Saying goodbye is never easy | Farewell article

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Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways YEE helps promote youth leadership is simply by being an entirely youth-led and independent organisation. Young people coming together to organise, fundraise, manage, learn…

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As I’ve been recruiting for the new Strategic Communications Officer position, a candidate asked me: what were the highlights of working at YEE? Where do I start? From the first successful online webinar we hosted with the Advocacy Working Group in 2020 to the project proposals which got awarded funding to attending COP26 and COP27, there have been a few. 

In a similar line, another candidate asked me what my proudest moment was at YEE. For the handful of moments listed above, not only was I happy but I was, indeed, proud. Proud of the work we accomplished in the AWG and YEE in general. Proud of these young people dedicating their spare time, their energy and pouring love and hope into working to improve the environment. 

If I had to pick just one moment, it would be the time I spent at COP26 in Glasgow. It was the first time our team had met in person after months (over a year for me!) – possibly the most intense environment for us to start out in. It was the first time YEE had sent a full delegation to COP and it is an incredibly intense, intimidating space to be in. Surrounded by other environmental organisations, climate negotiators and diplomats we had only previously  seen in the news…  The impostor syndrome was real. It was physically demanding – from struggling to get into rooms at the venue to the daily commute between Edinburgh and Glasgow. But the whole team kept showing up, sticking to our policy goals and making the most of such an opportunity despite how exclusive the space felt. It was truly learning by doing. The lessons learnt in Glasgow brought us to Sharm el-Sheik for COP27 where we had a bigger delegation, strengthened ties and collaboration between European youth organisations and had our first on-site side event. Progress! 

Above all – it is a fight, a fight for environmental justice

This was clear at COP26: as young people, navigating in a political arena not built for us, one that does not recognise our expertise, is challenging. The concept of intergenerational justice is thrown around in the media and a few young faces have become posters for the anxiety and frustration and hope our generation holds… but the decision-making spaces still remain hard to penetrate.

 

YEE works tirelessly to try to get our foot in the door - from getting young people onto the boards of ‘adult’ organisations, to helping bring about roundtables with stakeholders, to showing up in daunting spaces like the UNFCCC COPs.

 

Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways YEE helps promote youth leadership is simply by being an entirely youth-led and independent organisation. Young people coming together to organise, fundraise, manage, learn… I’ve often said, YEE is one of the best things that could have happened to me this early on in my career and tertiary education. I was given real responsibility and a real say in organisational discussions. At 19, I had my first attempt at a recruiting process – interviews and all. At 20, I was already learning to write project proposals and edit budgets. At 21, I got to experience an international climate conference and manage our entire social media strategy surrounding it. At 22, I got to have many more attempts at recruiting and helping grow our communications department. Very few other work environments would have entrusted me with such opportunities and responsibilities. I will carry these lessons with me throughout my entire professional career, and in my private life as well. 

A thank you is in order

I cannot reflect on these past three years without gratitude. YEE has allowed me to grow only insofar as I was inspired – and boy, I was surrounded by inspirational people. Firstly, a thank you to Nathan Méténier who took me under his wing as I joined as a volunteer and shared his dream of the Advocacy Working Group with me. From that first generation of the AWG with 6 volunteers, we are now working with over 10 volunteers on 9 portfolios and multiple fully-funded projects. Nathan has always been someone with a vision and the right amount of faith and optimism to make that happen. Thank you to Tetiana Stadnyk, who was Secretary General during the majority of my time at YEE, and whose steadfast and gentle leadership I hope to emulate one day. Thank you to Pegah, the new SecGen, for her playful comments and for always driving us to aim higher. Thank you to Eva, for making communications fun even during each 10AM Monday this past year. And thank you to Paola, Anna, Emma, Agnes, Clara and so many more names I cannot list – people whose energy and friendship was a very meaningful part of my time at YEE!

How does the story end?

I started out at YEE as a summer volunteer in 2020, learning how to use Zoom and being introduced to the huge world of environmental advocacy, as the Covid crisis kept spreading and I was stuck in my bedroom. I had only just finished my first year of university, half of it online and had no idea where I was headed. The state of the world was ever-changing and scary. Now, I am in the first year of my master’s, fully dedicating myself to studying environmental policy, hoping to specialise in environmental migration and climate adaptation strategies. Now, I have worked part-time for YEE for a year and a half, still behind a screen but thankfully with multiple occasions to have met my colleagues in person. The state of the world is still scary. The temperatures are getting hotter – I saw not a single drop of snow this winter and watched the fields drain of colour as they became brittle from the heat waves this summer. There is still a lot of work to do. As I leave YEE, I will hopefully use everything I have learned and apply it to new horizons and challenges. I can’t wait to see what else the youth environmental movement will get up to.

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Saying goodbye is never easy | Farewell article