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Total raised so far £52,148
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Black2Nature fights for equal access to nature for all, like the right to access education and health. This is important because everybody should have the benefit of being able to go out into natural spaces, for their enjoyment but for good mental and physical health. Vulnerable and disadvantaged Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) children and teenagers are particularly at risk of entering the foster care, prison or mental health system without our early intervention.
Mya-Rose Craig AKA Birdgirl setup Black2Nature in 2016 running both outdoor nature camps and organising her Race Equality in Nature conferences. In 2020 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Science at the age of 17, she is the youngest British citizen to receive such an award.
Mya-Rose's parents regularly took her birdwatching with her sister Ayesha, as a family they are incredibly passionate about spending a lot of time on nature reserves and in national parks. Growing up being British Bangladeshi there were few people of colour in nature and everyone else in the countryside at that time was almost always white and did not look like her, this had a huge impact on her.
When Mya-Rose was 13, she read an article about nature camps for teenagers in America, which excited her, however she wondered why there weren't any nature camps for teenagers at that time in the UK. So, her parents said why don’t you just organise one yourself? So that’s what Mya-Rose did. She organised her first nature camp mainly for birdwatching along with other activities that she wanted to do.
A few months later, when she had 12 young people booked onto the camp, she realised that they were all affluent white boys. It was at this point that she thought ‘If I’m organising a camp and its all white middle class boys booked on, imagine camps where there are more diverse voices’. She decided that she was going to find young marginalised people to come onto the camp, so she used her contacts within Bristol’s minority ethnic communities and eventually managed to find 5 boys who were willing to come on the camp.
When they arrived, the boys had no idea what to expect and had a fun packed Friday evening, cooking on the BBQ, playing football and doing the things they were used to doing. On Saturday morning they were up early at 6am to go birdwatching but the minority ethnic boys instead of getting dressed very quickly they were in the toilets putting gel on their hair and getting ready for their day out.
When we got to the reserve, the boys were almost immediately complaining that their feet and calves hurt, generally not happy at all. It was only a 10 minute walk to get to the first birdwatching platform, so they were really relieved that they had made it and could sit down. When they arrived, all the other boys were looking through their telescopes excitedly at birds they had never heard of like bitterns and garganey. The minority ethnic boys looked around and said oh, this is pretty and then they sat down and that was it, that was their engagement with the landscape. They looked really bored and Mya-Rose was wondering what she was going to do and it seemed like the whole thing was a huge mistake.
One of the young volunteers started to talk to the boys about the speed of Peregrine Falcons. He compared the speed in which they dropped and used gravity, going for the kill to a formula one race car. It was at that moment that those 5 inner-city boys connected with nature. They were really mesmerised and interested in what they were hearing.
After this moment the camp was easy, they were engaged and loved all of it. This was the moment when Mya-Rose realised that the key was making nature relevant, that if you don’t have a way of understanding what nature is about, how can you enjoy it or protect it. This is when Mya-Rose wrote to the 5 biggest nature organisations, asking them what they are doing to engage minority ethnic communities, the response at this time was that they weren’t actively working to engage minority ethnic communities. They asked Mya-Rose to come to their headquarters to discuss this topic, however she was still in school.
Mya-Rose decided to gather everyone together at the same time. The following year, she organised a conference which had 90 people attend, half were from the environmental conservation sector and half from minority ethnic communities. This was the first time two groups talked. We established what the barriers were for minority ethnic people engaging with nature and also what the solutions were for engaging them.
It was at this time that Mya-Rose came up with the idea of nature by stealth, meaning that if people think that nature is boring, then it’s really good to find and engage with activities that they find interesting e.g. film making. This is exactly what she did the following year, when she organised a film making workshop and had 30 young minority ethnic kids attend the workshop in a city park and they used nature to make their films. After that 25 of those young people came to the camp.
It was only a few months after that, that Mya-Rose setup Black2Nature and since then we have been engaging children and teenagers at our nature camps, talking to them about the environment and what they can do to help save it.
This year has been a busy one for Black2Nature. So far we have run 6 nature camps plus other nature day events and projects including tree planting days where we are helping to rewild the Chew Valley.
Black2Nature aims to provide a wide range of activities, including; birdwatching, bird ringing, day/night walks and arts/crafts all based around nature and the outdoors.
This year, to engage a wider range of marginalised young people, we have been running a variety of outdoor activities and collaborating with other organisations for further reach , such as; archery, climbing, abseiling, tobogganing, orienteering and bushcraft sessions. These collaborations have meant that we have used ‘Nature by Stealth’ and in turn attracted more young people to our camps engaging with our nature based activities.
The camps and activities we provide are so beneficial to support the mental health & physical well-being of our communities. They help reduce the number of people from VME communities needing NHS care for mental health. As a VME young person herself, she is able to act as a role model and connect with other VME young people effectively.
We know from our families that the teens who come away from our camps are more in touch with nature, feel more able to explore the outdoors on their own and be less afraid of nature. Our teens are doing better at school, have more focus on learning and their behaviours have changed at home to be more calm.
Longer term, a childhood interest for nature can lead to developing a career in the environmental or nature film-making sector which has a huge number of jobs in Bristol, however VME people currently represent just 0.6% of the workforce. This is thousands of Bristol jobs which exclude VME people. With a combination of primary age and teenage nature camps we run, we will be working to remove barriers, seeking to boost their confidence which in turn will increase the likelihood of those who take part seeking different opportunities for themselves and increasing employability in sectors under represented by the VME demographic.
Black2Nature urgently needs your help and support to raise vital funds so that we can continue our important work.