“When I was 17 I hitchhiked around Brittany and met some German guys who had worked in Chile with some street kids. They gave me a new insight on the world. They had seen the yeyegue government overthrown by a military koo and had gone out to try and keep some of the social gains of that period going. As a teenager I had never even thought about it. They said oh you can come with us next time so I started learning Spanish and went to Nicaragua”.
What is/was your project about?
Developing Bristol’s 7 international twin city links, each of which is managed by a voluntary organizations and or charities. They work in partnership with Bristol City Council
Alix’s job is to coordinate the links,
Education, culture, and economic development.
What issues do you or did you address?
One of the issues we address is the reduction in language teaching in schools and the lack of emphasis on young people to learn languages.
We bring in masters students from the University of Bordeaux to help young people learn fun French for a few weeks each year and this hopefully also motivates them to carry on learning. They learn about culture in Bordeaux and learn songs etc.
Some of the countries such as Georgia, Nicaragua and Mozambique the population of Bristol may know very little so we do PR, Marketing, put on events with a more cultural approach.
I work with secondary schools to also do French activity days.
Awareness raising of other countries and issues around the world
There is also more pressure to generate economic return from our twin cities so we do work with trade and skills sharing. WE bring over people from China in particular and flag up Bristol unique selling points such as green technology. We had had several multi million pound investments through our work linking people together and bringing in investors.
We are also just planning a trip to Georgia, Georgia have just signed a trade agreement with the EU but they don’t know how to properly market their goods so we have been invited by the British Embassy to send over some of our people to train them up and also to market our produce in Georgia.
I also develop the association to bring in volunteers and motivate people; we work with over 80 volunteers so there is also a role to find volunteers.
I also manage workers in Mozambique and Nicaragua in Spanish and Portuguese. There are different issues there such as poverty relief and housing.
What moved you to take action?
It was the social changes in Nicaragua in the late 70’s early 80’s, and the human rights issues in Central America at the time.
When I was 17 I hitchhiked around Brittany and met some German guys who had worked in Chile with some street kids. They gave me a new insight on the world. They had seen the yeyegue government overthrown by a military koo and had gone out to try and keep some of the social gains of that period going. As a teenager I had never even thought about it. They said oh you can come with us next time so I started learning Spanish and went to Nicaragua.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
The city council cut the funding, I don’t think they realized the scope of the work, but a lot of people fought this.
I think it was partly a wake up call for them
What helped you keep going in hard times? Was there a time when you thought you would give up? (What did you think or say to inspire yourself to keep going?)
Support of everyone around us, everyone was outraged that the funding had been cut.
Everyone stepped up and spoke against it , I think people just couldn’t believe that they had done it.
The council had never had so many letters, they usually get one or two petitions against their actions and I think they got around 35. They included personal stories and the range of experiences and value people have got from the town twinning over the years.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
Hitchhiking as a teenager I met likeminded people.
My family and myself worked and lived abroad until I was around 7 years old in places
such as Tel Aviv and Thailand as my father worked at the Embassy.
I think it has been a lifelong interest.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about
8 I feel very lucky.