Each of us can make a difference


We interviewed some representatives of the NGO ACRA as part of the project "Climate change? We act the change" funded for the second year with 8x1000 funds from the Italian Buddhist Institute Soka Gakkai. The aim of the project is to accompany younger generations to strengthen their environmental awareness and leading role in proposing concrete solutions to combat climate change.

How is the new project in line with the previous and recently concluded project “Climate Change? Claim The Change!”?

Dolma Bornengo, ACRA’s partnerships and fundraising manager, answers
The first project “Climate Change? Claim the Change!” supported with 8×1000 funds from the Soka Gakkai Italian Buddhist Institute was implemented in the immediate post-pandemic context and responded to the urgency of young people to meet, motivate and network with respect to issues related to climate change and environmental awareness.
The new project reaches out to the same groups, in multiple regions of Italy: teachers, students and youth activists, and it does so by renewing the methodologies we found effective in the experience gained from the last edition.
Through courses for teachers we provide educational innovations, tools and methodologies, to help them convey concepts related to climate change and environmental protection. Their training is very important because each teacher manages multiple classes to which they will transmit what they have collected.
In working with students, we transmit to them practical methods for reducing their own environmental impact during daily activities. This is done through inclusive and innovative teaching methodologies, such as theater or outdoor education.
The last group the project targets is that of young activists. Through our work with them we collect good practices and territorial experiences that address the concept of climate change from the small scale. Since the call for “environmental challenges” has been established, we were able to map, from north to south, more than 100 realities of young people gathered in associations that address climate change with their own point of view and approach.
In this edition as well there will be a final moment, a residential campus, which will allow young people to meet and network their experiences and good practices. All this creates critical mass and strengthens both motivation and the impact of their own environmental solutions.
With the first edition of the project, we trained more than 100 teachers, reached more than 1,400 students and accompanied 140 young people nationwide in implementing their environmental solutions.
The new project aims to renew these goals and results by training more than 100 teachers, reaching even more students, and engaging youth through a new call for
“Environmental Challenges” reaching about 150 young people.
The people who are indirectly involved in the project are many more: the impact of each activity will have a cascading benefit on the communities in which they take place.

Is there a message you would like to dedicate to young people who have lost hope that they can take action to counter the climate crisis or who are experiencing high anxiety related to the future of the planet?

What I would like to say to young people, on behalf of ACRA, is to engage with their peers who are already doing a lot to counter climate change by addressing the causes and the solutions that can be put in place. Through the call for Environmental Challenges, we have collected many proposals from small associations and youth groups that are already doing a lot on a small scale. It is great to see what each of us can do, together with others, to protect the environment on a daily basis and reduce our impact. So what we recommend is to start from your own local area and local impact, to develop on a small scale the awareness that each of us can make a difference!

The project is aimed at accompanying the new generations in acquiring and strengthening environmental awareness and their role as protagonists in combating climate change.
What is global citizenship education for ACRA and how can it contribute to the formation of new generations?

Giulia Zivieri, Education Area Coordinator – Italy Europe Sector in ACRA answers
Global citizenship education is an approach that focuses on people as protagonists of change, starting from the reality around them while maintaining a focus on interdependence at the global level.
With ACRA, we seek to translate environmental sustainability education for boys and girls into a proposal in which they are truly protagonists of change themselves, looking at what they can do at the territorial level and knowing that their behaviors and actions at the local level have meaning at the global level.
In this way, the change of the individual, the individual behaviors, are embedded in a larger system that concerns policies and being active citizens. In this way, young people are helped to discover what skills and knowledge they can enrich and implement in order to get better and better, looking to the future.

One part of the project involves courses for teachers on agroecology and innovative methodologies related to the Sustainable Development Goals that will make teachers autonomous in offering pathways to them. What impact do you anticipate these actions will have?

Our courses aim not only to provide knowledge and give information, but to support teachers and lecturers by offering tools to enrich their teaching from the standard curriculum they already deal with on a daily basis.
The focus of the courses is environmental sustainability, agroecology, and the goal is to be able to address it in a cross-curricular, interdisciplinary way.
The school courses are developed both vertically to accompany students as they grow from the first to the last year of the curriculum, and horizontally across disciplines.
In our courses, teachers compare their experiences and best practices, especially with a view to interweaving what happens inside the school with the outside.
We talk about the educating community when we ask what the territory can offer the school, what the school is building together with its students and what contribution it can bring to the territory.

How important is it to foster a network among youth activists and share good practices already in place in the territories?

Elena Muscarella, Project Manager – Italy-Europe Programs at ACRA, answers
The networking of youth associations that promote environmental sustainability initiatives at the local level is very important and strategic, because it can help influence policies at the local level.
In our experience, we have seen that very often girls and boys propose timely initiatives linked to real needs, which arise from a desire to produce change on their own territory and improve situations about which there is often little awareness on the part of other actors.
It is essential to have a listening attitude toward them, facilitating the possibility of getting to know each other and networking. In the territories, although they are different in terms of geographical situation, social context or location, very similar initiatives are proposed in terms of objectives to be achieved.

Can you share a particularly significant testimony related to the project?

Thanks to the support of the Soka Gakkai Italian Buddhist Institute, we have been able to support an initiative that is particularly innovative for us in terms of its incisiveness, which is that of the Cosmonauts Association of Piacenza. It is a youth association that was created to bring into dialogue two worlds that seem apparently far apart: agriculture and the social inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorder.
The association took over the management of a space that was previously abandoned and now used as a community garden, thanks also to the support of the City of Piacenza. In a short time, the social agriculture project has become a widespread education project for local schools.
In the garden, in fact, the Association also offers educational workshops for elementary school boys and girls, thus creating bridges between school and territory.

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