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Jun 06.14

Meeting Jane Goodall: Animal Welfare Hero

In April 2013, Tamara Collins-Hobbs at LUSH head office donated a pair of tickets she won to hear Dr. Jane Goodall speak, and Tricia Stevens from Charity Pot made a call to the beneficiary, unbeknownst to her that LUSH has just fulfilled a dream twenty years in the making… Zen Lee joins the LUSH Blog to share her story about meeting her hero, Jane Goodall. 

“I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are.” The tears started coming then and I barely got out, “You’re the reason I wanted to be a wildlife biologist and I’ve waited 20 years to meet you.”

I didn’t get the chance to tell her how I had bought tickets to see her speak in Edmonton and another time in Calgary but due to final exams had to miss both events and was convinced I would never get to hear her speak before she retired. Instead THE Dr. Jane Goodall was hugging and thanking me for the rainbow in my heart.

Jane Goodall and Zen Lee

That night in April, when I finally got to tell my Hero that she has influenced the person I am today, will go down as one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of my life. But that night was not just a reflection on how this remarkable woman has shaped my life but also what more I learned from her and the Dr. Jane Goodall experience that will continue to shape my future. Her story was one of passion and overcoming the odds.

As a young girl her dream was to go to Africa, spend time with animals, and write books about them. But back in those days, women didn’t do these things and even men seldom did. “Jane, dream of something more practical” she was told. With no money to go to University, Jane’s mother encouraged her to take a secretarial course and perhaps land a job in Africa and from there find ways of realizing her dream. She did just that and eventually met the famous British archaeologist and naturalist Louis Leakey. Impressed by her knowledge of wildlife and natural history she became his secretary. Then he sent her to Tanzania where she made her ground breaking discovery that “Man the tool maker” no longer applied solely to our species. Returning to England, Leakey sent Jane straight into a PhD program. With no previous formal University education she was out of her element and was criticized for anthropomorphising her research subjects. The pure love she had for what she does gave her the drive to surmount all the challenges thrown her way.

Her story is one of inspiration and empowerment to anyone who dreams big. Follow those dreams. Even in the face of adversity, love for what drives your vision for a better world will help you find a way. But like me, Jane talked not only about the past but the present and future. The global decline of wild chimpanzees prompted Jane to leave her oasis and embark on worldwide speaking tours to foster discussion, engagement, and action to safeguard Earth. She continues to speak, even at the age of 79, 300+ days of the year.

“There is a saying in indigenous culture that we borrow the present from our children. This isn’t true. We are stealing it. But I have hope. It’s not too late.”

Zen Lee meets her hero Jane Goodall

The state of the planet, whether you think scientists are exaggerating the doom and gloom or whether you whole heartedly believe in it all, can still be overwhelming. What exactly is one individual supposed to do about global issues and does the power of one really have an impact? Jane has a simple solution. We should all start by thinking of the small things. The little choices we make from the food we eat to the things we buy. For example, has this product contributed to child labour or animal cruelty? If we all start thinking about how our actions impact not just the here and now but three generations from now, then a change in attitude is inevitable. And if everyone who hears Jane’s message only looks at the small decisions they make in their own lives then this will lead to a critical mass that can change the world.

There’s nothing like getting involved right away and I was lucky enough to also be put in touch with Lauren Shanahan of the University of Calgary’s Roots and Shoots club of Jane Goodall Institute and am currently helping her promote the screening of ‘Project Nim’, an award winning film from the Sundance film festival about the chimpanzee who was raised as human but ended up teaching humans a little about humanity instead. The screening of the film will hopefully address the common misconception that chimpanzees are well suited for human interaction. The film is touring, so look for it at an independent cinema near you!

Small splashes can make big waves and the rest, as they say, is history. -Zen Lee

Initially intrigued with LUSH’s stance on animal testing, Zen entered Sunridge LUSH in Calgary and walked out with a smile, a pot of Gorgeous and a job offer. In 2010 she joined the Sunridge team as a key holder before adding Eco Warrior and Regional Charity Star to her roles. With a BSc in Zoology under her belt she is currently completing her MSc in infectious diseases at the University of Calgary and intends to pursue a third degree in wildlife veterinary medicine. Her passion for animals has made her a lifer in animal welfare work.

This amazing opportunity would not have been possible without the following key players: From the amazing LUSH Cosmetics head office, Tricia Stevens who recommended me for the experience and Tamara Collins-Hobbs who so generously and graciously donated her tickets to me; and The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada who provided the tickets, brought Dr. Goodall to speak, and put me in touch with other amazing individuals in the city to implement projects that will inspire compassion for everyone. Thank you. From the bottom of my rainbow heart.