Happy Birthday Otesha (4 years old today!)

Share |
February, 2006

Four years ago today, on February 16th 2002, Jess and Joss sat together underneath a tree in Kitale, Kenya and dreamed together of a revolution in Canada – one in which responsible and sustainable consumption would become the norm in their home country. They dreamed of spreading their message and actions via a cross-Canada bicycle tour, and decided to name their project ‘Otesha,’ which means reason to dream in Swahili. A decision was made, and an adventure began. Today, four years later, this dream (and much more!) has not only become a reality, but thousands of youth have also found their own ‘reasons to dream’.

On this important milestone for Otesha we reflect on the incredible accomplishments of the organization to date – from the inaugural tour in 2003 and the four tours that followed in 2005, to the publication of Otesha’s first book, to the Hopeful Highschool Hooligans program that is sweeping Ontario. And it is with great anticipation that we look forward to where we are headed.

After much dreaming and scheming here in Ottawa, with deliberations ranging from building an education center to expanding the HHH program across Canada, we have decided to focus instead on what Otesha truly does best – presenting/bicycling tours! We have been blown away by the increasing demand for bike tours (including daily emails from future potential team members, as well as communities requesting Otesha visits), as well as their ability to catalyze sustained lifestyle change amongst both tour members and audience participants. So we have decided to take this program ‘to scale,’ ensuring that the Otesha bike tour experience is something that countless young people will be able to experience in the future.

The plan is to spend the rest of 2006 completing the Triple-H program here in Ontario, while building Otesha’s capacity to be have the next round of bike tours ready to take Canada by storm in 2007! Both the bike tour and the Triple-H program will be re-structured with the goal that both programs and the organization as a whole will become financially sustainable and independent. Two new Co-Directors will be hired to join the Ottawa team in September 2006, at which point the callout for bike tours will go out, and the planning for years of future bike tour bonanzas will begin!

We are also excited about our newest partnership with a youth organization in the Philippines – Young Artists Fellowship for the Environment (YAFE), for which we have been awarded a Collaboration Fund Award from the International Youth Foundation. Canadian corporations, through mining, logging, coffee plantations, and sweatshop operations, have negatively impacted many communities in the Philippines. We are working in collaboration with YAFE to create an education program for Canadian students using the Philippines as a case study of how our consumer choices affect other countries, and how young people can come together to create change both locally and globally. YAFE will be running their first bike tour in the fall of 2006, and, based on Otesha’s model, they will deliver creative education programs to local communities by bicycle and pedi-cab! An internship program is in the works, where we will be facilitating an exchange of Otesha bike tour members to travel with YAFE in the Philippines, and a member of YAFE to travel on an Otesha bike tour in 2007.

With so many exciting projects and future plans on the horizon, we are not only celebrating the future potential of Otesha, but also all the individuals who have made this dream into a reality. It is through the generosity and support of the thousands of organizations and individual Canadians (of all ages) have shown incredible generosity and support through donated time, money, equipment, food, and backyards. We’ve had the pleasure of working with fantastic staff and volunteer team members who have delivered Otesha’s message, and then there’s all the folks who have taken Otesha’s message to heart and changed their own lifestyles.

As journal readers you are also no doubt a part of this movement of change, if only just by reading our updates and/or taking positive actions in your everyday life. So please take a moment today to celebrate your part in Otesha’s accomplishments, and a moment to imagine hundreds (even thousands!) more youth on bicycles spreading Otesha’s message and all the ripples of change that are spreading and that will continue to spread for years to come.

In celebration,
jess, joss, and jeff