The past twelve months have seen us change from a grass roots friends and family team to one which has developed and implemented what many have stated, is possibly one of the largest, Community Capacity Project’s in the country.
Working in partnership with Jasper Hughes Educational Officer for the Highland Wildlife Park, we have instigated the first of a three phase Bio Diversity Project which will ultimately see seven Bio Hubs being used across the park, by groups engaged in an array of Citizen Science Activities.
We have underpinned our 25yr commitment to this venture through the establishment of yet another partnership, only this time it is with a team affiliated to Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme; the Charity Health & Happiness in the Highlands is involved in developing opportunities for individuals with Learning Difficulties and Autism, and between us we are going to train their clients to become responsible for the upkeep and management of individual hubs.
The groups who choose to take part in this venture will, in consultation with members of the Highland Facilitator Team, undertake projects lasting between 1 – 3 yrs; students from a local College are due to view their proposed site in the next week or so, and it is anticipated that they will begin their contribution to science and environmental research by the spring.
It is estimated that upwards of 5,000 young people will be given an opportunity to get involved in a diverse array of projects over the coming decades and that this in turn will enhance and contribute to further opportunities for all. Our proposal that independent yet linked bio-diversity hubs dedicated to the advancement of a diverse array of cold climate environmental issues be created, developed and maintained by community groups in partnership with the Park is an utterly innovative concept.
The volunteers recruited to date represent many local groups and organisations supporting individuals with disabilities; and this situation simply reinforces a recent government report citing the enormous benefits to be gained by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and similar learning difficulties, when engaged in outdoor activities such as that required to establish, maintain and conserve, a project such as this.
Therefore apart from promoting citizen science, educational advancement and community enterprise this venture has the potential to be a holistic and healing experience for those involved and in many ways we have created layered benefit on multiple issues.
The Highland Wildlife Park is run by the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland and as such this project will link in with current RZSS projects such as the important Aspen and Invertebrate study. Increased education opportunities would be available on species specific planting, monitoring, surveying for specific land types; as well as bio-diversity hotspots by creating sites specifically dedicated to supporting research into native species be it insects, moss, plant life and/or the establishment of woodland.
The Highland Facilitator Team believe in Dr Goodall’s vision for the future and it was felt that it would be fitting to commemorate the instigation of this project by naming the first Hub after Dr Goodall, in recognition of her contribution to humanitarian advancement through animal advocacy and the inspiration she had given to us.
The hub is a living legacy, and by facilitating the uptake of citizen science activities amongst the general public, increasing knowledge and understanding of the importance of biodiversity protection, conservation and preservation; whilst creating opportunity for involvement in activities from grass roots to serious research projects we hope that it will serve to remind the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will view our work over the coming years, of Dr Goodall’s influence in all that they see around them.
The project noted above is but one community activity which we have undertaken over the last year, with others including the hosting of a 4 day environmental summit in Inverness whereby some 1200 individuals were directly involved in activities arranged by us, the establishment of an undertaking by multiple groups and organisation across the Highlands to come together to participate in an environmental road show next summer, and the running of a Summer Environmental Activity Group for young people with Autism and associated disorders. This last venture was so successful that we have been asked to provide Activity Agreements for young people from Social Services, Charities, Organisations, Schools and Colleges.
Our activities include tree planting for remote communities, bag backing to raise awareness, collecting Green Dreams on behalf of the UN, collecting funds for others, and the promotion of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme.
Our growth in terms of provision of community services has been exponential and we are currently waiting to discover whether the business plan which we submitted to the Highland Council with regards our establishment of a community centre, has been accepted.
The centre will not only provide a base for ourselves and the organisations whom we are working with, it will also avail local people of all abilities a place to meet and carry out activities which will support and encourage the development of a community spirit, promote environmental endeavour and increase wildlife protection. It is by far our biggest project with the potential to influence and assist an entire community; likewise with the Community Capacity Project based at the Highland Wildlife Park it also has the potential to create employment and training opportunities for many years to come.
We believe that we have proved the worth and viability of Dr Goodall’s vision for young people by proving beyond doubt that individuals willing to put the needs of others in front of their own, are capable of achieving feats which exceed any and all expectation.