Imagine – a sunny day in beautiful Sussex countryside and a group of young people from very different backgrounds……..what could happen?

What took place on 14th July this year was nothing short of magical.  With the help of some older volunteers and the dedicated support of Carrie Cort, the CEO of Sussex Green Living,  members of the Youth Eco Forum devised an inspirational programme of activities to take place in a local woodland setting.  Pupils from the City Of London Academy in Southwark and were invited to join them for a day when they could all experience the freedom of the outdoors, the wonders of nature and learn about eco-systems and conservation.

There were seven pupils from London and seven from Sussex.  As is natural with teenagers, there was initial shyness and caution about engaging with others they had not met before.  However, everyone soon grew in confidence and began to interact with one another. The woodland setting itself was fundamental in providing an environment and atmosphere where similarities outweighed differences.  Through working together across cultural and regional divides, the students’ belief in their own capabilities increased and everyone benefitted and thrived.  Friendships across communities were formed that day together with new appreciation of the natural world and new commitment to preserving it.

The event had not been easy to organise, and had had to be postponed from April due to the pandemic.  Plans had to be adapted and, although helped by the outdoor setting, meticulous attention was paid to Covid safety planning in order to ensure that risks were minimal.  Nevertheless, through focus and determination, by the time Covid regulations were eased and it was possible to set a definite date, a creative and enriching programme of activities was ready, transport was arranged to bring everyone to and from the site and catering arrangements were in place.

The lasting outcomes resulting from this event are supported by the response from surveys and letters from parents.  Through the educational and recreational activities on offer barriers were broken down, friendships were forged and anxieties about visiting the countryside, particularly from families of ethnic minorities, were eased.  On a broader level the day proved a highly successful example of what can be achieved through working together in a shared venture in a natural woodland location.  Isn’t this an ideal way to alleviate some of the regional, cultural, social and racial prejudices that exist in Britain today?

We are very grateful to the Sussex Community Foundation and the Argus Appeal Fund for making this event possible.