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Category: Environment and Conservation

How to Responsibly Fundraise for Australian Bushfires

People from all over the world have shown their generosity by donating money and coming up with creative ways to help Australia’s relief and recovery efforts for the bushfires. Setting up a fundraiser is another way you can show your support for the volunteers and evacuees, as well as the wildlife animals and habitat gravely Read More...

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People from all over the world have shown their generosity by donating money and coming up with creative ways to help Australia’s relief and recovery efforts for the bushfires. Setting up a fundraiser is another way you can show your support for the volunteers and evacuees, as well as the wildlife animals and habitat gravely damaged by the bushfires. 

The Country Fire Authority defines fundraising as an activity that “involves any form of appeal, collection, raffle, or activity which raises funds by selling goods or services from which a percentage is returned to the seller and the balance donated to a nominated cause.”

Before you get started on setting up a fundraiser, be sure to consider these points:

1 Choose to help a particular cause

Are you keen on helping restore burned down forests or providing much-needed support to firies? Focus on one particular aspect of the crisis that speaks to you (such as the environment, community, health and welfare, rebuilding, and animal welfare), so you can be passionate about it long after the fires have stopped burning. 

In an interview with ABC Life, Jessica Bowman, founder and CEO of social enterprise The Good Cause Co., says, “A lot of the time, there’s a strong desire to help people immediately, but the impacts of bushfires are felt long beyond the actual event. The University of Melbourne has produced a lot of research into this and they’ve found, even 10 years beyond Black Saturday, communities are still feeling the effects of that fire.” 

2 Pick a registered charity

Select a charity that is aligned with your fundraiser’s purpose. Tying up with an official organisation that already has resources in the affected area and experience with the disaster guarantees that your fundraising efforts will go to its intended recipients. Visit the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) website to get more details about a specific charity. With over 57,600 registered and regulated charities, the ACNC database presents a group’s purpose, its contact details, its leaders, and its income and expenses. 

Keep in mind that some organisations have specific rules about fundraising on their behalf, so it’s best to read the guidelines posted on their website and gain permission before using their name. Due to the influx of individuals and groups wanting to help, it might take some time before the charity responds to your inquiry. But once they have given their approval, they might even be able to give you tips or collaterals that can promote your fundraiser.

3 Set it up with like-minded individuals

Your fundraising efforts need not be a solo act. You can form a fundraiser with the groups you already belong to (i.e. your school, your rotary club, your local animal welfare group, your sports club, or your religious institution), and use your common interests as a starting point. 

The best part? People, animals, and places affected by the bushfires that directly belong to your organisation could instantly benefit from the funds you raise. For example, you can ask your company to match the donations you and your coworkers raise for bushfire-affected teammates. 

4 Find out what is needed

Save precious time and allocate resources properly by asking your chosen charity what it truly needs. That way, you have a clearer picture of the essential funds or items that will benefit your charity’s recipients once you’ve completed your fundraiser. For instance, Foodbank accepted water bottle donations when the fires first broke out. However, it currently posted that it has no need for it because the NSW, ACT, South Australia, and Victoria warehouses already have sufficient stocks. 

5 Take it online

Thanks to the convenience of the World Wide Web, it’s easy to raise funds without leaving your home and knocking on strangers’ doors. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can connect with strangers and get the word out about your fundraiser. 

Sign up through online platforms such as Everyday Hero, Just Giving, and My Cause. There, you’ll be able to create a page, inform the platform’s existing community of your target amount or goal, spread the word to more people through social media posts, and send the funds directly to the charity you’re supporting. If you’re not social media savvy, don’t fret! You can also build awareness by sharing your fundraising details through email, SMS, virtual bulletin boards, instant messaging, and/or chat messaging. 

6 Play to your strengths

Create a fundraiser that makes use of your natural abilities and resources. Take a moment to assess what you have, and list down what you’re personally great at doing. Then, consider the strengths of the organisation you belong to (i.e. large number of supporters, well-known board members, website with high traffic), and what makes it stand out from the crowd. Combine these two aspects to make your fundraising easier. 

If you and your friends are stylish shoppers with many preloved quality clothes that don’t see the light of day, why not hold a garage sale that can help you clear out closet space while earning money for a great cause?

7 Fundraise for the greater good

Though it might be tempting to raise funds for someone near and dear to your heart, it’s best to consider how the larger community can benefit from it. Bowman shares, “What you want to achieve from any bushfire fundraising is the rehabilitation of the community, and when you’re funding individuals, that [doesn’t] create a sense of good faith within the community.”   

Remember that charities can only achieve so much with your assistance. ACNC Commissioner Hon Dr Gary Johns says, “Charities play an important role in supporting the victims of natural disasters. They provide essentials like food, shelter and counselling to people affected by disasters, and they often rely on public support to do this.”

If you’re interested in creating your own fundraiser for Australian bushfires, follow these steps so you can create an effective fundraising plan. You can also get inspiring fundraising ideas from CauseVox and Wild Apricot

10 Ways to Help Wildlife Injured by Australian Bushfires

With approximately 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres) of land burned by the bushfires across Australia, it comes as no surprise that over 1.25 billion animals have been tragically killed, gravely injured, or displaced from forests and reserves that they consider home. Minister of the Environment Sussan Ley estimates that in New South Wales alone, Read More...

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With approximately 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres) of land burned by the bushfires across Australia, it comes as no surprise that over 1.25 billion animals have been tragically killed, gravely injured, or displaced from forests and reserves that they consider home. Minister of the Environment Sussan Ley estimates that in New South Wales alone, about 8,400 koalas perished from the mid-north coast bushfires. 

Even if the NSW blazes are now officially contained, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, and other native animals continue to face imminent threat. Some are even at risk of extinction. (Find out which animals are considered threatened species.) These voiceless creatures need our assistance and support, whether during a bushfire emergency or long after the fires have been put out. Here’s how you can help:

1 Call experts for advice.

If you come across an injured or orphaned animal, call your local wildlife rescue service so the animal can be rescued by trained specialists or they can teach you how to assist the animal in the best way. Wild animals can scratch or bite when they’re frightened or hurt, so it’s best to keep a safe distance. Well-intentioned people are advised to stay away from snakes, monitor lizards, flying foxes, microbats, kangaroos, wallabies, eagles, falcons, and hawks. 

Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. (WIRES) presents a list of regional branches you can contact immediately, so you can call to describe the animal’s physical condition and get advice on what to do. If you’re unsure about how to deal with a particular animal, check out this wildlife information guide.  

2 Check for paint marks or ribbons.

If you find paint marks or ribbons over the injured animal, it means the animal has already been attended to by a wildlife rescue volunteer. Approach the animal carefully if he has no visible paint marks or ribbons.

3 Remove immediate threats.

Exercise caution when approaching an injured animal. Quietly assess the animal’s situation. Take away people, pets, children, or objects that could cause him additional stress or harm. 

4 Place the injured animal in a warm, dark, and quiet place. 

Wear durable gloves if you plan on holding injured wildlife. Keep him away from your face and be cautious of his beak, claws, horns, and/or teeth. Before taking him to the veterinarian or waiting for rescue assistance to arrive, WIRES advises wrapping him loosely in a towel or blanket (burnt animals should be wrapped in towels ideally made of 100% cotton), and placing the injured animal inside a ventilated box with cover. Wash your hands afterwards. 

Stash extra gloves, clean towels or blankets, and cardboard boxes in the trunk of your car in case you encounter an injured animal on the road. If you come across a dead marsupial, check the pouch for a living joey. Gently touch its belly and search for movement or bulkiness.

5 Refrain from giving food or water.

Unless instructed by a veterinarian or wildlife rescue expert, do not feed or give water to the injured animal. The wrong food might cause choking, aspiration pneumonia, and other  digestive complications. 

6 Wait for medical assistance or, if necessary, provide transport to the nearest vet.

Try to keep the animal as relaxed as possible in a warm, dark, and quiet place while waiting for wildlife professionals to arrive and treat the injured animal. 

If recommended by experts to do so, take the animal to the closest veterinary clinic or wildlife hospital so they can be assessed immediately. During the ride, switch off the radio and refrain from talking to reduce noise-related stress. Also, inform WIRES where you’ve taken the injured animal, so they can bring the animal into their care at the appropriate time. 

7 Leave something for fleeing or starving animals to drink and eat.

Animals fleeing from a bushfire may appreciate a sip of fresh, clean water. Put durable water buckets and bowls outdoors under the shade, with sticks or stones on one side of the bowl to assist smaller animals to step out in case they fall in. Water in buckets hoisted up in trees can also be a treat for arboreal animals. Remember to change the water daily, and do not put electrolytes or sugar in water sources as these can be harmful to wildlife.

For people with pools in their backyard, make sure that animals can safely make their way out of it. WIRES recommends draping something over the edge of the pool which animals can grab hold of, such as a heavy duty rope or a flotation device that is secured at one end to something heavy outside the pool. The object should not absorb water and can be something exhausted animals can rest on. Aside from this, place bricks or large stones on every pool step to help animals step out easily. Check your pool and skimmer box twice a day.

Though feeding native animals is not usually recommended, WIRES makes an exception during this time of crisis as a short-term solution. Check this list of natural diet you can place in your backyard for animals to eat until the natural habitat begins to recover. The NSW Government also shares a comprehensive guide of suitable foods for each animal, and tips on how and when to feed the animals correctly. Make sure to follow the guidelines from your state, and connect with local wildlife authorities to gain proper advice and approval. (Visit Wildlife Health Australia for more information.)

As a general rule, clean and dry the food containers after every meal. Wash your hands before and after you clean them. Regularly transfer food container locations to reduce predatory risk. Provide supplementary food as close to the natural diet as possible, and never give processed food with artificial sweeteners. After feeding, remove uneaten food to prevent diseases and unwanted pests. Slowly phase out supplementary nourishment stations as habitat conditions improve, so that wildlife do not grow dependent on these water and food sources.

8 Take pets with you.

Prepare a bushfire relocation plan for your pets. Bring them along when you evacuate, or choose to relocate them to a safe area. Keeping your pets contained will allow wildlife animals to flee safely through your property if needed. 

During a bushfire emergency, keep domestic animals under control by placing them in a secure space with a steady source of water. Minimise their exposure to smoke and fire. If your pet has been exposed to smoke or ash, give him a bath and check for ash by running your hands through his coat and his paws. Also, look out for any changes that might have been brought about by the heat, smoke, or ash. Call your veterinarian if you observe any symptoms. 

9 Make a donation.

Donate to well-known animal welfare charity groups (such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, World Wide Fund for Nature, and WIRES) or support your local organisations that aim to rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife. Visit the National Bushfire Agency to see the complete list of DGR-endorsed, registered groups. 

10 Plant trees. 

Once the bushfires are over and the soil is ready for plantation, you can help rebuild the homes of wildlife by replanting trees for shelter and nourishment. Plant trees and shrubs in your backyard, join tree planting activities in your community, become a tree ambassador, or adopt a tree for long-term habitat restoration.  

Be a responsible wildlife rescuer. Refrain from walking into active bushfires and attempting to save injured native animals without proper knowledge and training. Your safety, as well as the animals’ safety, is of utmost importance. Instead, stay alert and call local wildlife authorities when you encounter distressed, injured, or orphaned animals, so that highly trained experts and experienced volunteers can rescue and rehabilitate them. As keeping wild animals is against the law, be sure to turn over injured native animals under your care to local wildlife organisations. 

10 Other Ways You Can Support Bushfire Recovery

Help comes in many forms, and any kind of assistance is greatly appreciated by the survivors of a natural disaster. Donating funds to help Australia recover from the wake of the catastrophic bushfires and record breaking heat may be the most obvious and fastest way to assist the country, but there are other ways you Read More...

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Help comes in many forms, and any kind of assistance is greatly appreciated by the survivors of a natural disaster. Donating funds to help Australia recover from the wake of the catastrophic bushfires and record breaking heat may be the most obvious and fastest way to assist the country, but there are other ways you can lend a hand to bushfire evacuees, displaced wildlife, and destroyed infrastructure. 

Read through this list and discover how you can help out:   

1 Donate specific goods.

Through the GIVIT portal, people impacted by an emergency event can ask for items that they really need, where they need it, and when they need it. Individual and corporate donors are encouraged to pledge their offers with new or preloved quality items. When a request is matched through the database, GIVIT provides a secure way for the donor and charity to connect, allowing the organisation to communicate with the donor on how to best send the items.

The Australian Red Cross (ARC) accepts pre-owned clothes, accessories, books, and homeware from individuals or retailers at various Red Cross Shop locations managed by their volunteers. The money raised from selling these quality goods will help ARC’s disaster relief and recovery efforts.

Foodbank welcomes donations of non-perishable food and essential grocery items in every state and territory across Australia. Items in demand include breakfast cereals, UHT milk, grab-and-go food like muesli bars, pet food, tinned food with ring pulls, pasta, rice, and noodles. Farmers, manufacturers, and retailers can also give bulk donations of ingredients and items, or collaborate with Foodbank to produce sustainable key staple goods

2 Shop consciously.

Give bushfire-devastated local communities a boost by purchasing their products. Finder.com.au shares a list of bushfire-affected local businesses worth checking out, while Instagram account Spend With Them promotes businesses from bushfire-stricken areas. Featuring a gamut of products from Australian fine wines to unique woodcrafts, every item on the latter’s feed is accompanied by the business’s backstory and how it was affected by the fires. Spend With Them co-founder Turia Pitt urged people to shop locally by saying, “Spend your money with the people and the communities who really, truly need it. They need you. We need you.” 

Through Instagram, Hearts on Fire auctions off incredible fashion, food, travel, and art-related experiences such as a private chopper ride with photographer Eugene Tan and a trip for two to London Fashion Week. All proceeds will be given to various charities and organisations working for bushfire relief. 

3 Share your skills.  

You may not have money to donate at the moment, but practical skills (such as administrative work, construction, cooking, electrical, earthworks, logistics, marketing, and plumbing) are just as valuable. The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF)-Australia encourages individuals to sign up and offer their support by volunteering general or specific skills, and/or sharing their expertise to affected communities. 

Meanwhile, GIVIT urges people to donate a service for free or for a nominal fee to help communities in Western Australia and Queensland. Different skills are needed in rebuilding a community, and once your services match a group’s request, you’ll be contacted by GIVIT or the local organisation in charge of the project. 

4 Travel across Australia.

Originally published on Facebook, YouTuber Tegan Weber’s message has inspired thousands of people to go and travel within Australia. She wrote, “I want you to do just one simple thing. When these fires have stopped, and the towns impacted are safe and trying to regain some sense of ‘normal,’ I want you to plan a road trip. Go with empty eskies, empty cars, and low fuel. Go, spend your money, stay in their hotels, buy from their shops, camp at their camp grounds, buy their gifts, buy their fuel, buy bread and milk. Beyond rebuilding, they need continued and long-term support to get back on their feet and your empty esky makes more of a difference than you could ever imagine. #gowithemptyeskys”

5 Watch a live show.

Listen to music for a cause! No matter which musical genre you enjoy bobbing your head along to, you’ll find a multitude of acts coming together to raise money for national bushfire relief. Buy tickets to watch Michael Bublé and 5 Seconds of Summer perform at Fire Fight Australia in New South Wales, or catch Angus and Julia Stone Briggs and Gang of Youths at Down to Earth in Melbourne. 

Even comedians such as Arj Barker, Urzila Carlson, and many more have banded together for Comedy Steps Up for Bushfire Relief, waiving their fees and commissions to help raise funds for fire-affected communities. 

6 Help clear debris and/or build fences.

The Victorian Government is working hand in hand with construction company Grocon to help clean up their state. Local contractors and other interested parties are invited to register their details, so that they can help safely demolish, remove, and dispose of residential and commercial buildings irreparably damaged by the bushfires. 

Meanwhile, BlazeAid has helped rebuild fences and restore the spirits of disaster survivors in various rural communities since 2009. No matter what background or gender, people (as young as 12 years old) are invited to become BlazeAid camp volunteers. The job includes working side-by-side with landowners to help clear debris, replace damaged fences, run through wires in new fences, and hold posts in place. 

7 Make items for bushfire survivors.

Use your crafty skills to help young animals and children. WIRES urges volunteers to knit pure wool pouches and sew cotton or flannelette linings needed to keep rescued wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots, gliders, and possums warm and comfortable. 

Last January, the Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild (ARCCG) and other similar groups have announced that they have received more than enough joey pouches, hanging pouches, bat wraps, nests, and koala mittens from local and international crafters. However, ARCCG still welcomes crochet or knitted toys, animal beds, cat toys, dog coats, and blankets, which can all be used for bushfire displaced animals and local pounds. Interested parties can make these items following their guides.

As for The Australian Red Cross, their Trauma Teddy project accepts hand knitted teddy bears which are distributed to provide comfort to sick, distressed, or traumatised children.   

8 Plant seedlings and support tree-planting projects.

Returning the land to its former state will take time, ongoing support, and the collective effort of the community. With a goal to raise half a million seedlings per year, South Australia’s Trees for Life is looking for volunteers keen on growing native seedlings in their backyards during the summer season. Supplies, training, and support are all provided by Trees for Life to help grow healthy native seedlings, which are then handed over to landowners and community revegetation projects for planting.  

The Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative (ORICoop) offers support to organic farmers and producers affected by the bushfires. Providing assistance in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, volunteers can lend a hand in farm support (fencing, soil preparation), infrastructure construction, tree planting activities, marketing initiatives, and more.

Towards Two Billion Trees is WWF’s ambitious 10-year plan that’s designed to stop excessive tree-clearing, protect Australia’s existing trees and forests, and restore the native habitat. You can make a donation to ensure that 780 million trees are saved and 1.56 billion new ones are planted by the year 2030. 

9 Offer a place to stay.

Find A Bed matches generous people who have spare beds and rooms with bushfire evacuees looking for temporary places to dwell in. The database finds the closest match so that bushfire-affected humans and/or animals (cats, dogs, horses, and farm animals) can gain short-term or long-term respite they so badly need. You can offer your home here

10 Continue to raise awareness.

Be the voice of bushfire relief efforts on social media. As it will take months or even years for Australia to fully recover from this devastating disaster, you can continue to share updates on the country’s urgent and long-term needs. Post articles on your social media accounts and share news articles from credible sources and trustworthy news outlets.

You can also reach out to local organisations and community groups to find out how you can help. No matter how insignificant your act of help may seem, the assistance you give can ignite a spark that reaches out to hundreds or even thousands more. 

10 Orgs Where You Can Donate Money for Australian Bushfires

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the Australian bushfires: the communities who have lost their homes and livelihood, the animals injured by the destructive infernos, and the volunteers who continue putting their lives at risk each time they attempt to put out a fire. As of January 2020, an estimated 18.6 million hectares Read More...

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Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the Australian bushfires: the communities who have lost their homes and livelihood, the animals injured by the destructive infernos, and the volunteers who continue putting their lives at risk each time they attempt to put out a fire. As of January 2020, an estimated 18.6 million hectares of land has been burned to the ground, while over one billion animals—including iconic Australian species such as koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies—have sadly lost their lives.  

Though donating goods and supplies will go a long way, giving money is the fastest and most effective way to help rebuild the nation. Instead of worrying about where to store or how to transport and distribute donated items, generous financial contributions allow organisations to provide emergency support for communities that need them the most. The much-needed funds give residents the chance to choose where to allocate them and aid in their community’s immediate recovery. 

Discover where your money goes if you give these organisations a monetary donation: 

1 Australian Red Cross

For as little as 2 AUD (tax deductible), your donation to the Australian Red Cross will provide practical, local support to people during and after an emergency. Funds are broken down into training, equipment, logistics, and coordination of Red Cross volunteers, and, more importantly, to setting up emergency assistance and long-term recovery programs for disaster-stricken communities. The international humanitarian group also gives emergency grants to people whose homes were “destroyed or rendered permanently uninhabitable” by the bushfires. Read more on how they’re allocating the funds received. 

2 Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) welcomes financial donations to help animals threatened by bushfires. Mobilising its staff, volunteers, and resources, the RSPCA assists in keeping pets and animals safe, providing emergency care and boarding to those who need it, and giving much-needed supplies and equipment. Injured animals from affected bushfire areas will be identified, assessed, and nursed back to health in the next few months.

3 The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army reaches out to people who are overwhelmed by the aftereffects of the bushfire disaster. Working with federal, state, and local government, the organisation offers support at three stages: 1) emergency response during and immediately after the crisis  (such as providing meals, giving care packs, and counselling people) at emergency centers; 2) initial assessment and provision of emergency funds; and 3) recovery through financial assistance to those severely impacted by the bushfires such as initial cash grants, special housing grants, transitional accommodation relocation grants, and school assistance. You can make a one-off or a regular tax-deductible donation here.

4 World Wide Fund for Nature

Make a donation to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) so they can care for injured wildlife and help restore the native bushlands of Australia. Different amounts can instantly provide koalas and other animals with the assistance they so badly need. From vital veterinary care on ground (50 AUD) and sustenance to starving animals (75 AUD) to rapid assessment of bushfire-impacted areas (100 AUD) and habitat restoration (150 AUD), your contribution will go a long way. 

5 Foodbank

As the only non-profit food relief organisation that operates in every state and territory in Australia, Foodbank is able to use its extensive network to efficiently give essential supplies to people that need it. For every 1 AUD donation, the charity manages to arrange for 6 AUD worth of relief supplies (roughly equivalent to two meals) due to their partnership with food and grocery companies. Aside from selecting the amount to give (25, 50, 75, 150, or whichever amount you choose), you can pick which state will receive your contribution.

6 NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. 

Short for WIRES, the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. offers assistance to groups working with wildlife gravely affected by the bushfires. Through a tax-deductible donation of at least 2 AUD for a one-time or monthly basis, WIRES will be able to rescue native animals, provide nourishment and shelter, and rehabilitate injured and orphaned creatures.  

7 Rapid Relief Team

Families who have lost their homes due to the catastrophic bushfires can get instant assistance from the Operation Fire Relief created by Rapid Relief Team (RRT). The initiative brings hope to its recipients by presenting a 1,000 AUD gift voucher, an RRT Family Food Box, and a Cookie the Kookaburra plush toy for each child. As of December 2019, RRT has supported three fire-ravaged communities from Taree and Wauchope. 

8 GIVIT Listed Ltd

Though GIVIT is known for accepting new or used items in good condition, it also welcomes monetary donations in any amount. One hundred percent of the money you donate is used to purchase essential supplies, with the non-profit supporting local businesses whenever possible. The website works as a platform that posts items needed by vulnerable community members, then obtains these from individuals and businesses without the need to store, sort, and dispose of unwanted items.   

9 Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Supporting bushfire-affected communities in rural areas, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) wishes to help various towns rebuild and recover long after the national emergency relief money is expended. FRRR gives grants to local, non-profit organisations, so its leaders can spearhead projects unique to their community. Rebuilding community infrastructure and giving psychological support are just some of the ways FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund can help. 

10 Humane Society International Australia

Humane Society International works globally to create a humane, sustainable, and safe world for all creatures—humans and animals alike. Since November 2019, the Australian chapter has helped wildlife carers through the collection of the Wildlife Emergency Response Fund. The group has provided water and food for rescued wombats, kangaroos, and flying foxes throughout the region, and deployed a response team to South Australia’s Kangaroo Island (48% of whose land mass has been affected). It aims to build more rehabilitation enclosures for injured koalas and other animals.   

These are just a few of the groups that you can make a contribution to. If you’re thinking of helping another organisation, check out these lists from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and ABC to make sure it is officially registered to assist with bushfire relief and recovery.

10 Unique Places in the World to Volunteer and Encounter Animals

Are you an animal lover who’s interested in enriching your travels? Why not combine two passions—animals and travel—through wildlife conservation volunteering?  Wildlife conservation volunteering consists of visiting a new place, interacting with the wild or endangered species found within the habitat (or at a rescue centre), and working to help preserve the area. From caring Read More...

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Are you an animal lover who’s interested in enriching your travels? Why not combine two passions—animals and travel—through wildlife conservation volunteering? 

Wildlife conservation volunteering consists of visiting a new place, interacting with the wild or endangered species found within the habitat (or at a rescue centre), and working to help preserve the area. From caring for injured animals to monitoring exotic species, there are unlimited options offered to tourists who want to make a difference while learning about the endemic animals of a novel location. 

Consider these beautiful spots when you plan your next sojourn and read up on the animals you could be encountering there:

1 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Travelers interested in getting up close and personal with elephants can make their way to Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park which was first established in the 1990s. Found in the northern part of Thailand, the rescue and rehabilitation centre gives visitors the opportunity to spend a day with dozens of elephants saved from all over the country. 

See these gentle giants with their chosen herds, observe them as they bathe in the river, assist in feeding them, and watch them relax in custom-built pools and mud pits. Signing up for the park’s “Saddle Off!” program even allows you to have a stunning forest walk with elephants who have been recently freed from laborious work. Aside from majestic pachyderms, the centre is also an asylum for rescued buffaloes, dogs, cats, horses, goats, and birds. 

2 Zarnesti, Romania

Romania is said to be the home of more than half of the wild bears found in the European Union, so it’s no surprise that Europe’s largest bear sanctuary can be found within this forested region. Since opening its doors in 2005, the Libearty Bear Sanctuary has hosted over 100 brown bears that have been saved from cruel living conditions. The 66-acre oak forest grants the brown bears the freedom to climb trees, walk on logs, or bathe in the water—activities which some of them previously didn’t know how to do. 

Volunteers that join Responsible Travel can help out at the sanctuary for at least seven days, preparing the bears’ food, monitoring the bears’ well-being, and helping out with the sanctuary’s guided tours while living in the nearby medieval city of Brasov. 

3 Negros Occidental, Philippines

Once an overfished area, Danjugan Island is now the refuge for Philippine marine and terrestrial species living in the Western Visayas region. With five sparkling lagoons, pristine coral reefs, and stunning limestone forests, the 1.5km-long island has been transformed by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. into an outdoor classroom. Held from March to May, their annual five-day camp lets young, aspiring environmentalists to converse with conservationists (on topics such as marine ecosystems, Philippine biodiversity, and climate change) while letting them experience fun, outdoor activities on the island (snorkeling, trekking, and bird watching, to name a few).

Sightseers eager to experience nature at its purest are encouraged to visit the marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary any time of the year. Here, they can hike through the forest in search of sea eagles, enter caves to see roosting bats, or swim with a colorful school of batfish. With solar-powered facilities and water consciously rationed on the island, the sanctuary promises a rustic escapade with low carbon footprint.

4 Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Got the eye and patience for capturing animals on camera? This GoEco adventure in northeastern South Africa might just be your cup of tea! Take photographs of wild animals and contribute toward ongoing animal research and awareness campaigns. 

For a minimum of four weeks, volunteers get to stay in a lodge on a private reserve that’s only 45 minutes away from the Kruger National Park, South Africa’s premier national park which is known to contain significant numbers of all Big Five game species. Participants undergo extensive photography and photo editing workshops, engage in community work, assist on conservation initiatives, and camp out in the wild to photograph natural sites (waterfalls, river canyons, and plants) and animals (vervet monkeys, impalas, and leopards). 

5 Galle, Sri Lanka

Spend at least a week on the southern coast of Sri Lanka to protect sea turtles from poaching, fishing, and other threats. Take a trip with Volunteering Journeys to visit authorised turtle hatcheries and assist in tracking the overall status of sea turtles.

For two to three hours a day, volunteers are assigned to monitor mother turtles that hatch eggs, keep the eggs safe from predators and poachers until their hatching, help release healthy newborns into the ocean, fill up and clean water tanks, and/or care for sick sea turtles. Lucky participants can join in the night camps held on the beach (usually from December to April) to watch mother turtles lay their eggs, while others are given a chance to interact with the community through marine awareness projects.

6 Sichuan, China

Travelers obsessed with pandas can visit China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to discover how this peaceful reserve protects and effectively increases the current panda population. 

Those with at least a week on their hands can join GoEco’s immersive program that allows volunteers to assist giant panda keepers, receive basic training, prepare panda food, and clean the panda pens and enclosures. Those who arrive between July to September and November to December may be treated to panda cub viewings at the Panda Base or Breeding Centre. Cultural activities such as Chinese language lessons and Chengdu city tours are also included in the package. 

7 Calga, Australia

Just an hour away from Sydney by car, the Walkabout Wildlife Park is an 80-acre wildlife haven that offers guided youth camps and adult education programs. From overnight bush adventures to weeklong international cultural exchanges, participants get to meet over 180 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs who all consider Walkabout Park home.

Volunteers gain practical knowledge by working closely with rangers who were taught by local Aboriginal elders. Combining eco-education and volunteering, the park’s four-night residential program grants participants the rare opportunity to encounter friendly wildlife animals (who doesn’t love kangaroos and emus?), to live and work in the bush, and to find out how the Aboriginals survived in it. 

8 Sarawak, Malaysia

Orangutans get top priority at Matang Wildlife Centre, a facility that rehabilitates and rescues orangutans as well as other rainforest animals like acrobatic gibbons, scaly pangolins, and Malayan sun bears. Situated at the western edge of Malaysia’s Kubah National Park, the centre not only provides food and builds infrastructure for those under its care, but also funds research and assists with animal release. 

For two or four weeks, volunteers will engage in physical work including husbandry, construction work, orangutan enrichment, maintenance of enclosures, and farming—tasks that aim to improve the conditions of the wildlife centre. Another 14-day tour takes visitors around the biodiverse national parks of Sarawak, granting them the chance to see Borneo’s endangered primates, create bamboo handicrafts with a local community, and meet an indigenous tribe that inhabits the rainforest. 

9 Vonitsa, Greece

If playful dolphins have always been your favourite aquatic mammals, this is your golden opportunity to partake in a project that will help generations to come. Travel to the picturesque Gulf of Ambracia in northwestern Greece and work side by side with scientists and researchers of the Ionian Dolphin Project

The six-day seafaring adventure stresses the importance of marine ecosystem conservation while teaching volunteers how to properly collect and analyse research data on the dolphin population dwelling in the east Ionian Sea. Data on monk seals, turtles, fish, and seabirds are also collected when encountered by the research team. 

10 Töv, Mongolia

Witness wild horses galloping across a grassy field at Hustai National Park, situated 100 kilometres west of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. A symbol of the country’s national heritage, the takhi or Przewalski’s horse (named after Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky) is a rare and endangered horse native to central Asia. 

As an Animal Experience International volunteer, you’ll get to observe the horses in the field, noting their behavior, the growth of the foals, and their numbers and distribution for a minimum of two weeks. (Plus, you’ll get to live in a traditional felt yurt at the park!) The gathered findings will aid the park’s resident biologists and researchers in the management and building of the takhi population, the protection of its forest-steppe ecosystem and historical stone monuments, and the development of ecotourism to support the local communities. 

Photo from the Hustai National Park

As with every excursion you plan, make sure you have the proper travel documents and meet the health requirements needed (you must be physically sound and have updated vaccinations) to participate in the activities you signed up for.

No matter where you choose to go or which species you decide to help, you can be a more conscientious traveler that positively impacts the world with every trip you take. These wildlife creatures may not be able to explicitly thank you, but your help will undoubtedly make a lasting impact on them.

Climate Talks with Desiree Llanos Dee

Desiree Llanos Dee is the Climate Justice Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines. She seeks compelling stories from all around the world and uses them to humanise climate justice. This is her inspiring story. Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you first get involved in climate change-related pursuits? Desiree Llanos Dee (DLD): I first dove Read More...

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Desiree Llanos Dee is the Climate Justice Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines. She seeks compelling stories from all around the world and uses them to humanise climate justice. This is her inspiring story.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you first get involved in climate change-related pursuits?

Desiree Llanos Dee (DLD): I first dove into this field when I worked with the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission back in 2010. After three years of government work, I received a scholarship to take my master’s degree on climate policy in Germany. After graduating, I had this choice to go for internships or join the People’s Pilgrimage from Rome to Paris. I packed my bag for the 1,500-kilometer two-month journey that changed my life. 

After the walk, I shifted my focus from public policy to campaign and communications. Walking across communities in Italy, Switzerland, and France, I realised the great value of stories and human connection in this climate crisis. It also inspired me to pursue the path of being an illustrator (see my works at Deslikesdoodling) to visually communicate complex topics such as climate change, sustainable food systems, and peace. Eventually, the job post at Greenpeace came up and it seemed like a good fit for what I wanted to do.

WF: What are your tasks as Climate Justice Campaigner?

DLD: Greenpeace exists because this fragile Earth deserves a voice. Being a campaigner is being one of those voices. There are country-specific issues such as plastics, energy work, food, and mobility, and I serve as the spokesperson on those issues. But more than that, I would liken the role to being a film director. Like any good film, it starts with finding a good story that is worth telling. Every story involves characters, conflict, and a resolution, and every campaign presents both the problem and the solutions to any issue. It is about orchestrating all those elements into a strategy on how to best tell the story, who to best present it to, and how to build a movement around it.

WF: What would you say has been Greenpeace’s most effective campaign to date?

DLD: In September 2015, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines and 13 other civil society organisations filed a petition with the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR). They were joined by 18 Filipino individuals living on the frontlines of climate change. In December 2016, the CHR announced that public hearings will start from April 2017, despite apparent opposition from fossil fuels companies. In 2018, the public hearings were conducted in Manila, New York, and London, culminating with thousands of pages of statements and evidence on climate change.

The landmark case of the Commission on Human Rights brought together the community witnesses to the hearings in London (November 2018). The investigation was about the responsibility of fossil fuel companies in the human rights violations of Filipinos resulting from climate change.
From left to right: Desiree Llanos Dee (Climate Justice Campaigner from Greenpeace), Veronica Cabe (from Bataan; she spoke about her experience during Tropical Storm Ondoy), Marielle Bacason (a research nurse in London, originally from Tacloban; she spoke about her experience during and after Typhoon Haiyan), and Johanna Fernandez (digital engagement campaigner from Greenpeace)

We are expecting the resolution this year, and the outcome will be the first to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for human rights violations resulting from climate change. It will not only be for Filipinos, but will be for vulnerable communities everywhere. (Watch the animated video I illustrated below or read more about it here.)

WF: Aside from this ongoing petition, do you have other interesting stories you can share about working for Greenpeace?

DLD: There are many! In July 2017, I went on board Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, for three weeks to protest the new Arctic oil drilling in the Barents Sea. It was to bring the story of Filipinos to the Arctic region and connecting the climate impacts we experience to what they’re experiencing. Actress Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) was also on board with us to protest as well. That journey in itself was a lot of firsts. It was my first time to be on a ship for that long, to be seasick, to see an oil rig, to protest in Arctic waters, and to be in the region at a time where there was zero darkness.

On board the Arctic Sunrise for an oil rig protest in the Barents Sea with Joanna Sustento (left), a survivor of Typhoon Haiyan

In early 2018, the Rainbow Warrior came to the Philippine shores to campaign on climate justice, and I was on board for a month. We sailed from Hong Kong to Manila, Batangas, Guimaras, and ended the journey in Tacloban. It was really stressful to have a whole ship tour, but there were moments to be grateful for. While I was sending out emails in one of the rooms, the captain announced that there were whales outside so everyone stopped what they were doing and went outside! I remember thinking, “This can only happen in a mobile office such as a ship.” It was a moment for me to really reconnect with nature again.

On board the iconic Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior

Tacloban experienced the brunt of climate impacts when Haiyan happened back in 2013. With so much loss devastating the whole region, there was not enough psychosocial support for people to process their experience. So the locals came up with the human library called LIVErary, a platform where people can share their stories of tragedy, loss, hope, triumph and various dimensions of disaster. Today, this platform is being used by locals for different issues: LGBT rights for Pride Week, labor issues of workers for Labor Day, voters education for elections, Yolanda commemoration events, and more.

Samples of entries from the LIVErary

WF: How has working for Greenpeace changed your life? And what do you love most about working for them?

DLD: In some ways, it definitely made me expand my notion of the spectrum of activism. It’s not just protests, banner hangs, and confrontations, it’s also about creative engagement, negotiations, and diplomacy. At a time when there’s so much bleak news, it continues to give me hope to be connected to a global organisation with over 5,000 staff in 55 countries all over the world fighting for the same things.

What I love most about this work is being surrounded by people who choose courage over comfort, and passion over politics. I’m surrounded by people who want the work done more than their own personal interests.

WF: What would you say is the most challenging thing about being part of an environmental organisation like Greenpeace?

DLD: What’s challenging is how people tend to separate themselves from the environment and think it’s something remote from them. Or how people are afraid to talk to environmentalists because they’re afraid of being judged. I think that we should always endeavour to have an open space for dialogue for people to feel comfortable asking difficult questions, without judgment.

WF: Has there been any Greenpeace campaign or project that has left its mark on you?

DLD: Definitely the climate justice campaign. Whenever I witness people discovering their own role and story in the whole climate movement. For the public hearings of the climate and human rights case, we had to gather stories from different communities including indigenous people, youth, farmers, fisherfolk, jeepney drivers, and overseas Filipino workers. To ask them to be resource speakers on the witness stand in an investigation against big companies was not an easy feat. When I saw them on the witness stand, I remembered all their fears and doubts when we first met. I was so proud of how they’ve overcome all that and realised the value of their story not only to the case, but to the whole global climate justice movement. (Read the stories from the New York hearings here.) 

WF: What do you think are the actual steps we need to take to create more climate-conscious individuals and communities?

DLD: It starts with awareness—to know and understand what climate change is about, how we’re affected by it, how we contribute to it, and what we can do about it. And to take it deeper would be to be conscious of how we can concretely contribute to the solutions. Climate change is a big problem and it has several solutions. Think big, start small. Some examples include talking to your government officials about what their plans are for climate change or changing your diet. Meat has a high contribution to carbon emissions, so going on a plant-based diet is a concrete individual contribution to lightening your footprint on the planet.

Any individual action is important because it is the beginning of your journey, but it becomes greater when you engage the community around you. We can’t keep thinking that someone else will save the planet. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. In many ways, we tend to give up our power by not caring, not paying attention, not asking, not doing enough, and not doing anything. I want people to be reminded of their own power to make that change.

WF: How can ordinary people support Greenpeace?

DLD: You can donate. Greenpeace is an independent global organization and it relies on individual donors. It does not accept donations from corporations or governments to maintain its independence. 

You can also volunteer. When you volunteer, you can be involved in different campaigns depending on your interests and skill sets. There are also a lot of workshops that are offered for the development of volunteers.

WF: What’s your advice for people involved in protecting the environment or for others thinking of getting into it?

DLD: Just start. Start small. Start in your own way. Start with your strengths. Start with what you’re curious about and just pursue it whether it’s research, illustrating, having an urban garden, volunteering, and communicating. Starting something removes the fears and doubts of creating anything. And if you fail, learn from it and fail forward. (Watch this video to be inspired.)

The global movement on climate justice comes together: The Climate Justice campaign wants to connect legal actions in the world asking for accountability from governments and corporations. Featured here are Filipinas alongside senior women from Switzerland and youth from the USA and Norway

Support Greenpeace Philippines by visiting their website and their social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also support Greenpeace in your country through https://www.greenpeace.org/international/.

10 climate change websites you should follow to stay up-to-date

Climate change might seem like an abstract concept, but it is a real and growing concern that affects every living person, creature, and organism on the planet. More than just letting the nation’s leaders decide on the fate of our Earth, every citizen should do their part in lessening their carbon footprint and helping build Read More...

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Climate change might seem like an abstract concept, but it is a real and growing concern that affects every living person, creature, and organism on the planet. More than just letting the nation’s leaders decide on the fate of our Earth, every citizen should do their part in lessening their carbon footprint and helping build a future that’s safe for generations to come

Be in the know about climate change by adding these websites to your bookmark and visiting them regularly for updates!

1 Climate Central

An independent group of leading scientists in climate science and respected journalists created Climate Central with a mission to “communicate the science and effects of climate change to the public and decision-makers.” Conducting extensive scientific research and reporting their key findings to the public, Climate Central presents unbiased reports on topics such as climate science, sea level rise, meteorology, energy, wildfire, and drought. Analyzing the data they’ve gathered, Climate Central also makes it their goal to provide media, local communities, and as many audiences as possible with the essential tools needed to visualize the real dangers of human-caused climate change and the growing need for practical solutions.

Climate Central’s stories tend to concentrate on studies done in the various US states, but the news (covering warming trends to heavy rain events), videos (ranging from extreme weather to climate in context), and reporting resources (with compelling graphics and detailed information) they provide can be of use to anyone from anywhere in the world.

2 NASA

US federal agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) keeps tabs on the planet’s vital signs through satellites that orbit the Earth (some of these have been in orbit for over 14 years!). Their interactive Earth Now feature lets you fly along these missions to monitor the current state of the planet from outer space. Clicking on a satellite lets you view various 3D models of the visible earth, air temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sea level, soil moisture, ozone, water vapor, and gravity field, but you can also opt to review the latest data in their Vital Signs tab. Wildfires, super storms, and algal blooms are also presented as geo-located satellite images in NASA’s Latest Events feature.

3 DeSmog Blog

The people behind this blog make it their goal to clear the PR pollution that clouds climate science. Since its launch in January 2006, DeSmog Blog has become a reliable source for fact-based information centered on global warming misinformation campaigns. The blog shares a compilation of helpful media resources, enlightening new series, and even a searchable research database that reveals the individuals and organisations who have actively confused the public into taking action against global warming.

4 InsideClimate News

Founded in 20017, InsideClimate News is a “non-profit, non-partisan news organization that provides essential reporting and analysis on climate, energy, and the environment for the public and decision makers.” With a commitment to establishing a permanent national reporting network as well as training the next generation of environmental journalists, InsideClimate News delivers impartial reports on hot topics such as agriculture, clean energy, climate science, and extreme weather.  

Receiving the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, the award-winning InsideClimate News also features in-depth investigations (i.e. the effects of extreme weather and climate change to farmers and to national security), documentaries ranging from clean wind power to flash drought, and useful visual guides like charts, maps, and infographics.

5 Skeptical Science

From the “climate has changed before” to “it hasn’t warmed since 1998,” this blog debunks the 10 most used climate arguments through basic and intermediate explanations backed by compelling scientific evidence. Aside from rounding up climate change and global warming news on a weekly basis, its global team of volunteers provides a wealth of resources like John Cook’s Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism, climate graphics, and even a temperature trend calculator. The best part? Skeptical Science offers arguments in 25 different languages (Japanese, Portuguese, Slovak, and more) so that more nations can learn and disseminate its information.

6 The Daily Climate

A publication of Environmental Health Sciences, The Daily Climate reports, publishes, and curates climate change stories from various news sites such as The Guardian, The Conversation, and The Washington Post. Putting the day’s events in a larger context, the team divides what they’ve gathered into five unique topics: solutions, impacts, causes, resilience, politics, and good news.

7 RealClimate

A commentary website created by climate scientists for journalists and the general public, RealClimate aims to “provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary.” Presenting discussions of a scientific nature, the site offers a one-stop link of quality resources that people can check out whether they’re clueless about climate change or simply in need of more comprehensive information.

8 Climate Home News

Politics, finance, energy, land, tech, and science—these are the different topics covered by Climate Home News, an independent website focused on reporting climate-related news unfolding at different parts of the globe. This London-based editorial team seeks to publish pieces that touch on the political, social, and economic aspects of climate change, such as South Africa signing a carbon tax into law, school strikes taking place in 92 different countries, and European State Agency creating a satellite fleet to monitor carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. In addition to reading these stories, most articles on the site can be republished at no extra cost.

9 Climate Desk

A journalistic collaboration between various media outlets and organisations (The Atlantic, The Weather Channel, and Yale Environment 360 to name a few), Climate Desk is dedicated to exploring the multiple impacts of a changing climatefrom human and environmental to economic and political—and helping enrich the public’s understanding of this growing issue. The website breaks down the topics into seven categories for easy perusing: warming world, science, politics, energy & tech, food & health, weather & climate, and videos.

10 Grist

Claiming itself as “a beacon in the smog,” Grist has worked hard since 1999 to produce incisive online stories with witty headlines on topics such as clean energy, sustainable food, and environmental science. More than just crafting features, the independent, non-profit newsroom aims to expose inequities, offer solutions, and provide the much-needed knowledge and tools for its readers so they can help make a difference in the world.

Grist brings together a daily digest of must-read news, produces award-winning videos that are fun to watch and easy to understand, and provides a forum in which green advocates can share their thoughts. The website also rounds up an inspiring yearly list of 50 movers and shakers who are coming up with innovative solutions to help solve our global problems. 

Which websites do you follow to keep abreast of the latest climate change news? Let us know by commenting below!

Conservation Talks with Kaila Ledesma Trebol

Kaila Ledesma Trebol is the Trustee Adviser for Conservation and Education of Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI). A foundation that owns and manages Danjugan Island in Cauayan, Negros Occidental, PRRCFI was established 25 years ago with a mission to inspire people to take action for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development through experiential Read More...

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Kaila swimming over Danjugan Island’s famous big table coral

Kaila Ledesma Trebol is the Trustee Adviser for Conservation and Education of Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI). A foundation that owns and manages Danjugan Island in Cauayan, Negros Occidental, PRRCFI was established 25 years ago with a mission to inspire people to take action for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development through experiential learning, collaborative research, nurturing partnerships, and enabling communities.

Waldo’s Friends learns about the foundation’s origins, the tireless people behind it, and their continuing efforts to inspire change through their conservation work.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): Could you share the brief history of PRRCFI and Danjugan Island?

Kaila Ledesma Trebol (KLT): In the 70s, Danjugan Island was discovered by a group of SCUBA divers from Bacolod. They leased a small beach on the island as their base camp in the 80s. Over the years, they experienced a lot of environmental threats both in Danjugan and on mainland Negros. They made efforts to work with the leaders back then. However, it was a real struggle. It was then they realized that educating the youth was a way to build the right leaders to fight for environmental conservation.
 
Back then, Danjugan was also under threat from so many extraction activities. One day, the owner of the island asked the group if they would like to buy a tree on the island for its lumber. A pair of white bellied sea eagles called this tree home, so there was no way the group would see it cut down. They asked if the island would be for sale instead. The owner agreed to sell it, but the group had no money. They had to seek assistance from Land Bank of the Philippines (for its first environmental loan) and World Land Trust in the UK to help purchase Danjugan Island for its conservation. The island is now owned by PRRCFI and is a private protected area. In 2000, the Municipal Ordinance No. 99-52 was passed declaring “the surrounding waters of Danjugan Island as a marine reserve and portions of it as marine sanctuaries.”

A white bellied sea eagle on the tree that was meant to be cut down

WF: What do you do as a part of PRRCFI?

KLT: I am part of a nine-member volunteer Board of Trustees. We are the management committee for anything PRRCFI takes on. We are responsible for making sure that all the activities and programs are in line with its vision and mission.
 
As Trustee Adviser for Conservation and Education, my work involves helping create the camp curriculum and materials, acting as resource speaker, camp staff, or just work in camp logistics. I also assist the creative department in information education material development as well as find ways to ensure the sustainability of the foundation’s operations—from a well-organised ecotourism program to enterprise development and other activities taken on to help sustain PRRCFI. Documenting biodiversity is also one of my passions on Danjugan, so I work closely with the Communications and Science & Research Departments as well.

Board of Trustees, Project and Island Staff

WF: What would you say are PRRCFI’s most effective campaigns to date?

KLT: The most effective and popular program of PRRCFI is the Marine and Wildlife Camp, for sure. The first camp began in 1991. I was one of the campers, and my father, Gerry Ledesma, was the visionary who started it all. It started with just one annual summer camp, but over the years, it gained popularity and the demand increased.
 
Today, we do multiple camps all year round (except during the typhoon season) catering to all groups and all ages. We even expanded to do family camps, so parents and children can discover and connect with nature together. The camp’s tagline was “today’s youth, tomorrow’s conservationists” because it really started with the youth. Today, however, we find that it really is not too late to become a conservationist. We have had so many lives touched by Danjugan, and so many connections have been made that we have created a family of people who really want to make a difference. And as for camp alumni, we have had many who were inspired to go into the field of natural science and environment conservation. Many testimonies have assured us that our camp program is indeed working.
 
Our newest campaign is SWEEP (Sea Waste Education to Eradicate Plastic). It’s only a year old, but it’s one of our most ambitious and difficult projects to date. Here we create awareness of the growing plastic problem and its effects on marine life. SWEEP embarks on an awareness campaign (through coastal clean-ups and audits, mobile museum, and workshops) in the hopes to get the public to face the problem head on and hopefully find ways to cut their dependence to plastic. We created a mobile museum called “fishbolan” that tours around our partner municipalities to engage communities in creative discussions of this problem (like plastics entering the food chain).

We also opened a Wala Usik (which means “nothing is wasted” in Hiligaynon) store in Bacolod and formed partnerships with sari-sari stores (neighbourhood sundry stores) to join us in our journey toward a “wala usik” lifestyle. We also engage the local government units in helping them in their municipal action plans to really tackle the problem of solid waste management.

SWEEP team with the fishbolan mobile museum; PRRCFI SWEEP team; Sweep Walk

WF: What would you say is the best thing about working for PRRCFI?

KLT: It is being able to be in Danjugan Island, working with the most amazing people and the most dedicated team and island staff. We are just so lucky to have them. Being able to work with such an amazing team makes everything rewarding! It has become a real family.
 
Danjugan is the real uniting factor—it is a healing place. Over the years, we have strived to build a culture that respects nature and people. We strive for balance, an understanding and inclusiveness that make Danjugan such a welcoming place for those who are also open-minded about it and the experiences you allow it to give you.

WF: On the flipside, what’s the most challenging thing about working for PRRCFI?

KLT: When environmental conservation is not a priority for most leaders in this country, you can already see what we face. Yet we continue. No matter how slow the process seems to take, we just keep on doing the work that is meant to be done.
 
We are also here to support and encourage others who want to do this kind of work too. This is our way, but there are many approaches and many avenues toward conservation. We partner with others who do the things we can’t but ultimately work toward the same goal.

WF: Over the years, has there been any misconception about the work your foundation has done for Danjugan Island?

KLT: We had to battle years of notions that the marine reserve and sanctuaries were protected for our selfish agendas. For years, we had to educate that having marine protected areas are meant not just for biodiversity conservation but also for food security. This goes both ways, meaning we are for the people, too. There are fishermen around Danjugan who are allowed to fish in certain areas. This somehow is also misunderstood for some who visit. They think the whole island is protected, but our vision is “wildlife and people in harmony for a sustainable future.” What we hope to ultimately achieve is balance.

Typhoon Beach in 1991 and 2015

WF: Personally speaking, what do you love most about Danjugan Island?

KLT: Everything! It is the most unique small island because in just 43 hectares, you find so much wildlife and so many ecosystems. Plus, it was kept to keep tourism low-impact and low-volume, but with high-value and high-quality experiences. The trails on the island are easy. You would not need to trek for hours to see amazing birdlife and a cave full of bats. And if you’re lucky, even a python!
 
I never get bored on the island. It is living simply next to nature, and it has given me the best kind of work and advocacy I could ever hope for. It is like a second home since I’ve been visiting it since the 80s. I already know where the critters are, where the beautiful blue anemone is, where the school of batfishes are, when the shark pups will show up, or where the rare beach thick knee lives. I truly have a love affair with this island. I am also fortunate that I am able to give my kids the same kind of childhood my father gave me.

Some of the creatures you can find within Danjugan: Bats, shark pups, octopus, and batfishes

WF: Can you share some interesting stories about the island?

KLT: There are many! There are love stories and forever connections formed on the island. Maybe one interesting fact about Danjugan and its visitors is that they manage to come back somehow. The island contributes to changing their lives significantly. From a British volunteer who came in 1998 and came back eventually choosing to live in the Philippines to a camp volunteer who is now one of our hardworking trustees, Danjugan truly inspires.
 
There is one special story about a green sea turtle that we rescued. We found her floating, unable to dive back down. Turtles are known to get buoyancy disorders which are dangerous for them because they may get hit by boats, become easy prey, or starve as they are unable to dive down for food. Together with our kids on board the boat, we rescued her and they named her Star.

Star was rehabilitated in Danjugan Island. She underwent many tests and procedures, close care, hand feeding, and was even brought to a nearby clinic to get an x-ray. We were so fortunate that Dr. Nielsen Donato and Dr. Ari Barcelona treated her. Slowly, Star got better and was able to leave Danjugan’s Moray Lagoon on the 48th day of rehabilitation. It was a bittersweet day. We were all happy she was well and free, but sad as we were going to miss her.

Sea turtle Star when she was first found floating and during rehabilitation with Kaila’s daughter, Aria

WF: What’s your advice for other people involved in protecting the environment?

KLT: It’s not easy and frustrating, but the rewards are great. I always say that the stars aligned for Danjugan Island—to make what seemingly was impossible to happen, happen. Everything fell into place, from the timing and the people who got involved down to the grants. I feel our hearts have always been in the right place, but it happened with a lot of hard work. So as long as your heart is in the right place, I feel your work will come across and be heard.
 
The Philippines is so rich in natural resources. We have the rarest and most unique wildlife there is, but they are fast disappearing. We NEED more people to go into wildlife conservation. It is not easy and your heart will break many times, but when you do see an animal that is wild, free, and meant to be there, it is the best thing.

Manta Reef and aerial shot of Moray Lagoon

WF: How can people support your organisation?

KLT: You can support PRRCFI by visiting Danjugan Island or taking part in one of our camps. All proceeds of our ecotourism program go right back into conservation. It is what keeps us going and doing what we do! Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for more information.
 
Danjugan Island is nature’s perfect classroom. With so many ecosystems and wildlife, it really is the perfect place for anyone to connect with nature.

20 things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all invariably contribute to the world’s carbon footprint. Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.,” carbon footprint comes from day-to-day activities that require energy. Energy Read More...

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Whether we are aware of it or not, we all invariably contribute to the world’s carbon footprint. Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.,” carbon footprint comes from day-to-day activities that require energy. Energy is produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, which then result in greenhouse gas emissions that keep the heat trapped within the earth’s atmosphere.

Be an everyday hero by following 20 of our suggestions below to lessen your carbon footprint! 

1. Walk or ride a bicycle.

Did you know that 15% of manmade carbon dioxide comes from cars, trucks, planes, and other transportation vehicles? If you are going somewhere nearby, opt to take a stroll or ride your bicycle to get to your destination. Not only are you helping prevent global warming, but you’re also getting in some much-needed exercise for the day![/vc_column_text]

Photo by Chris Barbalis/Unsplash

2. Take care of your car.

A well-maintained vehicle benefits you and the planet. By regularly having your engine tuned, checking your oxygen sensors, and inflating your tires, your car emits fewer toxic fumes and improves its fuel use by up to 40%.

3. Drive smart.

To help you avoid traffic jams, use a GPS navigation app such as Waze or Google Maps that shows you the quickest route you can take. Also, refrain from unnecessarily stepping on the acceleration pedal and remove excess cargo (whether it’s on the roof or in your trunk) to increase fuel economy.

4. Combine trips.

Schedule a day to do all of your errands with other family members, or take turns carpooling with officemates. Air pollution will be undoubtedly less with fewer cars out on the streets. Plus, you get to save money on gas and parking fees!

5. Lessen air travel.

On average, a commercial plane produces 53.3 pounds of carbon dioxide for every mile flown. Compare that to a tree that can only absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That’s a doozy! If you travel for work, why not schedule video chat conferences instead of face-to-face meetings? But if you really need to fly, select non-stop flights (so you have less takeoffs/landings that use up more fuel energy) and economy seats (more seats mean more passengers sharing the plane’s carbon emissions).

Photo by Jordan Sanchez/Unsplash

6. Fix air leaks.

Create a more energy-efficient house by sealing air leaks around doors, windows, vents, and electrical outlets and improving your overall insulation. Doing so can help you save up to 25% of heating costs and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

7. Regulate your thermostat.

Lower your electricity bill while fighting global warming by keeping your thermostat lower during winter time and higher during the summer season. To stay warm, wear extra layers indoors and invest in rugs and carpets that create a soft barrier against the cold. To stay cool, wear breathable clothes and install ceiling fans that use less electricity (55 to 100 watts) compared to air conditioners (500 to 1,500 watts).

8. Choose energy-efficient appliances.

From refrigerators to washing machines to water heaters, climate-conscious companies like ENERGY Star produce slightly expensive yet highly effective appliances that use less energy to complete a required task. Having them at home or at work will result in an overall lowered electricity bill.

9. Change your light bulbs.

Replace incandescent, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs with low-energy LED or CFL ones that shine brighter, last 15 times longer, and use only one-fifth of the energy of a conventional bulb.

10. Unplug and turn off.

The easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint is by switching off the lights (open the windows and let natural sunlight in!) and turning off and unplugging appliances when they’re not not in use.

11. Wash in cold water and air dry your clothes.

The Guardian surprisingly reveals that “washing and drying a load every two days creates around 440 kg of CO2e each year, which is equivalent to flying from London to Glasgow and back with 15-mile taxi rides to and from the airports.” That said, be responsible about washing your clothes. Only wash when you have enough for a full load, choose a cold wash cycle (a 10-degree temperature increase impacts the environment), use concentrated detergent, and skip the fabric softener. When you’re done, hang your clothes to dry on a line or rack instead of using a dryer, which is said to be the third most energy-hungry home appliance.

Photo by Dan Gold/Unsplash

12. Be a kitchen energy saver.

Plan all the meals you want to prepare before you start cooking. Always choose to cook your food on a stove top rather than an oven. Not only does an oven use the most energy, it also raises the temperature of the entire room. And while cooking, cover your pan with a lid to trap the heat. This lessens the amount of energy and time needed to cook your food.

13. Shop conscientiously.

Buy organic and sustainable food that has been harvested from your local farms and fisheries instead of picking imported produce. This provides much-needed support to your agricultural community and eliminates unnecessary transportation of food. Also, choose products with less packaging and bring big, reusable carrier bags whenever you shop!

When shopping for clothes, skip the trends and pick classic styles and durable pieces that you can use for longer periods of time.

14. Only buy what you need.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 8% of greenhouse gases are caused by food waste, with 20 to 50% of the food we buy just ending up in landfills. Do the planet a favor by purchasing only what you need and storing leftovers in the freezer so they don’t spoil immediately.

15. Go the meatless and dairy-free route.

Meat and dairy products are known to create higher carbon footprints because of the more complicated process it takes to make themfrom farming and processing the animals to packaging and shipping them. Consuming produce that are low on the food chain such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts reduces your carbon footprint.  

Photo by Anna Pelzer/Unsplash

16. Go paperless.

Choose to receive your utility bills, tickets, and other paper documents through email. Aside from preventing a stack of papers to grow on your desk, it eliminates the need to print the document and have someone deliver it to you. Plus, it makes it easier to search for your files just by typing in the right keywords.

17. Recycle your things.

Prevent landfills from growing by reusing what you have at home and recycling paper, plastic, glass, steel, and aluminium products. In the US alone, it is said that 29% of greenhouse emissions come from the extraction of resources, manufacturing, transport, and disposal of goods.

18. Try alternative energy sources.

Solar, wind, and geothermal energy are just some of the cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. Do your research and see if there are companies that can provide these in your area. Or if you have the means and time, why not try making your own solar panels?   

19. Reduce water use.

There are so many ways in which you can save water. From skipping long hot baths to collecting rainwater for your plants to limiting the number of times you wash the car, you save gallons of this precious resource that can be used for other, more important purposes.

20. Take your reusables with you.

Say no to plastic! Stash your recyclable drinking bottle and reusable utensils (straw, fork, spoon, and knife) in a tote bag and bring them wherever you go.

Photo by Maria Ilves/Unsplash
Your carbon footprint greatly impacts the environment. Calculate your carbon footprint by logging how much energy your home uses, the car rides and plane flights you take, as well as what you purchase. We all need to do our part in protecting and caring for our planet because it’s the only one we’ve got!

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