On the last day of Jane’s visit, I got to witness 300 brave and inspiring school children march throughout the capital of Freetown, protesting forest destruction and poaching, showing their support for Jane Goodall and conservation, and demanding change. The students were accompanied by two marching bands, that played as they marched and chanted through the streets.
Trivial t-shirt troubles
Before the march began, me and some volunteers from Tacugama sanctuary handed out t-shirts to all the kids, which you can see them wearing in the photos. Upon opening up the shirts before giving them out, we regretfully realized that they had been printed for adults, and we only had sizes medium, large, and X-tra large. This is why they look rather big on the children. We thought that maybe the kids wouldn’t want to wear them, but they were actually perfectly happy, even though the shirts were far too large. Marching band members and teachers were lobbying for the shirts too, but we only had enough for the kids.
We began marching in the morning, starting from the Youyi building, passing by the massive cotton tree in the center of Freetown, and continuing up to the British Council, where Jane was waiting. As we marched passed the famous cotton tree, thousands of fruit bats took flight. Despite the heat and long journey, the students proudly waved signs of support and hope for forest and wildlife protection, singing and chatting throughout.
“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we will help, we shall be saved.” – Jane Goodall
This quote was printed on the backs of the t-shirts that the students wore during the march.
Once we reached the British Council building, and the children settled down, Jane told them stories of her childhood, and Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyer encouraged their passions for the environment with her speech. Jane then officially launched branch of ‘Roots and Shoots in Sierra Leone’ – her education program that seeks to inspire and teach conservation to young people, and also help children carry out environmental projects in their own communities. Roots & Shoots has already been successful in over 80 countries, and in Sierra Leone it will be sponsored by UNICEF.
The children showed their excitement by screeching like chimpanzees when Jane entered the room.
The boy to my left grabbed my hand five minutes into the march, insisting we walked hand in hand the whole way to the British council. The girl who was walking behind me also wanted to hold me hand, her name was Fatima. I walked twisted with my left hand holding the boy in front and my right holding the girl behind. We all sat together once we reached the British council, and they were very amused by my camera.