Wwoo(f)ing young people into Transition
Five weeks ago I was at the Transition Conference in Battersea listening excitedly to the young people who are forming the very first intake for One Year in Transition (1YT). The ambition, the practical nature of the course is inspiring and I can’t help saying “If only I were thirty years younger …” since 1YT is definitely out of reach for me, I do the next best thing and blog about it – immediately.
Yesterday, sitting in a café with a young woman just back from a long summer of wwoofing in Spain, I am reminded of those new 1YT recruits. Her greatest desire now is to give one.. two.. three years, what it takes .. to develop a growing project, a project that not only feeds but empowers a disempowered community. She needs to find the support and infra-structure to allow her to develop a big idea. One Year in Transition seems perfect: the idea of responsibility, leadership, mentoring and support, along with learning a craft sets her alight. This morning, after patiently growing her own sourdough starter, she has made her first loaf and can’t wait to get home to sample it. I reflect on the fantastic bread workshop at the conference – she would have been in heaven. From what we can see on line 1YT has started for the year and she’s missed the boat. Undeterred, she’s already booked a trip to London, where she knows there are many growing projects and hopes there will be one that can accommodate her.
In Lancaster we have our Incredible Edible project and I will put her in touch with its marvellous co-ordinator, Viv, in the hope that maybe we can find a space for a young woman with such vision and desire to act.
“Somewhere,” I say to her, “there is a Transition Initiative that is waiting for you.”
She likes the idea. Can I find her a way to contact them all? All of them? - I promise to try. Serendipity is a marvellous thing – my contact with her stems from a chance conversation with an ex-colleague at a staff re-union. The staff member is the parent of one of her classmates and friends. So here we are in a back street café, trying to find a way into a life of huge potential significance, for her and an unknown community that could take her to heart. It is a precious moment and I reflect that a young person’s generosity and determination is “a pearl above price”.
The way in to a Transition/transition future for this young person has been wwoofing and wwoofing seems to be a potent new factor in our initiatives and much of the experience is being brought in by young people. My allotment partner, Gwen, is off for a year of wwoofing as preparation for a new life in a sustainable community. The daughter of one of our Steering Group members is in Italy – after a summer on a farm living in a tent (not always so much fun) she is now learning glass-blowing in kindlier accommodation. Clearly for the life of the young woman I met yesterday, time in Spain has crystalised her thoughts and intentions for the future. In my own school career (all that time ago …) we were encouraged to take a “year out” before it was popular or even thought of much. All part of a clearly expressed wish for us to be women who could make a difference in the post 1960s world. Then it was to do VSO at 18 before university or college. Ex pupils fresh from their time, usually in Africa or India, came to tell inspiring stories of how their lives had been changed, to encourage us, give out leaflets and make contacts. Maybe at a time when we need young people to make a difference to another changing world, Transition initiatives, in their work with high schools should consider talking to post 16 pupils about wwoofing and bringing them together with those who have done it recently. Now that it costs £9k a year for university young people may realise wwoofing provides a remarkably good education for a minimal outlay. Who knows, some of them may then never go on to university, and given the debt-ridden irrelevance most degrees are becoming, that may be no bad thing.
Photographs: the handmade bakery leaflet, Incredible Edible Lancaster (Caroline Jackson) Wwoofing in Spain (Finca La Mohea website), VSO volunteer in school (Ysgol Pendorlan school)