We travel to open our eyes to the world and to experience unforgettable interactions with people and places. The first step of leaving home can be the scariest but taking that leap allows us to see for ourselves all the change making projects that are happening out there across the globe. I’m currently on the road collecting ideas and inspiration to bring back with me. Seeing how it’s been done successfully is going to be valuable in laying the foundations for my own projects.
When you’re motivated to work for a better world, often we think big and want to do it all. But what happens when you focus that energy and localise, changing the world from your doorstep?
Out here in Réunion Island (a French department in the Indian Ocean) I spoke to five different change makers who are making a positive impact from where they are and thus creating change on a global scale.
Sonia – Protecting the Planet
Sonia, from Réunion, is an organic farmer who works with the principles of permaculture. This means working in a sustainable way with existing eco systems, understanding that every plant and living being has their own unique role to play and all is connected in the natural world. She was inspired to follow this path by Pierre Rahbi, a writer and farmer who promotes agriculture that takes care of the environment rather than harming it.
Sonia talked to me about the importance of localising and how each community and piece of land has something unique to offer. She says “There are other ways to live apart from capitalism. I want to work with and save traditional knowledge, which can be lost when we try to make everything the same.” She demonstrated the importance of community by helping to organise a picnic event in March. People were invited to the organic farm where Sonia works, to share seeds, plants, ideas and wholesome food.
Daniela – Inviting Self-Expression
Daniela, from Angola, set up her own language and cultural centre in 2011 in St Pierre, Réunion. The centre is called Kosez which means “dare to speak.” It acts as a space for positive exchanges, interactions and a place that invites everyone who walks in to express their authentic selves. Daniela says “It’s a crossroads where people from all walks of life meet, exchange, and dare to express what they truly are. Most importantly, it’s an expression of who I am and the change I want to see in the world.”
We discussed how the smallest acts can go a long way. Even a single warm smile given to a passing stranger in the street has the potential to travel and transform into something much bigger. Kosez holds a space where people feel positive, motivated and confident about who they are. This is an energy which is taken out into the wider community. Daniela says “We share our linguistic knowledge through our lessons and our passions through our cultural events and projects. As a result, our small language centre is enriched by and evolves thanks to all the marvellous people who dare to express themselves and dare to speak.”
Rodolphe and Nirina – Opening Hearts and Minds
Rodolphe, from Réunion, and Nirina, from Madacascar, are a couple committed to building a better society. After travelling the world together for 5 years, they arrived back to Réunion, feeling a little lost after the daily connections found meeting people on the road.
So, they set up a project inviting strangers to their house to share a meal together, saying “It’s about travelling…without moving!” They cook dishes from around the world and open their door to strangers “We’ve been sharing dinner with more than 25 foreigners from local political leaders to artists to travelers, from humble cashiers to successful entrepreneurs.”
They have also been known to bake cookies and hand them out in the street, both on their doorstep here in Réunion and also on their travels across the world. They invite people in public spaces to “stop and share a simple moment over warm cookies.” Rodolphe wrote a recipe book inspired by the experience, available in French, called 100% Made With Love. He even invited me round to learn how to bake a traditional GLUTEN FREE sweet potato cake, made with rhum and vanilla from the island!
Sama – Cycling for Climate Justice
Sama, brought up in France by British mum and Saudi dad, works to create action for the climate. She helped to organize a cycle ride from the UK to Paris in December 2015 with 125 participants to make an impact at the COP21 talks and is in the process of organizing another ride to the Lausitz camp in Germany and Reclaim the Power camp in Wales, with the network Time to Cycle.
Sama is currently on the road travelling and the network is made up by people living in different places so meetings are held over Skype and various forms of online working platforms are used. I asked Sama about the logistics of working in this way, she says “Just like everything, these methods have their cons but what they have allowed is the co-organisation between people who are geographically far away from each other but have similar ambitions and goals.”
The rides bring people together, connecting with local communities along the way and inspiring action for a sustainable future. In Sama’s words, “What motivates me the most about this organising from a distance, is that I know that at the end of it, it materialises into something on the ground. These rides not only provide a greener mode of transport but also act as community camps on wheels.”