The Breakouts are presented in partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Zoha Faisal, Naisha Khan, Dana Cachero, and Arshia Uppal may have been teenagers when they founded Climate Recentered in 2021, but they were already veteran organizers.
The four met when they were part of youth climate organizations—and realized that they wanted to do things their own way.
“I faced a lot of microaggressions, and tokenism, being a racialized person in a very predominantly white space,” says Khan, who is fresh from doing winter coat distribution at Surrey SkyTrain Station along with the others when we talk. “I really wanted to create something new—something that was centred by the people, for the people. Something that was a safe space, where I could feel heard, where I could feel like I was more than a resource.”
Thus began Climate Recentered, which puts Surrey and its BIPOC communities at the heart of its environmental and social justice work. Along with new addition Sonya Chatterjee, the five members—ranging from their teens to their early 20s—have a grassroots, hands-on, mutual aid approach to everything they do.
Their actions run the gamut from tightly-planned, day-long events to small-scale pop-ups; everything from running cooling stations in the summer, or delivering care packages to local Palestinian families, to starting a Community Fair Festival Initiative that saw local artists and musicians coming together alongside grocery and clothing distributions that helped foster connection and solidarity.
That, Faisal says, is “the pinnacle of what it looks like for a community to be resilient to climate injustice…where we’re able to see another person in crisis and sit and help them—not just because you feel bad for them, but because they deserve to have their needs met.”
Look out for more work from the fivesome this year, as they’re planning more events in Surrey to get people involved and working together to tackle climate justice. It’s not just recentering the climate; it’s recentering the community.