From Ssese Islands to Global Stages: My Safari in Environmental Advocacy and the "TEEN-2024" Project


From Ssese Islands to Global Stages: My Safari in Environmental Advocacy and the "TEEN-2024" Project

Each month, NAAEE will post narratives from the CEE-Change Fellows as they implement their community action projects and work to strengthen environmental education and civic engagement capabilities, all supporting the mission of cleaner air, land, and water.  Join us on their journey! The Civics and Environmental Education (CEE) Change Fellowship is NAAEE’s newest initiative to support leadership and innovation in civics and environmental education in North America. This ee360+ program is a partnership between NAAEE, US EPA, and the Cedar Tree Foundation.

Greetings, eco-warriors! It's Richard here or, you can call me ‘Ritchie,’ fresh off a hasty 2023 fueled by NAAEE’s CEE-Change Fellowship and a burning passion for environmental stewardship.

I want to take you on a journey through the twists and turns of my Community Action Project (CAP), a personal project that I further developed and lovingly rebranded for the fellowship as "TEEN Project-2024—The Environment Education Nexus: Bridging Schools, Communities, and Leadership for Environmental Education."

Where It All Started

I hail from Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria, where nature's embrace fostered my deep connection to the Earth. Witnessing the escalating environmental challenges in my motherland and continental Africa, I knew I had to act. And act I did, founding YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE to ignite environmentalism in young minds, especially in schools. But over time, I have craved more, including a chance to truly scale our capacity to reach and impact those miles away from the original project.

Catalysts for Growth

Entering the NAAEE-led CEE-Change Fellowship in July of 2023 rocketed me into a whole new orbit of environmentalism. During our first in-person leadership training in the soothing natural environment of the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in August 2023 and while serving as a virtual panelist for the NAAEE Annual Conference, I soaked up critical civic and environmental knowledge like a parched sponge. Then came COP28 in Dubai, a sensory overload of negotiations, diverse perspectives, and inspiring encounters. From food systems and sustainable agriculture to the intricacies of environmental education, I devoured it all, scribbling notes in my ever-present daily journals that filled up my social media pages as I took a small chill in historical Deira, Dubai, the City of Oil.

A group photo of the 2023 CEE Change Fellows Cohort at the NCTC Leadership Clinic A group photo of the 2023 CEE-Change Fellows cohort at the NCTC Leadership Clinic. Image credit: Anne Umali

"These weren't just spectator events; they have been great catalysts for my growth and experience at a personal level and for outreach and impact, helping me spread the gospel of environmental stewardship in Uganda."

The subsequent engagements through the CEE-Change program have empowered me with new skills and forged lasting bonds with the NAAEE family. These connections, stretching across borders and time zones, have become my support system, a source of encouragement and limitless enlightenment even in resource-constrained situations and challenging societal dynamics known to most of the countries in the global south.

Re-Focusing Our Work

Back home, fueled by this global perspective and the leadership training at NCTC, I knew YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE needed a sharper focus thanks to consulting with my peers within the fellowship. Big up to Aneesa, Katie, JP, Heather, Courtni, and a new friend made at COP28—Kim from Botswana. My team and I have successfully rebranded YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE, honing our mission to “championing a green curriculum in schools and creating green jobs for youth.”

It is amazing how this shift has organically merged with my evolving CAP, transforming it from the "Green School Model" into "TEEN-2024: The Environment Education Nexus."

TEEN-2024, as the name suggests, aims to bridge the gap between schools, communities, and leadership in promoting environmental education. Instead of focusing on two primary schools in a remote rural area, I'm now tackling the diverse dynamics of both a remote primary school in a rural area (Soroti district) and a secondary school in the more urban Kampala Capital City. This five-month pilot project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports and the National Curriculum Development Centre, will be a test bed, paving the way for a greener future in Ugandan school classrooms.

CEE Change Fellow Richard Tusabe meets with the Dakabela Primary School under a tree CEE Change Fellow Richard Tusabe meets with the Dakabela Primary School. Image credit: YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE 

The Takeaways 

So, as a reader, I care about you and share these highlights and takeaways below:

What's the story here?

This work is not just about a project; it's about a personal odyssey fueled by passion, driven by purpose, and guided by the unwavering belief in the power of young minds. It's about scaling the walls of resource constraints, connecting with a global network of support, and adapting to the ever-evolving landscape of environmental advocacy. I dream that you and I can cultivate this spirit in the minds of youngsters who can become a beacon of hope for their environmental or climate action as together we build a sustainable future.

What is unique about TEEN Project-2024?

This intervention is not just about planting trees and learning facts; it's about fostering critical thinking, nurturing eco-centric values, and equipping young people with the skills to become agents of change in their communities. It's about empowering them to demand and shape a future where environmental education isn't an afterthought, but a cornerstone of their learning. This is only possible with support from their local communities.

The journey hasn't been easy!

Logistical hurdles on YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE as a small start-up without funding and the sheer scope of the project have tested my resilience. But every interaction with my fellow Fellows, my curious team that I lead here, every supportive hand from the community, and every encouraging nod and engagement with NAAEE staff have been a shot of adrenaline propelling me forward.

In a Nutshell

Change is possible, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Young people, equipped with knowledge and empowered by action, can drive a greener future. Collaboration, not competition, is the key to unlocking this potential. My fellow Fellows have been sharing many resources on our different forums to help us all achieve our goals. We are here to support each other’s greater contributions to the world of civic engagement, environmental education, and climate change education, and only together can we thrive.

CEE Change Fellow Richard Tusabe and partner from YES Global Initiative meet with the Dakabela Primary School in Soroti District CEE-Change Fellow Richard and partners from YES Global Initiative meet with the Dakabela Primary School in Soroti District. Image credit: YES GLOBAL INITIATIVE