath the old trees of a beloved school, a new chapter in environmental action had begun, penned by the youngest guardians of our Earth.

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