Save the Orangutans

Once upon a time there was a little boy called Kalan who believed that he could change the world...

...and then there were the adults around him who wanted to make sure that he continued to believe.

Several months ago one of my four-year-old Pre-schoolers walked into Jescott with a mission; to save the orangutans. Kalan had watched a TV show with his parents and this show had revealed the deforestation that is threatening the habitats and lives of orangutans  Kalan was devastated to learn about this environmental injustice. He was deeply affected by his discovery and seemed to feel compelled to action! It was not enough for him to know this was happening, or to feel sad about it, or even just to talk about it - he was driven to do something about it! This little man of action was not going to rest on his laurels knowing that the precious orangutans were suffering.

Kalan is blessed in his own life; he has a set of parents who are unsurpassed in their sense of dedication to supporting their son. These two intelligent, conscientious and caring adults have created a little individual who shares these traits. Mia and Lee have raised Kalan to feel heard and respected and fortunately he belongs to a Montessori community that reinforces these attitudes. So when he walked through our door speaking of his passion for "saving the orangutans" we heard him and we respected his right to follow through with his intentions.

So Kalan and I decided to investigate some outlets for his newfound passion. We collaborated on some research and came across the fundraising site "Orango Tango". We established Kalan's Jescott Team  as the portal for our  efforts. Kalan picked his fundraising goal - $1000 - and I read him the list of options for how this amount could be spent. Without hesitation Kalan chose Orphan Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation. This represented the aspect of the story that had impacted him most deeply - the concept that mum and dad orangutans were being killed, leaving baby orangutans without parents to protect them. 

Once Kalan had his "Jescott Team" set up it was time to brainstorm some ways to raise money! Kalan suggested making paintings; he enjoys creating illustrations and diagrams to represent his ideas and interests so it was no surprise that he wanted to incorporate artwork into his new campaign. Kalan was eager to ensure that all of the Jescott families should be involved; he seemed to exhibit an absolute certainty that as soon as other people found out about this issue they would share his anger and advocacy! 

As we discussed our plans I was struck by an overwhelming sense of clarity. Every day I am surrounded and saturated by images, articles, news stories and conversations about all of the damage that is being inflicted on our world. And every day, for the most part, I ignore it. I don't mean this to sound insensitive, I just mean to be honest. I don't wake up every morning looking for ways to save our wildlife, even though in the back of my mind I know that every day means the destruction of more habitats and the death of more precious creatures. Like most people, however, I am simply somewhat desensitised to all of it. I know it's happening but I don't feel like there is anything I can do to stop it. I make little personal choices to try to play my part; I take short showers, I recycle, I keep the airconditioner set at an energy-efficient 24 degrees. But I don't advocate. I don't shout from the rooftops, or campaign for change. I don't really do anything active and I usually don't feel too guilty about that. But as Kalan sat in front of me I felt awful. I felt that I had let him down. Me personally, and the majority of the adult world who reflect my complacent attitude of reactivity at best and passivity at worst. Kalan was being proactive...and he made it sound so simple.

"I am really cross with those people who are cutting down the trees. It is killing the orangutans and taking away their homes. That is not okay and it makes me feel really angry! They are bad people and we need to stop them! We have to do it right now, TODAY, before any more orangutans die."

He made it sound so simple, so plain. And it made me realise that it is so simple and plain. It really is not okay. It should make all of us cross, all the time, until we do something about it right now! I realise that we all have to live our lives - we can't drop everything else and spend every waking moment rescuing wildlife - but every single one of us can probably do a lot more than we already do! I know I can! And I'm extremely grateful to Kalan for teaching me this. So it was the least that I could to do help to keep his fire of environmentalism burning brightly by supporting his journey to "save the orangutans"!

So we started by finding some materials for Kalan to express his emotions through art. He began work on his first Orangutan Artwork - and he told me that I should do one too (unaware, as he is, that I unfortunately hold a self-image of being "bad at art"). I'll let you in on a secret - the orangutan painting that I made that day with Kalan is the best painting I've ever done in my life! I was almost embarrassingly proud of it. I have never felt that my talents lie in the world of artistic expression but on that day I really needed Kalan to know that I was taking him seriously, and that I was putting the best of myself into our project, so with these principles driving me I was able to create something that actually looked quite a lot like an orangutan! Although as proud as I am of my own "artwork" I am still more impressed by Kalan's!

                     Kalan's artwork

Next it was time for Kalan to share his passion with his Pre-school friends. We sourced small canvases so that the children could make their own individual paintings. We also purchased two large canvases for a more collaborative group project; a rainforest of handprints!


As we collaborated on our group art project we decided to share Kalan's message with the rest of our community. We invited a local reporter to come and meet Kalan. I'm sure she expected a cute kid to pose for a photo while an opinionated adult told the story. I wish you could have seen the look on her face when Kalan opened his mouth and she realised that this campaign was truly his! Kalan spoke with confidence and intelligence. When the reporter had overcome her shock she asked "Exactly how old are you?" to which Kalan replied "I'm four". The impressed reporter responded "Well you are very clever for a four year old". Kalan didn't miss a beat - "Yes, I'm only four but I think I've probably been clever for about a hundred years". In a way he is right; he is mature and wise beyond his years, what many would call 'an old soul'. The inspirational story of this wise old soul can be found here.

So with his message spreading, and our artwork developing, it was time to arrange a special event to bring the community together to put the fun in fundraising! We invited the Amazing Drumming Monkeys to provide the environmental entertainment. We were also lucky enough to know a wonderful woman, Anne Clarke, who possesses experience with both young children and orangutans! After her retirement from childcare Anne has been travelling the world, including engaging with the orangutans of Indonesia. So with Bongo and Congo (the drumming monkeys!) and Anne ready to go we just needed a venue. Thankfully Jescott is located right beside the Magill R.S.L and they were kind enough to allow us to use their hall for our special event (free of charge!). So a group of emerging environmentalists - consisting of current Jescott families as well as 'old-scholars' and friends and relatives - gathered together to sing, learn and donate!



After The Amazing Drumming Monkeys performed there was a little break for people to browse the displays of fundraising options; sponsoring orphan orangutans, purchasing toy monkeys, bidding on our orangutan artworks and purchasing the 'rainforest leaf' biscuits that the children had cooked and decorated.


Then time for Anne Clarke's presentation. Anne's experience with children allowed her to engage the little ones as easily as the adults in the room. Our budding eco-warriors sat transfixed by the cute images of the baby orangutans catching bubbles and riding in wheelbarrows. The adults soberly digested the statistics contained within Anne's words. A whole room full of people felt a developing connection to our furry redheaded relatives.



By the end of the evening we had achieved Kalan's goal. More than $1000 raised to "save the orangutans". Kalan's Orango Tango page had already received $440 in donations before our special event. This was supplemented by $665 worth of donations on the evening - plus an additional $185 raised by our artwork auction! Anne Clarke separately raised $440 through her sales of orphan sponsorship and monkey toys. 

More importantly, this beautiful little boy...

...surrounded by his friends and his family...
...was able to believe that he had "saved the orangutans"...
and to continue believing that maybe we can save the whole world if only we do something!



*If you wish to show your support: Kalan's Jescott Team remains active at Orango Tango

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