Manu Maunganidze is passionate about getting kids outdoors.
The now project director at Nature Youth Connections and Education CIC (NYCE) has been teaching in Bristol for almost a decade.
But it was only when he went from a school in Clifton to one in Fishponds that he saw how differently privileged white children see the environment than children from more diverse and less privileged schools.
“There were kids there who had never even left Bristol” he exclaimed. “It wasn’t common for them to go to the beach or the countryside.
“The same privilege that kids at the Clifton school had such as going on woodland walks or going to the Mediterranean, just wasn’t there at the Fishponds school.”
He always tried to incorporate nature into his lessons plans to make sure all his students had equal opportunities to connect with nature.
But for some kids, the concept of nature was very different to others.
“The environmental awareness was low as Fishponds – from the language used, to the context. For a lot of them swimming in a sea was an alien concept.
“I wanted to find out exactly why that was and what the barriers were. I began doing research and found out that at the time, 95% of Black people were living in urban areas – therefore meaning a lack of access to green spaces and other nature spots.”
He also believes that one of the main barriers for Black and Asian people is feeling as though these spaces are “not for them”.
But, the obstacles go as far as lack of resources, money and institutional racism.
He said: “I’ve always been passionate about everybody having an equal share of the resources that are around us and for me the biggest resource we’ve got is our environment and nature.
“But, I realised early on when I moved to the UK after being brought up in Zimbabwe and Switzerland, that I was the only Black face that I was seeing when I was going hiking or to the seaside.
“As a Black person you can be on a beach with 1,000 people and find that there are only ten other Black people.”
“The land of freedom is different”
He reiterated that “statistically Black and Asian people earn less than white people” and often come to the UK fully qualified but their degrees or qualifications are disregarded.
“People will come here with a doctor’s degree and end up working as a taxi driver.
“You might have a university degree from Kenya and then get told it is not valid here.
“Simultaneously, you’re trying to build connections and network to get employed, meanwhile people who were in this country already have that advantage over you.
“Before you know it you’ve been here for ten years and you’re working a mediocre job.
“If you ask the average taxi driver they’ll tell they were studying law, engineering or another subject back home.
“The land of freedom is different for a white person compared to someone whose ancestors had been enslaved to the land or tied to the land. There is a historic difference,” he said.
Although all these nuances may seem minor and not something which would be an obstacle to accessing nature, he believes when you begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together you realise that all these things cause massive barriers to access.
Manu said: “You begin to notice who this country is catered to.
“Where is home for some people?
“It then begins to affect your sense of freedom and where you are placed.
“So, for me I want to work with children from a young age so they can broaden their ideas of where they belong. They can begin to build up their skills and broaden their careers options.
“There’s more to growing up then standing in a lobby with 30 other people who already have an advantage over you anyway.
“They need to be aware not only of their environment, but also their place in their community.”
Manu has been working with young people in inner city areas, such as St Pauls, Easton and many others for the past eight years and has noticed that often ethnic minority and low-income groups are far less likely to participate in the outdoors or be engaged in environmental activism in the UK.
He recently partnered with Brewin Dolphin and SSE’s Start Up Plus programme to get his social enterprise NYCE off the ground and address some of this imbalance in some of the most deprived areas of Bristol by providing activity away days and camps, as well as support and advice where needed.
Manu hopes that through the skills young people gain and the experiences they share, they can become better equipped to respond to the issues affecting them and their communities.
A lot of the work which Manu does is centred around diversity and he is supported by Thresholds and Burges Salmon.
When discussing the importance of supporting Black businesses, Manu said: “It’s about the fact that established businesses will always look to the same places when they’re looking at anything from procurement to development. Sometimes Black businesses may be smaller which means they’ll get left out.
“I feel as though for so long, Black businesses have been excluded from mainstream economy for a long time.
“I’m not asking for affirmative action but just the awareness around the fact that some businesses have it a lot harder when it comes to them getting the chance to prove themselves.”
To mark Black History Month, Bristol Live is shining the spotlight on Black-led businesses across the city. We aim to cover everything from the importance of representation, the impact on their communities and the effects of the pandemic on their businesses. If you know of a Black owned business that should be featured, let us know.
While highlighting these businesses, we recognise that it’s important that we represent Black people within the media all year round and not just during one month of the year.