Dr. Jane in Brussels

Written by Ilke
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Jane Goodall at the European Parliament Jane Goodall at the European Parliament © Photo European Union

What does the war in Congo, the chimpanzees, your mobile phone and your daily life have to do with one other? It was this strong and convincing holistic message of inter-connectedness which impressed me the most after hearing Dr. Jane Goodall speak in front of a full auditorium at the Free University of Brussels last 22 November 2010.

Dr. Jane Goodall spent most of her life observing the behaviour of chimpanzees in the rainforest and became world famous for her findings. After 26 years of research, she realized that she would need to leave the forest in order to save them. Flying over the Gombe Reserve with barren deforested hills, hearing of the alarming rates of increased trade in bush meat, seeing the war coming closer and witnessing the poverty of people living around the reserve: she knew that if she did not act, the survival of the chimpanzees as a species would become critical.

She started a development cooperation program around the reserve (TACARE) – supporting the local people and respecting the environment and animals living around them, a model which is now spreading over neighbouring countries. The grass roots model is a holistic one: e.g. they (re-)plant trees, train forest rangers, set up micro-credit programs, cultivate shade-grown organic coffee, provide reproductive health care, and school education for girls and boys.

She then became an activist, and up to this day, at the age of 76, she travels around the world 300 days a year, showing the link between our own actions as human beings (regardless of where we live on this planet), and the survival of other species, like the chimpanzees. She talks with a very clear and simple language: no fancy abbreviations, scientific terminology or concepts. This incredible, down-to-earth woman leaves no audience untouched. She speaks from the heart and combines it with her scientific knowledge and practical mind: a standing ovation is what she gets wherever she speaks. People of all ages, of all cultural or economic backgrounds, understand her message of peace and hope. She gives us courage and shows that every single individual can do something - here and right now - and that it actually can make a difference. Her latest book filled with stories of courageous individuals saving species from the brink of extinction, “Hope for Animals and Their World,” gives many hopeful examples. She argues, though, that one does not need to be a biologist or save a species to make a difference: any individual can do their share even if one starts with small steps...

Her global youth movement, Roots&Shoots, gives young people of all ages a tool to do something in their own country or neighbourhood for the environment, animals and people. At the lecture in Brussels, the Jane Goodall’s Roots&Shoots was officially re-launched in Belgium. Two schools – the International School of Brussels and the International Montessori School – as well as one university – the Boston University in Brussels – have already announced to be pilot cases for the Belgian R&S movement. Anyone can start an R&S group - families, neighbourhoods, groups of children - as long as they do some real projects around the three pillars (environment, animals and people) and with one common topic woven through it: peace and respect.

I invite you to have a look at the media coverage page on our website to catch some beautiful glimpses of this great human being. You can read more here to see what Sunbeams has done in the past to support the Jane Goodall Institute in Belgium. You will also hear more about our closer cooperation, especially with the Roots&Shoots youth program in the near future. In addition, Sunbeams decided that for every 5 trees planted at our Tree Planting Event on 20 March 2011 in Belgium, we will donate one tree to the tree planting operation of Jane Goodall’s Roots&Shoots in Central Africa.

Wishing you all a sprinkle of Dr. Jane Goodall’s magic!

Ilke Pedersen-Beyst

Founder and President of Sunbeams

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