Be The Change
Years of volunteer work and travel have passed and I kept having this knowing arise that I should be starting my own charity to be able to have more of a lasting input. So as these things don't come about through thinking about them, 'Be The Change' was formed.
Becoming the change that the world needs, is the most effective way to help, and so I would like to not only do that myself but also help support others to do so. I have selected 2 of the causes to focus on that I felt, through experience, are some of those most in need and those that also have a much bigger impact than the immediate problem.
tropical rainforest conservation - save the primates
We all have heard by now that the rainforests are the lungs of our planet, well this couldn't be showing up more as our climate changes and our forests dwindle. Within this problem is also the urgent issue of losing species. These tropical rainforests are the most bio-diverse places on our planet and home to the most species than any other landscape. Sadly we have already faced extinctions and more are becoming a reality as we speak, so something has to be done, and yes you got it; we can be the change and make it stop.
The three main areas that we are focusing on are:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Sumatra (Sumatera) and Borneo (Kalimantan) hold the majority of Indonesia's rainforests; well they did. Devastatingly a recent survey concluded that at least 75% of the forest has already been lost and is being cut down at a rate now faster than the Amazon - every 25 seconds, the area of a football pitch is lost! This means that any reforestation efforts are swamped and fighting an uphill battle, and a large one at that. So we must look at the cause and work from both sides, otherwise the reality of it all being gone, could become a reality.
"Every 25 seconds, the area of a football pitch is lost!"
As with most issues like this that we face, it is not simply one thing that is causing it, but by far the predominant factor is palm oil. Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is very cheap to grow and is used far and wide in everything from cakes and biscuits, to hand soap, shampoo and margarine. It can also be found in crisps, tinned beans, shower gel, toothpaste...basically you name it and it may have palm oil in it. Now it shocks me that we have got this far without it being questioned, but when billion dollar corporations have their hands in something, often it goes under the radar, and actually this is a problem that I first heard about when I was a young teen and it has only got worse. So we know we have a battle on our hands, BUT, the key is that WE are the consumers and so WE actually have the power. It's our responsibility to do something, so even though its half way across the world, this is OUR problem, and we must act together in a multitude of ways.
The rainforest is cleared and palm oil plantations reside there instead. Often local people unable to gain education on agroforestry and how they can make a livelihood within the forest, sell their land for the quick fix and later regret it when the plantations then cause further issues with enslaving workers for low pay, killing orangutans and creating pollution. There is also then no other alternative or sustainable way for them to make a living as they have sold their land, other than to work for the plantation owners.
"It is thought that within 5 years the orangutan may be extinct in the wild!"
This is a tragic result of their home being destroyed. Not only do they lose their home, but plantation workers and owners often kill the mothers and sell the baby orangutans as pets in the illegal wildlife trade. Horrendously there have often been cases where the females have been kept as sex slaves for the workers. NGOs work tirelessly to save these animals, as well as sun bears and other species native to the forest, Sadly though if there is no forest left, there is no home to return these animals too and so they end up living in sanctuaries long term, which is never the ideal solution! Some NGOs such as Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) also work to buy up the forest to protect it and prosecute companies farming illegally. With so little protection for the forest in general though, and without a large scale government input, it again is a fight that seems peppered with only small achievements, and is in need of more help and support; an international movement to get this dire situation changed.
The Amazon and the lesser known Atlantic rainforest's plight is probably the one most well known. Again with the size of the destruction already being at 75-90%, this is an issue that hangs in the balance and needs urgent attention and action from us all. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it, it is again US that have caused this, the main factor of deforestation being cattle ranches! So our eating habits again come under scrutiny and are costing us the largest mass of tropical rainforest anywhere on the planet and officially the place that hold the most species.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
DRC or the Congo as it is often called has a huge variety of issues, the main being a raging war fueled by conflict minerals. This has an impact on everything, people, animals and the environment, and the gorilla population is suffering. They have areas of national parks that are protected, but sadly this becomes increasingly difficult with violent conflict going on, and peoples' lives also being at risk. Some great organisations such as Strong Roots are doing what they can in some of the national parks to raise the profile of the gorillas and their plight, and in general get some positive action towards ceasing the conflict, which would allow a more stable future for this amazing species.
More to come on this as I visit this charity in July and volunteer with them.
education and alleviation of poverty - teaching livelihoods
Spending all of my time whilst travelling and volunteering in the developing world, means I have seen with my own eyes the huge issue of poverty we have in this world. Yes a lot of the time this means people are asking for help, but actually they want to help themselves, but due to many factors such as poor education, lack of infrastructure, corrupt governments, lack of clean water, drought, HIV/AIDS and other diseases it means that a lot of children aren't put into education due to lack of family money or being orphaned or left with one parent. There are very few, if any, support systems for the needy, and it seems like it is really the majority that live this way. This has saddened my heart and it's no good just looking the other way, once you see it and know it, you have to do something.
Amazing Grace Hands
The group Amazing Grace Hands was formed to try to tackle this issue by empowering the care-givers of the most needy children, most orphans or with a single parent. We decided to offer sponsorships for these children across 2 schools in Rukingiri District, rural Uganda. As well as trying to place sponsorships, we offered free training workshops for the care-givers/single mums, to learn how to weave and make crafts. This formed a great community, which was a great bonus of bringing these people together. They learned how to make crafts such as baskets, table mats, coasters, fruit bowls and also paper bead necklaces and bracelets of all different designs. In the next phase of training they will also go on to learn how to weave bags from banana leaves!
These crafts are then sold in fundraisers and in some salons in the UK, and also will be displayed and sold locally to raise awareness for our group.
My vision is to also have a women's counselling group to address women's empowerment in the community and domestic violence, which is very prevalent and very much a taboo to discuss; this has to change.
In order to continue this voluntary work, I need your support! I have now reached the point where I have spent well over my budget for this project buying materials, paying the training staff, transport, sponsorship of children who are waiting for school fees, medical care for some of the care-givers, and feeding 5 of the children who were in the worst of situations and were going hungry! I would love to continue the project into the future and help it to grow to reach as many young people as possible, and it has been set up to continue with my long-distance-presence, but it needs love and support and I have to turn to you guys for this. Every bit helps and from as little as £10 you can put a child through the rest of this school year! Please follow the link to help support this vital work, or alternatively get in touch to sponsor a child through school; you will get photos and letters from them and you can write to them too, they would love this. This is a great option for your own children or family members also, it's great for children to see how other children live, and to form connections across the globe!
We also need support with our rainforest conservation work in Congo, Sumatra and Borneo. More to come about this part of the journey from June onwards when I will travel to Congo for a month, and then onto Sumatra and Borneo. If you would like to be part of helping to save the Great Apes and want to hear more about the work Be The Change will be doing alongside 3 amazing charities, PLEASE get in touch and subscribe. I would also love to hear your ideas and collaborate.
We're out here changing the world, bring your cape and let's make mountains move...