10TH AUGUST 2023
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SISTER (Stroud in Internationalist Solidarity Together for Earth Repairs) a local community group have reclaimed the space for discussions and educational events in response to the local and global crises.
The legal occupation (squat) aims to challenge the mis-education system by offering community-led educational events.
SISTER is made up of youth, teachers and parents amoungst others, and is linked with a network of communities across the UK and abroad as part of PRALER.
A local group known as SISTER (Stroud in Internationalist Solidarity Together for Earth Repairs) have reclaimed the space as the 'SISTER Summer School' and declared their intention of legally occupying (squatting) an empty building in Stroud Town Centre, known as the Old County Library (otherwise known as the Stroud Spiritualist Church).
SISTER state that empty buildings are unjustifiable during a cost-of-living crisis, a housing and rental crisis, energy crises, climate and ecological crises. That UK public services have and continue to be systematically underfunded, dismantled, and privatised whilst CEO's hand out record profits to stakeholders, all the while the education system is failing to equip young people and communities with practical tools to solve our problems.
They argue that Gloucestershire County Council - the property owners of the Old County Library and the authority responsible for Education in the county - are failing to effectively address any of these issues in a way that empowers the local community and, in many cases, is actively making them worse. As their response, Meg (21) from SISTER states that "the 'SISTER Summer School' has been taken in service to the community, as an act of self-repair, by coming together we're taking matters into our own hands and providing the education we need to make the world a better place."
SISTER, made up of local young people, parents and teachers, intend to create a community site to challenge mis-education, run educational sessions (workshops, film screenings, crafts mornings, etc) and host community events. The group is part of a network of communities across the UK and the Global South working together on PRALER (the Planet Repairs Action Learning Educational Revolution). Together they are supporting each other to break down barriers, liberate education and weave alternatives to neo-colonialism.
For example, SISTER has been learning from the Otomi indigenous community in Mexico, who after years of state violence and racism, occupied the National Institute for Indigenous Peoples in Mexico. Before the occupation, the institution had been infringing on their rights and so the Otomi people turned the building into a community organising centre. They used one part of the building as a craft space, making Lele Rebelde dolls which are a symbol of resistance and their ancestral traditions, as well as a way to raise money. In 2022, SISTER raised money to bring one of these dolls to Stroud to establish the beginnings of an internationalist relationship and will be displaying it in the Summer School.
The SISTER Summer School will be hosting local community campaigns such as the youth-led School is a Crime Scene who are mobilising to challenge the mis-education in our Schools. Roma (19) says: 'We can't keep letting our young people go through schools that are killing their imagination, teaching obedience over curiosity and still telling the majority of people they're stupid! We've got to reclaim our schools for education that helps us actually solve our problems, that lifts people up and empowers us all to build a better world and so of course we're super excited to be part of the SISTER Summer School!"
SISTER encourages everyone to drop by, have your say and get involved. You can follow their social media handles for information on events and an invitation to sign an open letter to show your support for the project.
Sign the open letter: https://openletter.earth/support-the-sister-summer-school-2bdc698a
Robin (29) - SISTER and The RYSE - “In unreasonable times, reasonable action is the only option. Reclaiming this space at a time when we're so disconnected and seemingly unable to support each other is a reasonable act of commitment to the future of our community. Through the Summer School we're reclaiming our right to the practical education of running our own lives. I was born and raised in Stroud, this is my home and I'm filled with hope to welcome the community and together build a more beautiful and powerful us.”
Lucie Brown - Parents 4 Future Stroud - "I'm really grateful to see our brave youth creatively and compassionately opening up community space. We face multiple crises from the cost of living to the collapse of nature - we can only rise to these challenges by working together and exploring new ways. I look forward to learning more and attending the events later this month."
Natalie - Education Researcher - "I think its great that SISTER is bringing together to community to have some really important conversations about Earth Repair and all the vital topics that includes. The Summer School is a great medium to have these conversations with the community so that we can really think about what change needs to happen and espcially how we do this in constructive and sustainable way."
Thea - Phoneix Trust - "‘I fully support what SISTER are doing and espaiclly The RYSE group within them who are giving young people a lifeline to be heard, a voice to make change and to be empowered as organisers"
Nick Wier - Open Food Network - "I'm very supportive of everything SISTER is doing, in particular the amazing group of young people who reclaimed the Summer School. As a group of older/elder folks in town, we've joined SISTER and while the youth are often leading, is it a space where all of us across generations are standing up for the things that need to change in the world."
Alison - Local Arts Educator - "I'm really excited to see young people in our town taking such initiative and especially thinking about bringing the whole community together for powerful conversations and positive change. I'll definitely be going along to events and seeing how I can be part of it!"