Recently we began collaborating with Action for Conservation, an organisation created by a group of passionate individuals focused on educating young people on the importance of conservation. We spoke to founder, Hendrikus van Hensbergen, to learn how the organisation came to be and what exciting projects they have on the horizon.
Words & Photography by: Hendrikus van Hensbergen
What sparked your idea to start ‘Action for Conservation’?
Action for Conservation was born out of a vision that every young person in the UK could be moved and empowered to protect the natural world. Just 21% of UK children are adequately connected to nature and as young people lose this link they are more at risk of stress and depression and less likely to fight to protect it as adults. More importantly though, we have an opportunity to appeal to an age group who are often wrongly pigeonholed as apathetic and who could hold the key to the reinvigoration of our cause. With steady declines in UK wildlife and our connection to the natural world, we need their hope and their help.
Can you tell us a little more about the varied work your team provides?
We use pioneering approaches to engage and inspire young people, between the ages of 12 and 18, to become the next generation of nature conservationists. To us, being a 'conservationist' doesn't just mean following a career as a field biologist or a campaigner. We believe that a passion for conservation can flow through anyone's life, whatever their day-job. We want to inspire today's young people to a long-term belief in the wonder of the natural world, which will shape their dreams and actions however their life turns out. We run workshops in secondary schools, delivered by young conservation professionals from around the world, and work with UK organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts to provide work experience and volunteering opportunities. Alongside partners such as the National Trust and The Nature Conservancy we also deliver residential conservation camps in the countryside to connect young people to nature.
What has been your standout moment in your work with the organisation that really resonated with you and kept you motivated?
Our first summer camp in July last year. The whole 5 days was incredibly motivating and exciting, but it was particularly meaningful for me to hear the whole group reflect on how they felt after taking part in a ‘sit spot’ - a silent and solitary 10-minute mindfulness break on a cliff top. Their descriptions of stress dissolving, of time for deep thought and of tuning into their immediate surroundings was profoundly honest and moving.
How can people reading this get involved and support the programme?
Young readers - whether you are passionate about the environment and already taking action or not sure how you could possibly help, take a leap and enter our challenge for a place on one of our two camps this summer, get in touch with us about becoming an Ambassador for conservation or have a look for ways to get involved with local organisations on our map of opportunities.
Older readers - tell a teacher about our work with schools, encourage young people you know to visit our site and please do donate to our work if you can, all money goes towards empowering young people as environmental change-makers. For more information on all of the above visit our site here: www.actionforconservation.org
What projects are you most excited about that you have coming up this year?
I am most excited about our action-packed Summer camps in Wales this year and launching a radical new school workshop programme in September! Stay tuned for much more from our team and our young Ambassadors over the next few months and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @action4conserv
What does travel mean to you?
As we grow, our beliefs and our perspectives calcify. Travel is an opportunity to explore and challenge entrenched ways of thinking and to shatter preconceptions. For me and for the young people joining our camps I can see the extraordinary benefit of expanding physical horizons and what this does for our mental horizons.