Saturday 19th August was a big day for The School of St Jude. The usually cool atmosphere of Sisia Campus was buzzing with activity and anticipation. There were students and staff from schools around Arusha, interested individuals, and stakeholders – all connected by their common love and appreciation for nature and the environment.
Dr Jane Goodall ascended to the stage at the St Jude’s Primary Dining Hall and proceeded to address the crowd in a mixture of grunts, barks, and pant-hoots.
“That’s how chimpanzees greet each other,” she explained, to the amazement of the audience.
Dr Goodall is a world-renowned ethologist and environmentalist. She has devoted her life to understanding, protecting, and advocating for the delicate balance of nature. Her unique connection to Tanzania started when studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park.
“I have always loved animals from a very young age,” says Dr Goodall of her upbringing. “When my mother took notice of my interests, she introduced me to the fascinating world of books and that is where I learned about Africa,” she continues.
Dr Goodall’s first experience of Africa came in her mid-twenties when she travelled to Kenya to visit a friend whose family lived on a farm just outside Nairobi. While in Kenya, she learned about Dr Leakey, a famed primatologist and archaeologist, who introduced her to the world of chimpanzees.
“My life took a different turn from there onwards,” recalls Dr Goodall. “I spent the next 60 years studying wild chimpanzees in the forest. It was the most fulfilling activity of my life. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is what I was born to do,’” she adds passionately.
Over the years of working in the wild, Dr Goodall became increasingly concerned about the alarming threat posed by escalating environmental and climate changes. The trend highlighted the urgent need to act and protect the environment for the survival of both people and animals. She has since become an advocate for the conservation and protection of the environment.
“I would speak to young people about climate change and they would seem to have given up hope,” recalls Dr Goodall. “They believed a lot of damage had already been done by previous generations and there was nothing they could do. But I encouraged them to take small actions of change, starting locally in their communities,” narrates Dr Goodall.
From these conversations sprouted Roots and Shoots, a youth-led program that encourages young people to be agents of change by participating in projects that protect the environment, wildlife, or their communities. Over the years, Roots and Shoots has grown to include 70 countries around the world where its participants identify and address problems in their communities while becoming compassionate citizens of the planet.
“Sometimes it might seem as if our actions are futile on the global scale,” Dr Goodall encourages the youth. “But when you know that there are young people like you in 69 other countries that are doing the same thing as you. Then you can dare to dream globally,” she adds hopefully.
Dr Goodall’s visit was inspired by St Jude’s active Roots and Shoots Club, one of the 50 student clubs at the school. In addition to sharing her life’s experiences and adventures working with wild chimpanzees and speaking on various environmental-related topics, Dr Goodall engaged in a thrilling Q&A session with students, planted several trees, and visited the Art Gallery at St Jude’s.
“It is such a wonderful idea to use education to lift people out of poverty,” says Dr Goodall of her experience at St Jude’s. “What I especially love about the school is that graduates have a gap year where they give back to the community. This is very impactful and cultivates a culture of giving back, thus raising a generation of responsible, compassionate leaders,” she adds.
St Jude’s Roots and Shoots Club is one of the fastest-growing student clubs at the school. Having started with only one student in 2020, the club has now grown to a dynamic group of more than 30 students actively taking part in making the world a better place one step at a time.
“Students can connect with Roots and Shoots because it touches on all three aspects: the human, the animal, and the environmental aspect,” explains Mr Mayala, St Jude’s Roots and Shoots Club Mentor. “Members are highly motivated in our activities, whether it is planting trees and maintaining gardens around the school, compassionate visits to elderly homes and orphanages, and debating on various topics on the environment and climate change to raise awareness about our mission,” he adds.
St Jude’s uses education to raise leaders of tomorrow who will use their skills to improve the well-being of their community in all aspects, including the environment. The supportive environment at the school encourages students to express themselves and pursue their true passions in various fields. Industry leaders like Dr Jane Goodall serve as a constant inspiration to many youths around the world that with determination, hard work, and discipline, they too can make a lasting difference in the world.
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