By Norani Abubakar
The Blue Ribbon (TBR) Global, a peace education program, has been aligning its practices with Permaculture concepts after its founder, Norani Abu Bakar, attended and co-organized a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in Kuala Lumpur together with Permaculture for Refugees and UCSI in 2019.
The alumni then collaborated in running an Introduction to Permaculture module, community edible gardening projects and a teen program. The latter, named “Teens for Climate Action for Peace” or Teens4CAP, involved primarily refugee teens during its infancy stage. Together with their mentors, they transformed an under-utilized neighborhood land plot into an edible garden using permaculture principles.
In 2020, while sharing their surplus harvest of seeds and produce and advocating for the importance of soil biodiversity, the team co-organized a Teen Celebration for World Soil Day (WSD) with UCSI Schools. The event was hosted virtually by Potato Productions, Singapore and almost 300 teens attended this gathering.
With TBR’s sponsorship, UCSI Schools upscaled this WSD awareness program into a national soil painting challenge through the support of Malaysia’s Ministry of Education.
Teens4CAP WSD National Competition submissions increased from 200+ in 2021 to almost 1600 in 2022. This challenge, opened to formal and alternative education students, provides an avenue for refugees who are excluded from Malaysia’s formal education system to be a part of a national program. This year’s theme was ‘Soils: Where Food Begins’ with participants from over 200 schools and centres from all states and federal territories and involved 70 judges.
TBR symbolizes the act of fusing ‘soil’ and ‘water’, or ‘tanah’ and ‘air’ as a form of reignition of our connection with Mother Earth, as ‘Tanah Airku’ means ‘My Home Land’ in Malaysia’s national language.
Moving forward, TBR will partner with Parastoo Arts Center (PAC) to exhibit these paintings.
PAC, the first refugee-led performing and visual arts centre in Malaysia, was founded by Parastoo Theatre, a renown theatre movement led by journalist Saleh Sepas, a refugee from Afghanistan.Founded in 2017, the theatre has positively impacted Kuala Lumpur’s arts scene as well as the emotional well-being of its refugee actors, actresses, their families, and communities.
Aspiring to advocate inclusive education and soil health, TBR and its local and international partners are planning to expand WSD Soil Painting challenge to the Asia Pacific regional level in 2023.