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Global MBA graduate, Sonam Reel, tells us what Earth Day means to her

Sonam Reel

Submit your own video, short story, and photos telling us what green projects you’ve been working on in your community, and you could win a FULL scholarship to any certificate course, plus a free Microsoft™ Surface® tablet.*

Please send your submissions to Deadline for all submissions is 22 April 2016.

Our Earth Day student ambassador, Sonam Reel, tells us why she’s passionate about animal welfare, education, and wildlife preservation. Read on to discover what she’s been doing in Kenya to help her community.

Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated every year on April 22nd.  This day commemorates and focuses on key environmental challenges including:

  • Green schools and cities
  • Endangered species
  • Reforestation
  • Campaign for communities
  • Climate change

Despite the awareness raised, one day for environmental focus is not enough to make a difference. Earth Day needs to be “everyday”, as the Kenyan proverb rightly puts it; “The Earth is not a gift from our parents, it is a loan from our children.”

To make a difference, you don’t need to take up big projects or raise large amounts of money. It’s the small initiatives consistently undertaken that will make a change. This can include planting trees, advocating for green initiatives within your community or organisation, as well as protecting wildlife.

Who am I and what am I doing to make a difference?

My name is Sonam Reel, I am an animal activist and an advocate for environmental preservation. Over the last 16 years, I have helped to rescue stray cats who have either been neglected by their owners or injured. Together with my mother and sister, we have saved over 150 cats. Our dedication has extended to taking care of these little creatures who we proudly call our family.

Apart from these rescue operations, I am also actively involved in community projects. The area that is within Nairobi, the country’s capital city, is surrounded by harsh conditions. With close to half the population living under $1 per day, the cost of living has further been worsened by the effect of climate change. It is part of Kenyan culture for every local regardless of their status, to own land for farming. This serves as an additional source of income to support the family. As the environment changes with low expected rainfall, the outcome further affects individuals that are living beyond the poverty line.

Hence, I have chosen to get involved with a children’s school here in Kenya. There are a total of 200 children from the age of 3 to 16, and the community contributes by providing them with food and educational materials. Even though primary education is free, such charity organisations based in this slum area are dependent on external funding for the purpose of providing food and salaries for the teachers. Being part of this project, my firm belief is that education is a vital instrument that can drive change.  As a developing country, education is key, especially when it comes to protecting and conserving the environment. We help out by providing financial aid, and reading materials as well as spending time with the children. Our next step is to find sponsors who will support the development of a “clean water” project. Currently, the children and residents in Sinai drink unfiltered water that is mostly contaminated.

Another project that is close to my heart is the conservation of elephants. According to a report by National Geographic released in 2014, “a total of 100,000 elephants were killed in the last three years across Africa due to poaching. Similar trends have been witnessed in the case for rhinos, with only three northern white rhinos left in the world, not to mention other species of wildlife being in danger. A recent example of a trend that is working against wildlife preservation is trophy hunting. Most of us are familiar with the killing of the beloved lion in Zimbabwe, named Cecil. I am an individual who wants my grandchildren to have the opportunity to see an elephant in its natural habitant, to understand their behavior and have the joy of watching them taking a mudbath. The David Shelrick Wildlife Trust that has been saving elephants since 1977 raises awareness on protecting elephants that are under their care. Most of the young elephants are orphans as their herd have been victims of poaching. Together with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the team continues to rescue animals, but the responsibility lies on us as individuals. Again, it’s not only financial support that is needed but increased awareness for wild animals and species that are in danger of becoming extinct.

What are we doing today to protect these creatures? The human-wildlife conflict is on the rise, and many people are not aware of how to ensure animal safety. Cases include the leopard invasion in an Indian school, as well as the escape of lions from the Nairobi National Park. In addition, our role as tourists further destroys the wildlife, as individuals often break rules to have a closer view of animals, e.g. the Wildebeest migration in Masaai Mara that is usually disrupted by tour companies to give the tourists a closer view. This disrupts the migration path. Also, the disposal of plastic bottles in the park have a drastic effect on the eco-system.

My purpose of bringing these points is not to say that I am doing everything right to protect the environment but to show that I am committed to making a difference in the areas where I feel most passionate. This Earth Day, I will commit to making a difference in my community.  

What are you doing differently to make sure that we create a brighter future for the next generation?

Submit your own video, short story, and photos telling us what green projects you’ve been working on in your community, and you could win a FULL scholarship to any certificate course, plus a free Microsoft™ Surface® tablet.*

Please send your submissions to Deadline for all submissions is 22 April 2016.

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