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Bootcamp boost for young climate activists

The second Youth Climate Champion (YCC) bootcamp, held at Cradle Moon in Gauteng recently, saw 20 enthusiastic young activists and facilitators from all over South Africa come together to learn, network, and gain new skills. YCC intern Charmaine Mogale was on hand to witness what was a transformative week for the participants.

A group photo of the young climate activists who attended the YCC Bootcamp.
© WWF South Africa
The bootcamp participants arrived as strangers, but after spending the week together, firm friendships were formed.
​Career focus

On the first day of the YCC bootcamp, I could feel the nervousness of the participants in the air as they arrived – from not knowing what to expect, to meeting new people from different backgrounds, with different views and opinions.  

We kicked off the first day with a fun-filled, warm-up session to get to know each other led by one of our amazing facilitators for the week, Zaynab Sadan from WWF South Africa. Each participant had to come up with an adjective to describe their name and every individual had to memorise those words. If you got a name wrong, you were out of the game. 

Later in the day, we dived into a session on environmental careers and a career fair. There were participants from the legal sectors, business administration, philosophy, finance and politics, to name but a few. This session really demonstrated how climate action is a challenge that requires collaboration across many sectors. 

The group sitting together as they get to one another
© WWF South Africa
A getting-to-know-you icebreaker with Zaynab Sadan from WWF South Africa.

By Day 2, it was wonderful to witness how quickly friendship bonds were forming. This was a very important day focusing on discussions about international, national, and local climate policy, which is the core reason for running the bootcamp.  

As members of the YCC team, we were worried that this would be a tough, content-heavy day, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how the presenters went out of their way to make it as interactive and engaging as possible. 

I particularly enjoyed the session on national climate policy – with an interesting activity conducted as a mini-parliament session. The aim was to come up with an agreement on proposed solutions for higher temperatures and frequent fires in Johannesburg, as an example of the kinds of issues likely to confront local authorities as the climate crisis intensifies. 

My key takeaway was how the speakers made it so easy to understand the different ways in which young people could influence policies in city management.  

Participants sit round a table
© WWF South Africa
Bootcamp participants put their thinking caps on for an exercise on climate policy.
Energy boost

 After two very busy days, energy levels were a bit low at the start of the third day, and so I was given the task of running a 15-minute aerobic workout, which quickly got the entire conference room going.  

This was followed with an interactive session with our climate justice and equity speaker Alia Kajee, from 350.org, who challenged us to visualise an ideal community. Later in the day, we moved on to one of my favorite sessions on building tolerance and resilience with speaker Ntombi Ndaba, our psychologist from the University of Witwatersrand, who invited us to share personal experiences. Initially, we thought we would experience a number of personality clashes due to the diverse backgrounds of the group, but everything went smoothly. 

Day four was led by Irfaan Mangera from Rise Mzansi, who focused on youth climate activism and influencing climate policies. Here we learned about the importance of voting and staying in touch with relevant issues affecting our nation. What I loved most was how Irfaan helped us to imagine the future we would like to see using social and climate activism to push that vision forward.  

A session on social media was just what we needed to learn how to put ourselves in spaces that allow us to make changes within society. As an activity, participants had to come up with a campaign to raise awareness for a project or cause that they are passionate about, which blended well with the climate activism session.   

Examples of the social media posts created by participants.
© WWF South Africa
The group also spent time exploring the potential of social media for climate activism
Adieu but not goodbye

Friday was an emotional last day, as we bid farewell to new friends. We ended the day with a beautiful reflection on the bootcamp experience. It was clear from the remarks that came through that all the hard work had paid off: “This is truly a life changing experience”; “We are grateful for this opportunity to learn”; “We love that as young people our ideas can be heard and taken into consideration”. We closed off the day with a certificate presented by the YCC team and Musa Gwebani, the policy officer with the European Union delegation in South Africa. 

The Youth Climate Champions Programme is an activity of the Climate Ambition to Accountability Project which is co-funded by the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation. The project partners are WWF South Africa, the Institute for Economic Justice and Climate Action Network South Africa.  

The Climate Ambition to Accountability project aims to empower youth to engage in climate policy.
Charmaine Mogale Photo
Charmaine Mogale, YCC Programme Intern

Charmaine Mogale is an intern with the YCC programme and believes in a holistic approach to the health of the world and all that is in it. She is passionate about sustainability and finding innovative ways to combat climate change.

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