There is this mad rush of adrenaline in all kids whenever I go to schools for presentations. I look around and find myself surrounded by curious eyes, sheepish grins, or even students nudging each other to sit at the front row. I find teachers with their hands on their hips, frown lines across their forehead and raising a finger to their lips and asking all the very excited students to keep quiet.
I simply smile to myself thinking “okay … making these kids listen to you is a challenge but I just hope .. really hope *fingers crossed* that our message will reaches out to them in a way they really enjoy”. And there goes my frown lines too, as I am lost into whirlpool of thoughts. I am at St.Mary’s School situated in one of the posh localities of New Delhi. It’s a huge well maintained campus and I had come here as part of Green Warrior to raise awareness about the environment for students.
Green Warrior is a Greenpeace India programme designed to motivate students, teachers and parents to act in a more socially and environmentally responsible way. We regularly reach out to hundreds of school students, and further into colleges across India’s cities. Today we have active Green Warrior projects in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata. And although a new programme, things are going really well.
So how do you start?
The process starts with a Green Warrior mapping out a list of schools in a particular zone and the necessary contact details. Much of this comes from the personal networks of the Green Warrior or internet research. Then the long process of calling and dropping proposal letters to concerned eco-club coordinators and schools principals. Finally one needs to have the patience to wait for the phone to ring, and a curious teacher to invite you to come to her school for an appointment.
What does an appointment look like?
Good communications focused on Greenpeace key messages are critical for a Green Warrior event, but designing the content to be ‘student friendly’ is as important – to connect them to the cause through practical eco-activities.
Dissecting the communications – we start with an introduction about Greenpeace – either a verbal presentation or by screening relevant videos, currently with a climate change focus. We then follow up with an interactive session of perhaps 45 minutes, ideally for students from class 7 to 9. During this introductory session the Green Warrior will talk about the current campaign and the concept of giving a missed call on 080 300 88 435 for the current forest / Jungistan campaign.
After the introduction phase, where the students have been sensitized to the issues, Green Warriors organize a photo exhibition, open for all students from classes 1 to 9. The photos are focused on a current campaign and are displayed on school premises as an open space. With the help of volunteers, students and teachers are invited to visit. The explanation of the campaign and stories behind the photos further sensitizes them to environmental issues. Again the idea of giving a missed call is introduced.
Finally other activities are conducted like poster making, paper bag making, shirt writing, slogan writing, pledge tree writing or thumb imprints on a tree and so on. The main objective is to engage the students further, by giving them a platform to share their views and opinions in a creative manner. These are the communication tools of a Green Warrior – words, videos, images and creative action.
So what makes the programme different?
Well unlike many offices Greenpeace youth or Greenspeaker projects, the Green Warrior programme has a unique blend of fundraising element running through its veins …
During each session, Green Warriors talk about “Giving a Missed Call on 080 300 88 435” to support the cause of Jungistan and saving forests – a current campaign of Greenpeace India. From these missed calls, leads are generated and then the communication, tele-fundraising and supporter services call up students or their family members, to sensitize them about Greenpeace and where appropriate to ask for support financially or as volunteers.
What is the role of volunteers?
Just like humans need oxygen to breathe, Green Warriors rely on support from volunteers. Volunteers are recruited from colleges, Direct Dialogue teams or through Public Engagement activities. The volunteers once recruited, are then inducted through an orientation process where they are introduced to their role and how their support makes such a valuable contribution to the programme.
Each volunteer performs a range of functions as per their capability. From fixing up an appointment at schools and colleges, to conducting presentation, distributing pamphlets (or other Green Warrior materials) or organizing an activity. Green Warrior volunteers are encourages to take forward the mission of Greenpeace, using their creativity, and their own network of contacts.
Feedback from volunteers has been very positive, and the programme has proved itself as a resource platform for everyone involved from students to working professionals, to develop their own opportunities and to rediscover themselves.
And the role of Green Warrior coordinators?
I started as a coordinator in Delhi, one month and fourteen days ago, and so far it has been a good experience. I’ve visited four schools across Delhi city, and have received entirely positive responses. For a recent visit to Panipat (in the state of Haryana) the school visit was entirely led by a volunteer.
I believe that programmes such as Green Warrior really illustrate how important mobilization is, to not only achieve the goals of the campaign, but also to build the people power that supports and sustains Greenpeace beyond our immediate campaign goals. Educating and inspiring the youth of today, to grow up into environmentally responsible citizens and Greenpeace supporters of tomorrow, is a worthwhile goal.
But sometimes being a Green Warrior coordinator seems a little crazy, and an uphill struggle. After mailing twenty letters, direct visits and phone calls my efforts really did start to pay off, the results were sweet and the calls inviting me to visit made my day – so yayy for that!!!
Finally in the next two years, I am confident that the Green Warrior programme will reach out to different cities across India and every school will be covered … that phones will keep ringing, inviting the coordinators to come down to a school, along with enthusiastic volunteers to start with a presentation, and to end with an inspiring future of a green and peaceful world.