In the wake of this summer’s devastating bushfires, many of us in Australia have been left with feelings of helplessness and despair. Yet there are some positive stories of hope emerging from the tragedy.

We recently spoke to the Australian CEO of the Jane Goodall Institute, James Forbes, about how its Roots & Shoots program is striving to make a difference – not just for critically endangered species whose habitat has been destroyed, but also for the humans who have witnessed the devastation.

A grassroots program for young people

Founded by Dr Jane Goodall in 1991, Roots & Shoots is a youth-led, youth-driven program that operates in fifty countries around the world. Its mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire individuals to take action to make the world a better place for animals, people, and the environment.

Young people can apply for grants through Roots & Shoots to complete community projects that align with this mission. In previous years, the Australian arm of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots has supported around 10 projects each year. Following the recent bushfire crisis in Australia, the Jane Goodall Institute wants to rapidly expand the program.

“Once the dangers from the fires have abated, there will be many young people across the country who are looking for ways to help repair the landscape. We want to be there to help them do it.” said Forbes.

Expanding the program to help Australia heal

The Jane Goodall Institute is hoping to raise $100,000 to support hundreds of projects – and, in doing so, support hundreds of young Australians too.

“Our goal with Roots & Shoots in the wake of the bushfires isn’t just about planting trees or building nest boxes. To our minds, the most important part of this program is to support the mental health and wellbeing of our young people,” explains Forbes.

“These fires have had a massive impact on how they see their world and the planet they inherit. We want to give young people something positive to do – by being part of the solution, it may help to repair the anxiety and distress they feel.”The types of projects that will be funded are many and varied. For example, the construction of nesting boxes for wildlife in areas that have been severely burnt. Or the planting of trees to create a buffer zone, or a habitat garden in someone’s backyard.

“We encourage all kids to apply and try to make a positive difference in their local community,” says Forbes.

Businesses can support the program, too

To support this wonderful initiative, you can donate to the Jane Goodall Institute. You can also contact James Forbes directly to help fund the Roots & Shoots Mini Grant program. The Institute will donate 100% of all funds raised to the program.

DocuSign is a proud supporter of the Jane Goodall Institute globally. Our CEO Dan Springer received a heartfelt message from Dr. Jane Goodall at the end of 2019. In her letter, she acknowledged the horrific bushfires in Australia and around the world, yet also sharing her optimism. As she said, “Yes, the year will bring major challenges. But remember, I am always talking about the ‘indomitable human spirit’, those tackling what seems impossible, and succeeding.”

The Roots & Shoots program is a wonderful reflection of this indomitable human spirit, and we hope you can support it in some way.

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