Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

November 20, 2002

Jane Goodall Institute sets up regional office at U of G

The University of Guelph's Arboretum is the home of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada's first regional office. The satellite office was set up in September to co-ordinate the institute's Roots & Shoots youth program across southern Ontario.

The Arboretum is already committed to environmental education through its own programs, so it was a natural choice for the Roots & Shoots office to locate there, said Arboretum director Alan Watson. "It certainly increases the Arboretum's profile and strengthens our environmental education program. We've already got a great group of environmental educators, and this adds another component that provides some great opportunities for cross-fertilization."

Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute's international environmental and humanitarian program for young people. Its mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for the environment, animals and the human community. All Roots & Shoots members, from preschool to university, demonstrate their care and concern for living things through service projects in their communities.

World-renowned primate biologist Jane Goodall, who received an honorary degree from Guelph in 1998, founded the Roots & Shoots program in 1991 with some students in Tanzania, Africa, who wanted to create a platform for young people to contribute to their communities. Eleven years later, there are 1,400 groups in more than 65 countries.

Canada has about 100 groups. Since most of them are located in southern Ontario, the Montreal-based national office of the Jane Goodall Institute decided to set up a regional office to keep local groups motivated and connected to each other.

Watson offered to provide office space for the Roots & Shoots regional co-ordinator, Michele Martin, whose role is to promote the program within schools and other youth community groups. "I visit the groups and keep in touch with them, so we can keep them interested and feeling like they're part of a network," she said.

The Jane Goodall Institute's partnership with the Arboretum is already proving to be a success. An initial meeting at the facility drew co-ordinators and members of Roots & Shoots groups from across Ontario, said Watson. "We took them on a tour and talked about the kinds of activities and programs we're involved with, so we were able then to expand our connections."

Martin and Watson are finding that U of G students are keen to participate in the program. "There's quite a lot of scope at Guelph veterinary medicine, zoology, environmental science, wildlife biology, natural resource management for people who might be interested in getting involved," said Martin.

Students in an environmental biology course Watson teaches are volunteering with the Roots & Shoots program to fulfil a requirement to conduct an interpretive program. "It's great because they get to understand what the Roots & Shoots program and the Jane Goodall Institute are all about," he said. "Plus, it provides them with a context within which to do an interpretive program."

Ontario Veterinary College student Owen Slater said he's delighted that Guelph is now a centre for the Jane Goodall Institute. In the spring of 2001, he worked at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda. Once he returned to Canada, he volunteered with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada to continue promoting animal welfare and conservation.

Slater feels strongly about the Roots & Shoots program because he knows that young people are capable of making a difference in their communities. He was only 15 when he began working in wildlife rehabilitation. "I think it's a great program, just in the aspect of motivating young people to get involved in the community and becoming aware of environmental issues," he said.

When Slater visits local schools to promote the Roots & Shoots program, he focuses on motivating the students to take action. "By sharing my experiences working in Uganda and in a wildlife sanctuary in northern Ontario, I want to help them understand where their efforts can lead."

After seeing the difference Guelph's regional office is making in connecting Roots & Shoots groups across the province, the institute plans to open regional offices in Calgary and Vancouver.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 6982.

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