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The Heart and Mind

The Heart and Mind

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Unravel Joy: Ego & Identity

Unravel Joy: Ego & Identity

Everyone has adopted identities that they’ve learned from the people around them. For example, for one person, a parent is someone that is controlling and authoritarian. For another, a parent is a friend and a counselor. You see these identities played out and accept them […]

Discover Your Life Purpose: Talents & Skills

Discover Your Life Purpose: Talents & Skills

We’re all good at something. You may not believe this, and may actually believe that you’re not good at anything. But with a little bit of brainstorming and questioning, you will soon see that there are certain things you do better than others. There are […]

Unravel Joy: Limiting Beliefs

Unravel Joy: Limiting Beliefs

Have you ever sat down and thought about your beliefs? How do they affect the way you live? Have they helped you rise above or kept you on the ground?

From a young age, I was taught that life is hard. My parents struggled a lot in their lives and I was conditioned to believe that life is about pain and suffering. Their intention was to help me deal with the obstacles that life presented me with. What occurred though, was that I came to expect the worst. My outlook on life and the world were negative, and what I watched in the news confirmed that belief. When good things happened to me, I couldn’t really enjoy it because in the back of my head I believed that I didn’t deserve it.

I was also taught to respect my elders. The intention behind this belief was honest and pure; my parents wanted to teach me the importance of listening to my elders and accepting counsel when I do something wrong. The problem though, was that I was expected to do what I was told. I was not allowed to differ in opinion or thought. With time, I began to resent the fact that I couldn’t express myself honestly.

Have you heard any of these statements?

  • No pain, no gain
  • Don’t burn your bridges
  • Money is the root of all evil
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees

In what ways could these beliefs be limiting?

What I’ve learned to say instead is:

  • Life is beautiful. I can find many reasons to believe that this life is full of love, joy and peace. I can experience goodness and be the recipient of gifts. I am allowed to embrace the wonderful and exciting.
  • Look at life from different perspectives, and then make your own decision. It is important to consider advice from those with more experience, but it is ok if you don’t agree with them on every point. You can make your own decisions and do your best to live a good life on your own terms.

Are you ready to unleash the joy within you? Learn how to let go of limiting beliefs, feel excited and motivated to succeed, re-wire your brain to create more happiness now, and take back control of your feelings and emotions. I want you to experience joy in your daily life. I want to see you reach your highest potential. And I want to help you do it! So, let’s begin this journey of exploration together.

Contact me through e-mail: alexanderrobleto@outlook.com
Facebook: @jorgerobleto

Disclaimer: Many of the concepts in this course are from © Copyright Transformation Academy 2017

Note: featured image by Victor Hernandez

Unravel Joy: Desires

Unravel Joy: Desires

Companies are constantly trying to manipulate your desires. Starting in 2009, Coca Cola ran an ad campaign with the slogan “open happiness.” You are told that if you purchase a particular product, you will be happy. If you stop and think about it rationally, you […]

Discover Your Life Purpose: Passions & Interests

Discover Your Life Purpose: Passions & Interests

We all have activities we love to engage in. Things that make us forget about time. When searching for our life purpose, this is a good place to look. As kids, we are driven by passion and curiosity, but many of us lose this fire […]

Unravel Joy: Benefits & Challenges

Unravel Joy: Benefits & Challenges

What are the benefits of happiness?

  • People who are happy don’t suffer from depression, doubt, or anger as much.
  • Happiness helps you be productive, problem solve and be creative.
  • It can help you be more sociable.
  • It can help you have more success at work, with friends and long-lasting relationships.
  • It will not only help you communicate but also connect with others.
  • It can even help in the healing process of physical ailments like wounds, sores etc.
  • It strengthens your immune system.
  • It lengthens your lifespan.
  • It can help you have a healthier view of yourself.

What are the challenges to being happy?

Some people are addicted to drama. When they are in conflict with others, adrenaline is released in their body and it makes them feel alive and connected. It becomes like a drug. You have to be aware of addictive tendencies when trying to create happiness.

Sometimes, drama may give comfort. What would happen if you stopped complaining? What would be the consequences of focusing more on positivity? For many, this would mean that they would no longer be able to complain to others about their problems or things they don’t have. You will have to answer these questions: is negativity and drama providing you with comfort? Is negativity the way you connect with others?

Your conditioning may be playing a role in why you are not happy. Have you been taught to observe life as half full or half empty? You may believe that external factors do not affect the way you live your life, but is that really the case? When you watch or read the news, does it lead you to view the world as a beautiful place or a dangerous and scary place to live? What do your parents, friends or colleagues say about the future?

All of these factors have to be taken into account if you want to reach a state of joy. You need to remember why you want to be happy and what the benefits are. Only then can you begin to unpeel the layers holding you back.

Are you ready to unleash the joy within you? Learn how to let go of limiting beliefs, feel excited and motivated to succeed, re-wire your brain to create more happiness now, and take back control of your feelings and emotions. I want you to experience joy in your daily life. I want to see you reach your highest potential. And I want to help you do it! So, let’s begin this journey of exploration together.

Contact me through e-mail: alexanderrobleto@outlook.com
Facebook: @jorgerobleto

Disclaimer: Many of the concepts in this course are from © Copyright Transformation Academy 2017

Photo by Chris Geirman on Unsplash

Unravel Joy: Defining Happiness

Unravel Joy: Defining Happiness

Why do you want to be happy? Is it because you think it will help you have better relationships, improve your job prospects, or enjoy the little things more? You need to have a big enough reason or else you won’t be motivated to go […]

Unravel Joy: Introduction

Unravel Joy: Introduction

Why do you want the things you want? For many, the obvious answer is because they want to BE HAPPY. This leads to another question, how do you think you can achieve happiness? This is where things get tricky, but for many people, the answer […]

Discover Your Life Purpose: Childhood Influences

Discover Your Life Purpose: Childhood Influences

You may think that the people around you, and society at large, have little to no influence on who you are… but that’s just not true. If you take the time to reflect on your beliefs and where they come from, you’ll soon realize how many of your ideas about life come from others. Once you analyze your conditioning, you can then purge your mind of beliefs that limit you or even cause you harm. This is an important step to take if you want to find your life purpose. It is your life purpose you are seeking, not the life purpose that others expect you to live out.

Understanding your conditioning is one thing, the other more difficult task, is to actually change it. That will be one of the goals of this course, but first, we must start at the beginning.

What are the beliefs that your caretakers (any older person who cared for you) strongly hold? Which of these beliefs have you also adopted? Which are the ones that you purposely reject?

One of the beliefs I held for many years was, “men don’t cry.” This idea originated from the Latin American background of my parents. Men are expected to be tough, strong, and show no weakness. In fact, instead of showing pain with tears, we often resort to anger. This negatively affects our relationships and ends up hurting others. As I grew older, I came to realize that this was not a good belief to hold on to.

A more positive belief I acquired from my parents was to serve people with what I have. I saw how much support my parents gave to others in the form of rides to the doctor, hospitality to those without a place to live, and emotional support to those going through a crisis. We often had people over for dinner and my mom would often say, “From the front door to the inside, everything is a bed. If someone needs a place to stay, we can find a way to accommodate them.”

Take time to think about these questions, and write them down. In the next blog entry, we will consider your passions and interests.

Are you ready to discover your life purpose? Learn how to take advantage of your natural talents, embrace your passions, understand your personality and create beliefs that will empower you to live a fulfilling life. I want you to find meaning and joy in this life. I want you to pursue your dreams and to believe that they are possible. And I want to help you do it! So, let’s begin this journey of exploration together.

Contact me through e-mail: alexanderrobleto@outlook.com
Facebook: @jorgerobleto

Disclaimer: Many of the concepts in this course are from © Copyright Transformation Academy

Note: featured image by Ramon Gonzalez

What Have I Done With My Life?

What Have I Done With My Life?

You wake up and head to the bathroom like you always do. You start to brush your teeth, but as you stroke your toothbrush up and down, you notice something different this morning. Your eyes… they no longer twinkle like they used to. What happened […]

Discover Your Life Purpose: Introduction

Discover Your Life Purpose: Introduction

I recently started to help some friends develop goals for their lives, and begin the process of making them a reality. What I discovered though is that goals only make sense when you know what your purpose is. If you don’t know WHAT you want […]

Wild And Free: A Conversation with a Conservationist

Wild And Free: A Conversation with a Conservationist

Geraldine Morelli started her own charity in support of wild animals in 2014, and after connecting with her through Instagram, I asked her if she would do an interview with me. Art intersects with so many aspects of life, and finding ways to not only create but to make a difference in the world is what we’re all about here at The Heart and Mind. It is my hope that through her story, many of you will see the urgency of working towards the conservation of all species on this planet.

I’m fascinated by your work and would like to know more about how it all began. Was it a moment where you said, “I need to start an organization to help wild animals” or was it a slow process or how exactly did you come to the idea of starting this charity?

In a nutshell, the decision of starting the charity happened after years of volunteering in a primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa and observing some issues that I believed needed to be addressed.

I fell in love with the African wildlife after a two day safari in Kenya in 2005. When I had the opportunity to take some time off between a change of job in 2006, I knew I wanted to go back to Africa. I wasn’t very familiar with the concept of volunteering as it isn’t as common in France as in the UK but I was encouraged to work with animals since I have always loved them. After a bit of research, I decided to go to a specific primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa because unlike many places I had looked up, they rehabilitate and release primates back to their natural habitat. Little did I know that it would change my life!

I went volunteering there for a few weeks and completely fell in love with Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. I loved working everyday to help the centre care for 600 monkeys and even had the chance to go on a safari again. I then went back every year with a break when I had my two children, but returned again with my daughter when she was three and kept going regularly. I learnt so much there but also came to realise that the way they rehabilitate and release those primates wasn’t necessarily the same way that other centers did. And it appears that there are some failures, which translates in the death of animals as they aren’t ready to live and fend for themselves once they are released back to the wild. So I started to research a little more about what other centres did worldwide and was quite shocked to see very low statistics of release success. Some mentioned 45% survival rate and others 30% while the centre I volunteered at had a 98% survival rate of their troops after one year of being released! The other issue I noticed was that it is incredibly costly to care for all these animals in the rehabilitation centre. They need food everyday, the babies needs milk or formula, those injured need treatment and special diets, veterinary costs, the enclosure needs to be maintained and there is always something unplanned happening! A car breaks down and suddenly it is a huge cost that needs to be covered. This is without even considering preparing the animals for the release when the perfect release site needs to be found, temporary enclosures need to be erected, volunteers need to be monitoring the troop and therefore live away from the centres. Everything is so expensive but in most cases, these places rely on voluntary donations. This seems so unfair to me!

So I decided to do something about it at my pace, at my level of capacity, but at least to try to help. I set up the charity and looked for the rehabilitation centres that successfully rehabilitate and release primates, and I fundraise for them so they can release those beautiful animals to where they belong, which also has an impact on their ecosystem as they play a major role in maintaining healthy habitats. I have a longer list of centres than those I have helped so far, but with little funds I can’t help everyone at once, unfortunately. The idea, which I haven’t yet implemented fully, is that the centres working with the same species talk with each other about the issues they face and the solutions they have found. In other words, I would like them to share best practice. Too many of them work in silo or see competition with each other and I think it is a real shame. They could really benefit from learning what others do, and at the end of the day the animals are the ones that should be the focus. I don’t restrict the charity scope to primates only though, I have helped a project working with the Iberian Lynx and I am very interested to help centres that work with pangolins too. I have been able to put some people in contact with others who work with the same species and I am very happy that they are willing to help and listen to each other.

I am running the charity on the side of my work and family (I have 2 children) so I am not making as much progress as I would like, but again, every little help makes a difference and it is an amazing feeling. I am meeting such amazing and inspiring people along the way, both professionals or volunteers. I am learning something everyday, I love it and can’t see myself ever stopping from doing this!

Could you please tell me what you find interesting or fascinating about the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons? 

My fascination for Vervet monkeys is probably directly related to my experience as they were the first species I learnt about through caring for orphans and I have some stories that I hold so preciously in my heart. Needless to say that a woman’s maternal instincts kick in the second these tiny fluff balls look at you in the eyes and reach out to you to fall asleep in your arms. Add to this the fact that they are traumatised as they have likely seen their mother killed. It is impossible not to be touched, moved and fall in love. Spending time with babies is of course incredible. When they fall asleep on you, suck your finger or nibble your ear for comfort, play and be cheeky, you realise what incredible personalities they have. They are so beautiful with their grey fur tinted of many shades, their fluffy white bellies, adorable black faces. The adult males are particularly striking. And they are so clever.

I was introduced to baboons a little later but they have also stolen my heart big time! The first word or image that comes to my mind when I think about Baboons is their eyes. They have the most amazing intense orange eyes that say so much about their intelligence. They never stop thinking, planning, listening and of course, looking. Never.

In the end, what I really learnt is that although they aren’t the most popular primates in Africa, through my time caring, observing and learning about them, you can totally fall in love with them. And this is the attitude I have with every animal now, especially the less known or popular ones, because I genuinely believe they each hold some amazing facts. If only we gave them a chance. I think we are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by wildlife in all parts of the world. This way of viewing wild animals is, I believe, thanks to Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. Considered as pests and persecuted, yet totally winning my heart over.

How have you gone about promoting your charity?

I am so grateful for Social Media as it is a great way to reach people across the globe, which is important as our projects aren’t limited to one country or region, and the news we share concerns all wildlife. However, not everyone is on Social Media, especially the younger generation who I believe are crucial to address and educate on wildlife matters, or the older generation who may have seen the decline of species over time and therefore more likely to understand the urgent need to support and share messages.

Facebook was the first tool I used to promote the charity as well as with my friends on my personal page. The way I use Facebook is to both inform on charity news and raise awareness. I follow many wildlife rehabilitation centres on Facebook, but  also receive news based on key words from the web every morning so I scan and select the relevant ones.The content is always related to wildlife rehabilitation, rescues, threats, successes, new species. I also use twitter and Instagram but really need some help as social media can take up a lot of time! And there are a lot of charities out there doing great work and also needing support, so it may be a little overwhelming for people.

That is why I am also working on new ways to use technology and get people closer to the cause, especially as my background is in this area. I am preparing something quite exciting involving Virtual Reality, I can’t wait to show it to people when it is ready!

In the end, my preferred way of communicating is by talking directly to people about the charity. It is a lot more personal and I think that people like establishing a connection with the person behind a charity. I find that passion and emotion are better expressed when I talked rather than when I write, perhaps due to English not being my native language or simply because I don’t overthink what I say as much.

I had the great opportunity to do a TEDx talk, which has also generated some support and interesting discussions. What an experience it was! Another amazing feedback is to see the audience’s reaction. It can be really touching. I presented to young children in primary schools and older ones at college. They had great questions and many were genuinely interested and willing to support us, which is really wonderful.

I have done a few fundraising events, always accompanied by a speech, which are also a great way to promote the charity. It is hard work though, takes time to prepare and may involve some costs, which although minimal, I want to try to avoid as we are a small charity.  Luckily I did have some help from volunteers, which made them great and fun events.

Finally, I tried to partner with relevant organisations or those whose objective is to help small charities, and this proved really efficient.

Although being a small charity can be quite tricky at times and has obvious downsides, it is easy to be transparent about the work we do, where donations go etc, which I think is very important for people. Also, I do love the fact that I am able to directly contact and communicate with people, so it is more personal and the bonds we create are stronger.

How can we (as the readers) help you achieve your goals?

Thank you so much for asking this question, it would be impossible to achieve my goals without help, so I really appreciate it.

I feel that I need to explain what the goals are before explaining how to help me achieve them. So my answer contains both aspects: what and how

First of all, it would be great if you could follow us on Social Media, mainly on Facebook as the main purpose is to raise awareness but also on Instragram or follow me on Twitter.  We will hopefully make you appreciate the beauty of nature and its wildlife and inform you on some issues and successes you may not be aware of or help you see them from a different angle. Awareness, education, inspiration, are all very important to making the world a better place.

Then, to be more involved in the work we do, it is important to break it down into different types of goals.

The short term goal of the charity is to continue supporting successful rehabilitation centres in their work through grant making and to start building a “pocket of funds” for new projects so they don’t have to wait for months until we reach our target for them. Donations and fundraising activities are very welcome of course. When doing so, you can choose for the funds to go towards a specific project where 100% of the amount is sent to the centre with the reassurance that it is put in good use for the animals, or to the charity in general and we allocate the funds where it is most needed or across a few projects. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much you can raise, we live in a world where we can all be easily connected and donations add up quickly. We don’t need millions to help rehabilitation centres (though that would be quite awesome!), because remember that these centres rely on people like us to be able to do their wonderful work, and 1 euro goes a long way in some countries. I want people to be proud of saying “I helped in giving freedom and increasing the population of this or that species,”and therefore be a part of conservation success stories.

For people in the UK, there is a platform called Give as you Live where a percentage of your online shopping (pretty much anything you can think of from buying a pen to booking a holiday) goes to the charity at no extra cost to you. I often insist on this because it is very clever, costs nothing and if we could have a lot more people on board, it would make a huge difference.

The mid term goal is, in addition to the above, to develop this community of rehabilitation centres that can share information and best practice, and of course we want to be there to help with funds to support improvements. I believe in cooperation and not competition, especially when it comes to the lives of animals! I have started putting people who work with the same species in touch and it is working well, but it is all behind the scenes and I would really like to make it accessible to more centres. For this, I really need a developer volunteer who can build this community and forum for the charity on the website. So if anyone is interested, please let me know!

The longer term goal is that all existing rehabilitation centres are successful at rehabilitation and releasing or reintroducing wild animals, and new ones are created where currently there are none in regions with endangered species. How can those animals stand a chance with no facilities to help them? Based on my own research among countries that have indigenous primates, there could be a staggering 33% of countries with vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered primates that do not have a facility to rehabilitate them!

Releasing wild animals has an impact on other species sharing the same habitat. Globally speaking, this goal has to work hand in hand with other organisations focusing on habitat protection, local awareness and involvement in wildlife management, the relentless fight to end poaching and the illegal trade and other conservation activities that make up the conservation effort. We are one piece of the conservation puzzle, but one piece that many are not aware of and actually a really important part.

In the end, people will want to help if they feel an emotional connection to the cause. And the best way to achieve this is to either see them in the wild, or to go volunteering in rehabilitation centres and experience first hand how to save some species and the work that is involved in doing so. If I could, I would spend my time doing this! It is so incredible to work with animals, get to know them, their behaviour, and be a part of their journey back to the wild. It is hard work but way more rewarding than one may imagine. Then, I am sure that someone wouldn’t think twice about supporting us ;-). Immerse yourself in Virtual Reality experiences that brings you closer to wild animals in their natural habitat. You won’t regret it!

Finally please do get in touch if you want to ask a question about the charity, need some advice about places to volunteer with animals, would like to volunteer for the charity even if you have limited time available or simply to say hi. I am quite a social creature and will reply shortly 🙂

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an NGO? 

I’ve come to realise that no matter the size of a non-profit organisation, no matter how much is raised, when you help in making a positive impact on the cause you care about, it is worth doing it. So to me, knowing that every penny raised and sent directly to the projects we select makes a difference to each animal benefiting from it is extremely rewarding. For example, when we raised funds for Wildtracks rehabilitation centre in Belize, it helped release three troops of critically endangered Yucatan Black Howlers monkeys back to their natural habitat. After a year of their release, it was observed that 11 babies were born in the wild, increasing their population by 5%. What can be most rewarding than hearing this news?

There is another very rewarding aspect of running a non-profit that needs to be mentioned as it is related to the above: people. Since I’ve started the charity and in particular in the past year that I was able to dedicate more time to it, I have felt really lucky and grateful to meet like-minded people, inspiring individuals and passionate souls who wanted to help and/or support me and the charity. I made new connections, and new friends. we are all in the same boat and it is very heart-warming to see how each individual makes a difference on the achievements we target and in boosting my energy so high! There have been some difficult times both in my personal life and with the charity, but by keeping the focus on animals and those who support me always helped me to quickly get back on my feet and keep going. One step at a time, but always moving forward. It is such an exciting and rewarding journey.

Running the charity also had a side effect, as it made me a lot more compassionate to the world around me and I feel that I became a better person with simple and small changes like smiling more, helping, saying something nice out loud, and looking for the positive lessons in any experience. In general, being more turned out to the world than only to my inner circle. I makes me happier and in turn, it seems to translate in real kindness from the outside world.

I can genuinely say that the charity gave me a purpose and that I can see myself doing this all my life.

I smile everyday.

Thank you so much Geraldine for your time. We wish you continued growth and success in your conservation efforts.

If you want to find out more on how you can help support her charity, please check out her website https://www.wildnfree.org/


Diary

Post ID:

Geraldine Morelli started her own charity in support of wild animals in 2014, and after connecting with her through Instagram, I asked her if she would do an interview with me. Art intersects with so many aspects of life, and finding ways to not only create but to make a difference in the world is what we’re all about here at The Heart and Mind. It is my hope that through her story, many of you will see the urgency of working towards the conservation of all species on this planet.

I’m fascinated by your work and would like to know more about how it all began. Was it a moment where you said, “I need to start an organization to help wild animals” or was it a slow process or how exactly did you come to the idea of starting this charity?

In a nutshell, the decision of starting the charity happened after years of volunteering in a primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa and observing some issues that I believed needed to be addressed.

I fell in love with the African wildlife after a two day safari in Kenya in 2005. When I had the opportunity to take some time off between a change of job in 2006, I knew I wanted to go back to Africa. I wasn’t very familiar with the concept of volunteering as it isn’t as common in France as in the UK but I was encouraged to work with animals since I have always loved them. After a bit of research, I decided to go to a specific primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa because unlike many places I had looked up, they rehabilitate and release primates back to their natural habitat. Little did I know that it would change my life!

I went volunteering there for a few weeks and completely fell in love with Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. I loved working everyday to help the centre care for 600 monkeys and even had the chance to go on a safari again. I then went back every year with a break when I had my two children, but returned again with my daughter when she was three and kept going regularly. I learnt so much there but also came to realise that the way they rehabilitate and release those primates wasn’t necessarily the same way that other centers did. And it appears that there are some failures, which translates in the death of animals as they aren’t ready to live and fend for themselves once they are released back to the wild. So I started to research a little more about what other centres did worldwide and was quite shocked to see very low statistics of release success. Some mentioned 45% survival rate and others 30% while the centre I volunteered at had a 98% survival rate of their troops after one year of being released! The other issue I noticed was that it is incredibly costly to care for all these animals in the rehabilitation centre. They need food everyday, the babies needs milk or formula, those injured need treatment and special diets, veterinary costs, the enclosure needs to be maintained and there is always something unplanned happening! A car breaks down and suddenly it is a huge cost that needs to be covered. This is without even considering preparing the animals for the release when the perfect release site needs to be found, temporary enclosures need to be erected, volunteers need to be monitoring the troop and therefore live away from the centres. Everything is so expensive but in most cases, these places rely on voluntary donations. This seems so unfair to me!

So I decided to do something about it at my pace, at my level of capacity, but at least to try to help. I set up the charity and looked for the rehabilitation centres that successfully rehabilitate and release primates, and I fundraise for them so they can release those beautiful animals to where they belong, which also has an impact on their ecosystem as they play a major role in maintaining healthy habitats. I have a longer list of centres than those I have helped so far, but with little funds I can’t help everyone at once, unfortunately. The idea, which I haven’t yet implemented fully, is that the centres working with the same species talk with each other about the issues they face and the solutions they have found. In other words, I would like them to share best practice. Too many of them work in silo or see competition with each other and I think it is a real shame. They could really benefit from learning what others do, and at the end of the day the animals are the ones that should be the focus. I don’t restrict the charity scope to primates only though, I have helped a project working with the Iberian Lynx and I am very interested to help centres that work with pangolins too. I have been able to put some people in contact with others who work with the same species and I am very happy that they are willing to help and listen to each other.

I am running the charity on the side of my work and family (I have 2 children) so I am not making as much progress as I would like, but again, every little help makes a difference and it is an amazing feeling. I am meeting such amazing and inspiring people along the way, both professionals or volunteers. I am learning something everyday, I love it and can’t see myself ever stopping from doing this!

Could you please tell me what you find interesting or fascinating about the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons? 

My fascination for Vervet monkeys is probably directly related to my experience as they were the first species I learnt about through caring for orphans and I have some stories that I hold so preciously in my heart. Needless to say that a woman’s maternal instincts kick in the second these tiny fluff balls look at you in the eyes and reach out to you to fall asleep in your arms. Add to this the fact that they are traumatised as they have likely seen their mother killed. It is impossible not to be touched, moved and fall in love. Spending time with babies is of course incredible. When they fall asleep on you, suck your finger or nibble your ear for comfort, play and be cheeky, you realise what incredible personalities they have. They are so beautiful with their grey fur tinted of many shades, their fluffy white bellies, adorable black faces. The adult males are particularly striking. And they are so clever.

I was introduced to baboons a little later but they have also stolen my heart big time! The first word or image that comes to my mind when I think about Baboons is their eyes. They have the most amazing intense orange eyes that say so much about their intelligence. They never stop thinking, planning, listening and of course, looking. Never.

In the end, what I really learnt is that although they aren’t the most popular primates in Africa, through my time caring, observing and learning about them, you can totally fall in love with them. And this is the attitude I have with every animal now, especially the less known or popular ones, because I genuinely believe they each hold some amazing facts. If only we gave them a chance. I think we are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by wildlife in all parts of the world. This way of viewing wild animals is, I believe, thanks to Vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. Considered as pests and persecuted, yet totally winning my heart over.

How have you gone about promoting your charity?

I am so grateful for Social Media as it is a great way to reach people across the globe, which is important as our projects aren’t limited to one country or region, and the news we share concerns all wildlife. However, not everyone is on Social Media, especially the younger generation who I believe are crucial to address and educate on wildlife matters, or the older generation who may have seen the decline of species over time and therefore more likely to understand the urgent need to support and share messages.

Facebook was the first tool I used to promote the charity as well as with my friends on my personal page. The way I use Facebook is to both inform on charity news and raise awareness. I follow many wildlife rehabilitation centres on Facebook, but  also receive news based on key words from the web every morning so I scan and select the relevant ones.The content is always related to wildlife rehabilitation, rescues, threats, successes, new species. I also use twitter and Instagram but really need some help as social media can take up a lot of time! And there are a lot of charities out there doing great work and also needing support, so it may be a little overwhelming for people.

That is why I am also working on new ways to use technology and get people closer to the cause, especially as my background is in this area. I am preparing something quite exciting involving Virtual Reality, I can’t wait to show it to people when it is ready!

In the end, my preferred way of communicating is by talking directly to people about the charity. It is a lot more personal and I think that people like establishing a connection with the person behind a charity. I find that passion and emotion are better expressed when I talked rather than when I write, perhaps due to English not being my native language or simply because I don’t overthink what I say as much.

I had the great opportunity to do a TEDx talk, which has also generated some support and interesting discussions. What an experience it was! Another amazing feedback is to see the audience’s reaction. It can be really touching. I presented to young children in primary schools and older ones at college. They had great questions and many were genuinely interested and willing to support us, which is really wonderful.

I have done a few fundraising events, always accompanied by a speech, which are also a great way to promote the charity. It is hard work though, takes time to prepare and may involve some costs, which although minimal, I want to try to avoid as we are a small charity.  Luckily I did have some help from volunteers, which made them great and fun events.

Finally, I tried to partner with relevant organisations or those whose objective is to help small charities, and this proved really efficient.

Although being a small charity can be quite tricky at times and has obvious downsides, it is easy to be transparent about the work we do, where donations go etc, which I think is very important for people. Also, I do love the fact that I am able to directly contact and communicate with people, so it is more personal and the bonds we create are stronger.

How can we (as the readers) help you achieve your goals?

Thank you so much for asking this question, it would be impossible to achieve my goals without help, so I really appreciate it.

I feel that I need to explain what the goals are before explaining how to help me achieve them. So my answer contains both aspects: what and how

First of all, it would be great if you could follow us on Social Media, mainly on Facebook as the main purpose is to raise awareness but also on Instragram or follow me on Twitter.  We will hopefully make you appreciate the beauty of nature and its wildlife and inform you on some issues and successes you may not be aware of or help you see them from a different angle. Awareness, education, inspiration, are all very important to making the world a better place.

Then, to be more involved in the work we do, it is important to break it down into different types of goals.

The short term goal of the charity is to continue supporting successful rehabilitation centres in their work through grant making and to start building a “pocket of funds” for new projects so they don’t have to wait for months until we reach our target for them. Donations and fundraising activities are very welcome of course. When doing so, you can choose for the funds to go towards a specific project where 100% of the amount is sent to the centre with the reassurance that it is put in good use for the animals, or to the charity in general and we allocate the funds where it is most needed or across a few projects. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much you can raise, we live in a world where we can all be easily connected and donations add up quickly. We don’t need millions to help rehabilitation centres (though that would be quite awesome!), because remember that these centres rely on people like us to be able to do their wonderful work, and 1 euro goes a long way in some countries. I want people to be proud of saying “I helped in giving freedom and increasing the population of this or that species,”and therefore be a part of conservation success stories.

For people in the UK, there is a platform called Give as you Live where a percentage of your online shopping (pretty much anything you can think of from buying a pen to booking a holiday) goes to the charity at no extra cost to you. I often insist on this because it is very clever, costs nothing and if we could have a lot more people on board, it would make a huge difference.

The mid term goal is, in addition to the above, to develop this community of rehabilitation centres that can share information and best practice, and of course we want to be there to help with funds to support improvements. I believe in cooperation and not competition, especially when it comes to the lives of animals! I have started putting people who work with the same species in touch and it is working well, but it is all behind the scenes and I would really like to make it accessible to more centres. For this, I really need a developer volunteer who can build this community and forum for the charity on the website. So if anyone is interested, please let me know!

The longer term goal is that all existing rehabilitation centres are successful at rehabilitation and releasing or reintroducing wild animals, and new ones are created where currently there are none in regions with endangered species. How can those animals stand a chance with no facilities to help them? Based on my own research among countries that have indigenous primates, there could be a staggering 33% of countries with vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered primates that do not have a facility to rehabilitate them!

Releasing wild animals has an impact on other species sharing the same habitat. Globally speaking, this goal has to work hand in hand with other organisations focusing on habitat protection, local awareness and involvement in wildlife management, the relentless fight to end poaching and the illegal trade and other conservation activities that make up the conservation effort. We are one piece of the conservation puzzle, but one piece that many are not aware of and actually a really important part.

In the end, people will want to help if they feel an emotional connection to the cause. And the best way to achieve this is to either see them in the wild, or to go volunteering in rehabilitation centres and experience first hand how to save some species and the work that is involved in doing so. If I could, I would spend my time doing this! It is so incredible to work with animals, get to know them, their behaviour, and be a part of their journey back to the wild. It is hard work but way more rewarding than one may imagine. Then, I am sure that someone wouldn’t think twice about supporting us ;-). Immerse yourself in Virtual Reality experiences that brings you closer to wild animals in their natural habitat. You won’t regret it!

Finally please do get in touch if you want to ask a question about the charity, need some advice about places to volunteer with animals, would like to volunteer for the charity even if you have limited time available or simply to say hi. I am quite a social creature and will reply shortly 🙂

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an NGO? 

I’ve come to realise that no matter the size of a non-profit organisation, no matter how much is raised, when you help in making a positive impact on the cause you care about, it is worth doing it. So to me, knowing that every penny raised and sent directly to the projects we select makes a difference to each animal benefiting from it is extremely rewarding. For example, when we raised funds for Wildtracks rehabilitation centre in Belize, it helped release three troops of critically endangered Yucatan Black Howlers monkeys back to their natural habitat. After a year of their release, it was observed that 11 babies were born in the wild, increasing their population by 5%. What can be most rewarding than hearing this news?

There is another very rewarding aspect of running a non-profit that needs to be mentioned as it is related to the above: people. Since I’ve started the charity and in particular in the past year that I was able to dedicate more time to it, I have felt really lucky and grateful to meet like-minded people, inspiring individuals and passionate souls who wanted to help and/or support me and the charity. I made new connections, and new friends. we are all in the same boat and it is very heart-warming to see how each individual makes a difference on the achievements we target and in boosting my energy so high! There have been some difficult times both in my personal life and with the charity, but by keeping the focus on animals and those who support me always helped me to quickly get back on my feet and keep going. One step at a time, but always moving forward. It is such an exciting and rewarding journey.

Running the charity also had a side effect, as it made me a lot more compassionate to the world around me and I feel that I became a better person with simple and small changes like smiling more, helping, saying something nice out loud, and looking for the positive lessons in any experience. In general, being more turned out to the world than only to my inner circle. I makes me happier and in turn, it seems to translate in real kindness from the outside world.

I can genuinely say that the charity gave me a purpose and that I can see myself doing this all my life.

I smile everyday.

Thank you so much Geraldine for your time. We wish you continued growth and success in your conservation efforts.

If you want to find out more on how you can help support her charity, please check out her website https://www.wildnfree.org/


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