2023 - Despite it All, A Year Committed to Finding Joy in our Activism
Updated: Feb 4
Written by: Christine Samwaroo
Image 1: Christine Samwaroo in conversation with Menakshi Babulall at Vaksana
2023 has signaled the start of our work plan. Reflecting on 2022, there is a sense of pride in all that was accomplished by a small team with many responsibilities outside of TBC. Starting out in 2020, I never imagined leading an organization. For most of my life, speaking up for things I believed in was never encouraged, and being diagnosed with panic anxiety and depression definitely helped keep me quiet.
A lot changed in 2020. I was frustrated with the news of women being murdered and equally fed up with feeling like I should be doing more on environmental justice. However, I remembered thinking, who am I to be the one to speak up? Looking back, I am glad I started, despite a quiver in my voice and most times not knowing how my body would react after I shared stories about the violence done to me and women in my family. TBC’s work will always be personal, a reflection of my life, my ancestors, my grandmother, and the women who continue to experience so much violence at the hands of capitalism and patriarchy.
As we move into the second month of 2023, it is a constant reminder that we need to be intentional, lead with grace, and use a feminist and intersectional lens. TBC recognizes that we do not live single-issue lives; more often than not, there is more to the issue than what we see on the surface.
Acknowledging the current gender injustice and planetary crisis requires us to act. To act in community and in solidarity with those who are speaking up and working to protect our rights. The current realities in Guyana as it develops its oil and gas industry continues to bring fear about what the future holds for working-class people—people like my own family who struggle to make ends meet. What does it mean for vulnerable groups who are already experiencing the impacts of climate change? The people who are not able to speak out on gender-based violence? Does it really mean that lives will improve?
In spite of all this, this work takes passion and determination. TBC intends to do it for the long haul, and therefore, it is necessary to find joy in our activism, to hold space, and to listen intently. It requires us to hold the world in our hands as opposed to feeling the burden of carrying it on our shoulders. It means doing our part, being committed, showing grace, working collaboratively, and sharing resources.
Image 2: Sunrise at Vaksana, Queenstown Village, Essequibo
We ended January 2023 doing this, as we continued our "Children and Environment" series in Essequibo. We are thankful for our community partner, Vaksana—A Different View Project, an organization in Essequibo that aims to work with children to re-imagine learning through transformative frameworks. Founder and CEO, Menakshi Babulall, is working to create Guyana’s first women’s retreat center in Region 2. At Vaksana, they recognize the need in Guyana for a gender-responsive approach to tourism, wellness, and community. The intention is to create a space to experience the beauty and adventure that Guyana offers that centers wellbeing, enjoyment, and safety for all women and gender expansive individuals.
Through our collaboration, we were able to serve twenty two (22) students from grades 2 to 6 who reside in the Queenstown village. The event took place at the community center. Through storytelling and art, we engage learners on what the environment means to them; recognizing the important role we have in engaging children as key stakeholders in the climate justice conversation, and finding ways to bring concepts in a form that is relatable to them, to encourage hope and allow them to think critically about solutions.
Image 3: Engaging with learners of Queenstown Village on Children and the Environment
To close the weekend off, TBC was able to engage closely with Menakshi at Vaksana. We felt grateful for the opportunity to connect with children in Queenstown Village and the time we got to be in nature. Through the sunset and sunrise, feet planted in tea-colored water, sitting and staring at the stars, being off-grid, eating tamarind balls, drinking warm Tulsi tea at breakfast, having deep conversations and laughing non-stop, we were able to center ourselves for the work ahead in the coming months. We found our joy.
We left Vaksana rejuvenated and ready to expand on this partnership. We left thinking of the importance of connection as we work towards transformative solutions to the issues we face. All this while taking care of ourselves and each other.
Image 4: Founder and CEO, Menakshi Babulall with The Breadfruit Collective's Christine Samwaroo and Afeefa Richardson and Derval Barzey, Host of The Climate Conscious Podcast