Transformative environmental education with 30 high school learners in South India - the launch of the Ecopeace Teen Cafe

3 November 2021, 6:44 AM
Logo: Ecopeace Teen Cafe logo with dove and peace sign

“When I was doing my internship at Earth Charter International Secretariat based in Costa Rica in the year 2019, one day, Mirian Vilela, Executive Director, suddenly came out of her office and observed a toucan. The entire team went outside and observed the bird with enthusiasm. Back then, I did not care much about the beauty of nature, but living with nature-loving people in a green campus transformed my life. I started observing nature more and realised how the beauty of nature influences us, thereby becoming a more peaceful human. It was then that I began to think about sharing this spirit of love for nature with younger generations in India as a means to spread awareness of peace through love.” 

These are the words of 26-year-old Greshma Raju, from Jyothirgamaya Interfaith CC in South India, who is the founder and director of Ecopeace Teen Cafe

Greshma created the Ecopeace Teen Cafe with an intention of creating a programme for teenagers who wish to be changemakers for a better world. The programme aims to create a safe space for children to interact with each other and build a sense of belongingness, while learning about important themes of environmentalism and peacebuilding. Among the 62 applications that were received, 29 students were selected to be part of the first cohort of Ecopeace Ambassadors.

The programme launched on the 2nd October 2021 as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, and is a five month experience covering four modules; community building, environment conservation, social justice and peace. The final month of the programme will bring all the themes together in an Ecopeace Global Summit, featuring guest panel discussions and the showcasing of learners' projects and initiatives. 

Photo: Screenshots of the participants in the Zoom calls for the Ecopeace Teen Cafe

The first month of the Ecopeace Teen Cafe focused on Community Building. Participants had a chance to interact with special guests, Janielle Beh (Pianist and Music Educator) and Sarah Oliver (URI Associate Director of Global Programmes) 

Greshma is not working alone, but has pulled together a team of 10 youth volunteers from around the world, who are serving as facilitators, mentors and social media support, in making this project happen. Click on the yellow arrows below to scroll through and meet the team! 

Ecopeace Teen Cafe Team
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Team
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Team
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer
Ecopeace Teen Cafe Volunteer

This project comes out of Greshma's involvement in the Euphrates Institute's (another URI CC) Peace leadership training programme, which she was introduced to through the URI network. 

When asked what has been the biggest learning so far, Greshma shared the following: 

"My mind was full of self-doubts and fears during the project designing of Ecopeace Teen Cafe.

When I decided to take the risk and come out of my comfort zone, every single challenge became an opportunity to explore something new.

Ecopeace Teen Cafe transformed my fears into courage, and I tried new things from volunteer recruitment to website development. I am not alone in this journey. I am learning and growing together with my team of volunteers and Ecopeace ambassadors.

The dream of Ecopeace Teen Cafe became a reality with the support of the United Religions Initiative, Earth Charter International and Euphrates Institute."

Watch this video of participants responses to the question of "What does nature mean to you?"

Cooperation Circles Involved