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Voting for Dr. Goodall and other issues…

We, like countless groups before us, have benefited immeasurably from the guidance and support of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots administration team many times over and were therefore extremely disappointed to learn of the impending financial situation, which threatens the programmes very existence. As a group we have been very lucky to be nominated for a number of local and national awards as a consequence of our association with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme and we have found that the publicity generated on these occasions is an extremely important means of raising awareness not only of our own activities but other issues as well. With that in mind we took the rather bold step of nominating Dr Goodall in the “Most Inspirational Leader” category of the 2011 UK Climate Awards; we are also hoping that the judges will include Dr Goodall as a nominee in their Climate Hero Award Category. Nominees for this award are selected by the judging panel and it will be presented to the international figure that the public recognises as being the most inspirational advocate for climate change.

I don’t think anyone of us would doubt that Dr Goodall is a worthy candidate in her own right, nor would we fail to acknowledge the fact that she has inspired, motivated and enabled hundreds of thousands of young people across the world to act in defence of their communities, environment and local wildlife. The award may not have the prestigious of some of those she has received, but as the winner will be decided by public vote every single vote cast in her favour, would be affirmation of the affection and support she has, from grass roots members. We saw our nomination as an opportunity to do something far bigger than our size would dictate we were capable of, whilst also raising awareness of the phenomenal success of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme. We would also like to urge all of you to consider showing your support by making the requested donation of £30.00 (all donations welcome). Any organisation with a membership of over 500,000 young people must be doing something right and if that is the case, it is definitely worth continuing.

Some of you may have read about our being unable to attend the award ceremony in London last December due to the awful weather conditions sweeping the country at the time. The children’s disappointment was short lived if deeply felt as the day after the ceremony Jasmina Marcheva was able to fly north to present the team with their Gold Awards and a book signed by Dr Goodall. Jasmina also brought news that one member of the group Amy Robertson (17) had received the Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots Individual Endeavour Award for 2010. Unbelievably Dame Goodall then rang and spoke to the group via speaker phone for over 15 minutes, she gave them her famous chimp greeting and chatted about growing, vegetables, carrying out projects aimed at protecting wildlife and the environment and then invited them to meet her in May of this year.

One of the things which Dr Goodall stated she was pleased we had undertaken was our joining the Roots & Shoots Partnerships in Understanding project, as this endeavour is something she is very keen to support. The Roots & Shoots Partnerships in Understanding project pairs groups together from around the world in order to promote better understanding of the issues affecting individual teams as well as offering an opportunity to work on similar projects. Partner groups receive a welcome kit full of ideas and suggestions to get them started and we hope to include regular updates about our own experiences with our particular partner group, as the year progresses.

We have kick started our association by sending a parcel jam-packed with information, photos, gifts, booklets and other odds and ends to illustrate who, what and where we come from. We hope to be able to work together to undertake activities in association with the USA’s National Environmental Education Week, which is due to take place in April. This year’s theme is “The Oceans” which ties in nicely with our intended Roots & Shoots Water World Project. One of the activities we have planned to undertake with regards this forthcoming project is to carry out research and observation work with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, here and at Spey Bay in Moray. We hope that this will not only carry forward the understanding our agents gained last year when studying for their Dolphin Diplomas but also raise their awareness of the plight of Dolphins and Whales around the World and the need to care for our planets oceans. The recent curtailing of the Japanese Whaling Fleets season by committed environmentalists both at sea and on land, highlights the need for a call for open discussion within Japan itself, on what for many, is a totally unnecessary and barbaric annual event.

Another of the projects we are looking forward to is about to start following receipt of a potato seedling pack from the Potato Council, with the result that we will be chitting away on the 1st of March in readiness for the big Scottish potato growing competition. We are very lucky that we have been chosen by the Royal Highland Education Trust as one of the schools/groups to be supported throughout this project by a local farmer and we are especially delighted as we have been paired with the farmer who owns an Organic Farm situated about 100yrds from our base. Consideration of organic practices on this particular farm formed the basis for our first Roots & Shoots undertaking and we are excited with the prospect of learning more not only about organic farming but green issues in general as Donnie Macleod (the farmer in question) is a well known activist on environmental and anti war issues here in the Highlands, standing as a parliamentary candidate in the past for both Westminster and Holyrood.

Rhona Martin, our Tesco Community Champion, has asked if we will assist her during our local Tesco Extra’s Climate Week events and apart from helping with their actual Challenge in store on the 21st of March, we have been given an opportunity to hold a Climate Awareness Day on the 26th. We are looking forward to both of these events as well as our forthcoming “Have an Eco Easter Day” which is planned for the 16th of April. Rhona has been very generous in displaying photos and information about our group on her community notice board situated just inside the store…and again I would urge you to consider getting in touch with your own local stores and discussing your needs with your designated Community Champions as this is another way of promoting the Roots & Shoots Programme as a community based endeavour.

We recently undertook a tour behind the scenes of our own Tesco Extra in order to see for ourselves the effort being made by the store to minimise its carbon footprint. We were all very impressed with the sheer amount of recycling which goes on as well as the large clearly read information boards which were placed at strategic intervals around the store rooms and loading bays to help all members of staff to know exactly what it is they are supposed to recycle and where it is supposed to go. I think many of us would still have issues with Tesco, as we would with all stores, about the excessive use of packaging etc on food, but they are obviously aware of the poor image this often presents and are actively attempting to make some inroads with this.

Apart from our Water World Project we intend to spend sometime this year looking at the Biodiversity of Hedge Rows and in fact we are currently awaiting delivery of a range of saplings which we intend to use to create our own row. We are excited about this project as getting muddy digging holes has always appealed to certain members of our team! Murdo MacDonald Biodiversity Mentor (Scotland), came to the base recently and give a thoroughly entertaining talk and PowerPoint presentation on issues relating to Biodiversity and the Secret Life of the Alder. Murdo also brought a whole host of goodies for the team as well as offering to take them on a field trip later in the year with Mike, a local Marine Biologist.

We have continued to raise awareness of our work and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme by setting up displays of our work in two local libraries, with a third scheduled for the end of this month. We have found that libraries are very keen to engage with young people and presenting displays etc. is a fantastic way of showing the wider community what it is that you have been doing, and we often use these opportunities to canvass local people on issues relating to our community, environment and local wildlife. A recent chance encounter with an RSPB officer has lead to our forming closer ties with this organisation and it is hoped that we will soon be in a position to offer official resources about the work of the RSPB to the general public. We have also agreed to undertake one event on behalf of the RSPB, whilst they have offered to assist us with one of our awareness days. Other opportunities for talks and field trips for the group have been discussed and we are very excited by the prospect of finalising some of these.

As noted above one of our team members, Amy Robertson, recently received the Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots Individual Endeavour Award for 2010; however, what is not commonly known is that Amy has suffered from the debilitating effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for over 5yrs, with the result that she is in constant pain and wheelchair dependent for months at a time.The effects of CFS can be devastating and one of our undertakings this year is to raise awareness of this life altering illness to the general public, by conducting at least one event in support of AYME, the Association for Young M.E. Sufferers. It is widely accepted that CFS/ME is particularly common in school age individuals and we therefore also hope to carry out a number of displays about CFS and AYME in Community Libraries located within Secondary Schools around the region.

As a team we want to share our experiences in the hope that we can reassure friends and family with regards the importance of the role they play in helping an individual to feel motivated and of worth; and the many ways in which association with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme can assist them to do this. Amy started by planting single herbs and flowers whilst lying on a sofa in her sitting room too ill to stand up, utterly exhausted by the effort of placing a seed in a pot; however, through the understanding of those around her she did it. Amy hopes that by telling her story she will motivate and inspire sufferers not only of CFS but other debilitating illnesses and/or disability to recognise that that they too can be responsible, proactive environmentalists irrespective of their own circumstances, simply by being willing to try.

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