“Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” – Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace
As we enter the final week of #BeKind21, we had the opportunity to chat with Ashley Sullivan, Communications + Policy Officer at the Jane Goodall Institute. Dr. Jane Goodall started the longest-running wild chimpanzee study and redefined our relationship with other animals. For 30 years, she has been a leader in environmental advocacy and conservation. Ashley shared more about the Peace Day Challenge, which occurs September 15 – September 21, as well as ideas for incorporating compassion and advocacy into our daily lives:
Dr. Goodall became a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2002, and since that time the Jane Goodall Institute and its Roots & Shoots youth program have celebrated “United Nations International Day of Peace” on September 21st. What does this day mean to the mission of your founder, Jane Goodall, and your amazing organization?
Jane has always been unique in the scientific landscape as someone who combines the heart and the mind – she deeply believes in the need to protect the interconnection of all life on Earth and embodies the work to live peacefully with one another and the natural world. Her research on wild chimpanzees was powerful because she recognized the innate value, emotions, and intelligence of other species at a time when no one else did. She has spent her life inspiring others to live that same philosophy of peace in practice. This philosophy is core to the work of Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute’s global youth empowerment program that Jane started in 1991, now in over 65 countries and all 50 states. Through Roots & Shoots, young people grow compassionate traits through action, developing impactful community projects for people, other animals, and the environment. That’s what Roots & Shoots is all about – empowering people to take action and grow peace in themselves and their communities.
The 2020 Peace Day Challenge theme is ‘Shaping Peace Together.” Can you describe what a Peace Day Challenge is?
For the last several years, Roots & Shoots USA has been hosting “Challenges,” which focus on a specific issue area and provide simple, engaging actions every day for 7 days in order to build positive habits (very similarly to #BeKind21!). For this year’s Peace Day Challenge, we wanted to focus on how people were feeling, making the concept of peace much closer to home. Considering what is an unparalleled time of COVID-19 and political divides spurring deepened social unrest, racial injustice, fear, and conflict, we’re also seeing the beauty of people having conversations, learning from one another, and strengthening connections. I’m so proud of this challenge because it is intended to be accessible no matter where you are in this journey.
Now, more than ever, advocating for a better world and taking action together feels vital. With everything happening in the world today, why do you feel that the Peace Day Challenge is especially important this year?
Young people are one of Dr. Goodall’s most important Reasons for Hope. She has five reasons: The indomitable human spirit, the resilience of nature, the human brain, social media, and the power of youth. At age 86, a global advocate and traveler 300 days a year for over 30 years (until recently of course), Jane has shared that she is greatly inspired by the many young people all around the world telling her they want to make a difference because of how she’s made them believe they can – especially through Roots & Shoots.
We really believe young people can move mountains, and we want to support every young person across race, gender identity, sexuality, age, religion, ability, and culture to believe in themselves too. It’s impossible to take on external challenges, issues like the climate crisis and racial injustice, if you don’t feel a sense of peace within or are directly dealing with that issue day to day and need support. This Challenge provides the tools to look within, and at your life and community critically and with intention. And beyond that, we want people to communicate, connect with, and understand one another, but you can only do that with respect, accountability, and boundaries. We hope and know this Challenge will set you up to build peace within and help grow it all around you.
We are always looking to highlight opportunities to feel less isolated and more socially connected to our communities. How can families and neighborhoods get involved in the Peace Day Challenge?
The Challenge is all about connecting the individual to a level of self-reflection, and to others in their lives and communities. What’s great about it is that you can sign up for the challenge on your own, or do it with your parents, or even with a friend or community group. What is special about it is that it encourages dialogues in a guided manner, so it’s got a built-in social aspect, but it can also be something you do alone and then discuss afterward with friends and family. A step up from our Challenges is our Family Toolkit which we just launched, and it’s PERFECT for social distancing and working in groups, especially virtually. The Toolkit takes you through the Roots & Shoots 4-Steps Formula with your family (however you define it and experience that term) to create an impactful project in your community. So, if you’re inspired by this Challenge, or even if you want to do something about a different issue, this Toolkit is your ticket.
Lastly, what gives you hope, as you watch so many young leaders embracing kindness, compassion, and engagement in environmental action?
What gives me hope is how affirming and kind young people are to one another. In the last few years, I’ve really seen the growth of young people understanding how important it is to value self-care and community-care. Though we live in a society that feels heavily individualistic and isolated, especially right now during COVID-19, young people are really leveraging social media to share resources and information, and it’s evident to me that there’s a core recognition that we can’t do this alone and we aren’t alone, we must do this together. I can’t wait to see what a future world of compassion looks like shaped by each of you today.
Thanks, Ashley! The Peace Day Challenge starts September 15th and ends on Day of Peace, September 21st. Sign-up and get others involved at bit.ly/peacechallenge20 and make sure to follow @rootsandshoots on social media! #peacedaychallenge