Elephants out on a date at the local watering hole.
This is Meredith's story-
It was at a very young age that I discovered two things that would be very important to me throughout my life. These two things would be a necessary food for my soul. Like water is to the body. That is nature, and the wildlife that calls nature’s intricate web, “home”.
While growing up I had my fair share of hardships just like any other child, but I was lucky in the fact that I grew up with nature all around me, and it suited me. I was in my element, stuffing my pockets full of tiny tree frogs, catching lightning bugs, fishing all day under the shade of the forts I had built dotted along the river to protect what I truly believed belonged to me, my sister ,and the occasional lucky friend who joined us. I would run wild through the woods until the moon was high in the sky, and my eyes could no longer stay open despite what my heart wanted. As I drifted off into my dreams, I would curl my fingers under my nose and smell the fresh earth caked under my nails. The smell brought me back to nature. It brought me back home.
The day that I discovered how powerful I was as a human, and the impact I could make on the world around me, is as clear to me as if it had just happened yesterday. I set off on one of my daily fishing adventures. I packed up my wheel barrow with my poles, tackle box, worms, and of course my dad’s old painter’s bucket for my fish. I would normally catch spotted sun fish and yellow perch. I would bring them home at the end of the day, and clean them for my parents to fry.
However, on this one particular day, I caught a catfish, not my typical spot or perch. It was the biggest fish I had ever seen. I put the fish in the bucket, and because nothing else would fit in the bucket, my fishing day had come to a close. I packed up and headed home. 30-40 min later I was ready to show my mother what I had caught. I opened the bucket and to my surprise the fish was still alive! Gasping for air! To put it short…..I lost it. I threw my small body on the ground and screamed out in terror at the thought that I had caused the fish to suffer and to suffer for so long. My mother tried to calm me, but the only thing that would satisfy me was to get the fish back to the river, back in its home. My mother threw me and the fish in the car. We sped down to the cul de sac where the trail lead out to my favorite spot. I carried that bucket to the river and cried the whole way. Once I got to the rivers edge, I very gently put the catfish back in the water. It sat in one place for a bit and then it finally swam away. I was inconsolable for the rest of the night. I was terrified at the thought that I had the power to take life from something that wanted to live so badly. It was the first time I realized how powerful I was, and right then I knew I wanted to help to teach people how to protect nature and wildlife. I knew , even that young, that I wanted to give back to nature and wildlife because it gives me so much everyday.
With all of that said, I am always on the lookout for others who share my compassion and drive to protect wildlife. That is how I came to find one of the most amazing women I have ever met. I came across an article written about Stephanie Vergniault Stephanie Vergniault who had started an organization in Chad, Africa called SOS Elephants. She had come to Chad to help with the elections, but while she was there she found herself in the middle of a full blown war on elephants. She started to work with the local communities, and local armed forces who where just as concerned as she was about the Ivory Wars. I had to meet her! I wrote her immediately and told her I wanted to help her in any way I could. We began talking back and forth about all the things she needed. She quickly introduced me to Siggi Hosenfeld, who has been working closely with Stephanie on raising awareness about SOS Elephants. Besides being one of the most positive people I have ever come across, Siggi is a wildlife photographer and a conservationist. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa working and volunteering on various conservation projects.
Knowing that there are women like these out there fighting for the survival of one of the most important keystone species of our time brings me a feeling of hope. A hope that all of us can find that fight in us, as I did as a small girl on the banks of a southern river shore. A hope that we can band together and stand up for all the wild lands and the animals that inhabit them. They need us, as much as we need them.
Thanks Meredith. Wonderful story.
We will be supporting SOS Elephants and have made a donation. Can you?