When people talk about making a difference, they imagine reinventing the wheel or launching a big campaign that yields immediate results. While such intentions are laudable, lending a hand to projects already in place and doing what needs to be done, one step at a time, can amount to something significant.
British scientist and conservationist Jane Goodall, who began studying chimpanzees in Tanzania almost 60 years ago, believes in the cumulative effect of good work. Now 85, she spends 300 days a year on the road reminding people that “what you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”.
In 1991, the US-based Jane Goodall Institute started Roots & Shoots, a programme focused on making positive change happen for people, animals and the environment. In 2015, the Malaysian chapter was established by TP Lim to activate “seeds of goodness” in the young and provide them with the tools to make the world a better place through service projects.
On April 3, Goodall’s birthday, Lim introduced the Roots & Shoots Malaysia Award (Rasma) in Kuala Lumpur. It will see 30 participants aged between 16 and 25 volunteering with 15 partner organisations, under which they will get to do on-ground work, learn about policy, ideas and advocacy as well as actively be part of the solution.
Everywhere Goodall goes, he explains, youngsters tell her they feel helpless when confronted with global issues. She tells them to look closer to home and take heart from the small groups she meets doing what they can to improve things, wherever they may be. Roots & Shoots was set up to connect them so they know what the others are doing, and give them hope.
“Sometimes, we overanalyse. Dr Jane is very practical. She always says, ‘Think local and act local: Identify the problem, think of a solution, take action and celebrate’. The last is very important because we have to continually inject the world with positive energy,” says Lim.
Rasma participants can work on protecting tigers, sun bears and turtles, run green initiatives such as making their own soap, connect with nature through outdoor adventures and project-based expeditions, and learn about biodiversity conservation, among other things. They will also get to attend a workshop conducted by Google Earth Outreach at Google Malaysia’s office in KL.
Partner organisations for the award are the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, EcoKnights, Free Tree Society, Fuze Ecoteer, The Habitat Foundation, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Malaysia Primatological Society, Nuvista Media, Perak State Park Corp (Royal Belum), Rimau (Persatuan Pelindung Harimau Malaysia), Persatuan Rimba Komuniti Kota Damansara Selangor, Project GreenSmiths, Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia and Google Earth Outreach.
Rasma can help participants realise their power to make a change, says Lim, president of Roots & Shoots Malaysia. “We are like the instigator ... we ignite passion and empower the young. We want to create a groundswell of people who want to just do something to solve the problems around them.”
Seed funding for the local arm was provided by Berjaya Foundation and corporate support enables it to dedicate funds for specific projects and hire some full-time staff. Yayasan Hasanah, an impact-based foundation of Khazanah Nasional, is the community partner of Rasma, which will see participants volunteering between 45 and 75 hours over a set period of three months in projects linked to the theme, Voices of the Rainforest: Protecting Our Shared Heritage.
Foundation managing director Shahira Ahmed Bazari says there are more than 10 active Roots & Shoots groups in Malaysian schools. Galvanising students with programmes that resonate with them helps spread Goodall’s simple message: Take care of Mother Earth.
The article first appeared on Apr 29, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.