Biking for a cause

By Medha Subramani

Otesha means “reason to dream” in Swahili.

A 20-member bicycle tour team took this idea to heart and is addressing how everyday actions can and do affect positive change in the world. The team will make a presentation Fri., Jun. 29 at 7 pm at the Arusha Centre.

The Otesha project is an award-winning, youth-run, non-profit outfit that uses theatre, multi-media and storytelling to educate, empower and mobilize Canadians to affect both local and global change.

“We’re cycling to kind of ‘walk the talk’ about what we’re talking about, in terms of environmental sustainability,” said Rocky Mountain tour coordinator Emi Do. “We’re promoting lifestyle change by inspiring others through our message of hope.”

Since its launch in 2003, Otesha has presented to over 60,000 youth, and biked over 22,000 km. Two young Canadian women came up with the idea when they returned from a trip to Kenya.

“They really saw the negative impacts that their lifestyle could have,” said Do. “So their conclusion was that ‘If my lifestyle could have such a negative impact, then I have a positive impact too by the changes I can make.’”

This year, Otesha planned to run a total of five regional, two-month long bike tours in Canada. In Calgary, the troop will perform a 45-minute play called “Morning Choices.”

“[The play] really examines how little changes can make a difference,” said Do. “It highlights the different changes that everyone can incorporate in their everyday lives that can lessen their not-so-positive impact on the planet.”

Otesha member Ashlie Ferguson, stressed the importance of community building in fostering knowledge on making positive choices.

“It’s not just you, but 16 other people you know really well and that turns into thousands,” said Ferguson. “What I’ve gotten out of it is all the knowledge and inspiration from being with such a group of like-minded individuals who are all working towards a similar goal.”

Otesha has received more than 1,500 ‘postcards of hope’ over the past five years, allowing them to measure their impact on audiences.

“After every presentation, we give out postcards, which are invitations for people to make a difference in the world,” said Do. “What we ask is that people write down a sustainable action they hope to do after the presentation and once they have completed that action, they mail that postcard into our office.”

Arusha Centre board member Steve Loo said that both Arusha and Otesha share the common goal of sustainable living.

“Arusha is always interested in collaborating with an organization that is also focused on social justice and environmentalism,” said Loo. “We try to educate people on that through movies, books, workshops and by having this cross-pollination, we get an understanding of how to work towards that better environment.”

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