How this selfless group is promoting positive changes in the city

We find out how a global sustainability initiative is inspiring young people to make lifelong changes

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As adults, it’s too easy to make excuses about why we don’t do more for our planet.

From issues on our doorstep to global ones, we’re always too busy, too tired or too apathetic to think our actions alone will make an impact.

But that’s exactly what Roots and Shoots is hoping to change.

Founded by primatologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall in 1991, the global initiative inspires the activist in all of us to step forward and take notice of what’s going on.

With 100 groups in the UAE alone, our brightest young minds are banding together to make positive change here and abroad.

Planting the seed

“I don’t like to describe Roots and Shoots as a programme; it’s a way of life,” explains Tara
Golshan, co-chair of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Global Committee.

Working with young people from pre-school to university age in over 130 countries, Roots and Shoots is a youth service programme that works within schools and higher education to encourage today’s kids to be tomorrow’s global citizens, building a generation of adults who will take action on issues facing our planet.

From local activities like beach clean-ups or litter campaigns to contributing to global issues, the group’s members are tasked with making a difference, no matter how small, with targeted events, workshops, talks and global summits to inspire them.

It’s not just for children, either – the group has community, family and adult chapters – and best of all, anyone can sign up and spread the word.

“Whether they’re five or fifteen, it’s a foundation,” Tara adds. “We start with students when they’re young, and when they leave university, they take these values with them into the adult world. They’re conscious of their environment, they’re respectful of other people and they care about their planet.”

To ensure the message continues far beyond the reaches into life beyond the school club, the organisation works with ambassadors and offers a leadership programme for its alumni.

“Our world is, for a young person, often full of a lot of negativity,” explains Robert Swan, polar explorer and Roots and Shoots ambassador.

“It’s really important that young people know that there’s hope, that they can do something. “We want kids to know that they have a responsibility,” he continues.

“Sustainability, people – everything is linked. It’s not just one issue.” Tara agrees, noting that local initiatives have the potential for a global ripple effect.

“Roots and Shoots might take place in a club in school, but these children are making change and developing their skills within their communities,” Tara emphasises.

“Whether they’re working with local governments, helping the elderly or lobbying, they have the power to make an influence.”

Tomorrow’s world

At the forefront of this wave are the initiative’s students. Driven, impassioned and full of big ideas, they’re ready to change the world.

For American Community School student Laila Sarlak, grade 11, Roots and Shoots has opened her eyes to new possibilities and a new reality.

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“I can’t go back to the way I used to see the world,” she says. “When I go to the beach, I can’t see it in the same way; I’m so much more conscious of how I live in general.

“I can’t say what I’ll do in the future, but I definitely don’t see myself stopping this work and this lifestyle; it has such a huge impact.”

Laila’s statement is something that Kunal Tiwari, grade 7, from Private International
English School, agrees wholeheartedly.

“There are so many ways to help the Earth and make it better, so why not do that?” he asks, simply.

“In my country – India – there’s a lot of dirt everywhere,” he adds, thinking of where he’d like to make an impact.

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“We need to change that, because it will make our land better for agriculture, it will [help] reduce global warming.

“I don’t know if I have the power to make big changes,” Kunal adds with a smile, “but I’m sure going to try.”

To find out more about Roots and Shoots, visit: rootsandshoots.ae

WORDS Camille Hogg 

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