Youth start to farm ecologically, putting theory into practice in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
“Taking this course has provided a new lens for me to assess my habits around food, and my values.”“I can get in touch with alternative narratives which are so different from the mainstream one. I realise there are so many possibilities!”
Two young learners articulate their experiences with innovative learning opportunities with our partners, Chengdu Qingpu Social Work Service Centre and Zhiji Youth Development Centre.
Coming of age is a time of searching, a time of selfdiscovery, a time to question the meaning of life, and a time to develop one’s own relationship with the world. Pressure can mount, and self-doubt. Our partners, and PCD too, believe that the values and choices of the younger generation will greatly shape the future of our planet. Youth face many challenges: movements of population, resources and information; the climate crisis and ecological degradation; and rapid economic and technological advancement. We also believe that ‘macro’ concepts need to be understood in terms of ‘micro’ daily life choices, so in March 2020, a youth development and support project was launched, with a value-centred curriculum to live consciously, conscientiously and sustainably.
The first component, a two-month online learning, has encouraged youth to reflect on their current way of life through the focal point of food. The course has included guided reading, applied activities, and discussions with facilitators from various fields. Participants made a record of what they purchased over a six-month period to assess the differences between needs and wants; they grew vegetables to connect with nature; and they reviewed significant events in their lives, coming to see how their certain values, beliefs and decisions have played a role. Some youth have gone beyond learning to act: setting up a consumer cooperative, forming a sustainable living podcast group, refraining from buying garments for a period of time, extending their farming projects, and taking part in a mutually supportive online youth community.
The second project component was a six-month colearning initiative in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Youth participated in four modules. In the thematic learning module, they examined the assumptions of mainstream development and developed critical thinking skills. The facilitation skills module focused on values and skills, such as respect, empathy and listening. The personal growth module incorporated self-awareness, non-violent communication and nature connection activities. The local case studies module created opportunities to visit farms, markets, and eco-homes – young learners engaged with various sustainable living practitioners.
Overall, participating youth have felt this broad base of learning, experience, self-reflection, and support to be invaluable as they consider personal and social change. And in the future, our partners plan to collaborate with other practitioners and groups, opening up even more experiences, narratives and approaches as youth imagine their future, and the world’s.
Listen to this participant! “I am moved, and at the same time am beginning to question all that I have taken for granted. It is amazing that reflecting on food makes me feel so alive. Other beings are nourishing our life. It is hard to express this feeling. Perhaps another way of putting it is: All beings are one”.