I didn’t grow up admiring Jane Goodall, or any other environmentalists.
I was pretty much ignorant about environmental issues mostly because the surrounding environment I grew up in did not talk much about them.
So how did I start to care about the environment?
Long story short, I was willing to learn the world’s truths, and climate catastrophe was (still is) one of them. Veganism had a lot to do with the epiphany and I’m glad I’m now aware.
But I felt like I was starting from zero and I literally had to learn the issues as I go along. At that time, I was also starting my journey into adulthood.
To not bore you with a long-winded account, here’s my brief history:
- 2016 – finished uni and started working at an environmental consulting company
- 2017 – joined a climate change youth group dealing with climate policy; also left the aforementioned job after one year.
- 2018 – joined a new vegan society NGO; found work as a copywriter at a startup agency.
- 2019 – left the climate change youth group and eventually left the vegan society as well due to burnout; continued with copywriting; continued learning about the environment in my own time
Basically, I was on a journey of “shit what do I actually do with my life“.
But then I realised that I like writing, dancing and anything to do with the environment.
So when I saw this Roots & Shoots Malaysia Awards (RASMA) program on Instagram, I signed up.
Why I Joined Roots & Shoots Malaysia
I thought it was about time that I apply my copywriting/social media skills in an environmental context.
I had been doing copywriting for various types of clients via the agency I worked with and to be honest, I was sick of it.
It was against my values to promote stuff that people don’t really need and to perpetuate capitalism and consumerism. I knew that. But I just had to do it as a means to an end.
I thought that RASMA would be able to bridge the gap between my interest in writing and my passion for the environment.
RASMA was a pilot program working together with 15 other NGOs. The idea was to get volunteers with various skills and interests to volunteer for their preferred or allocated NGO(s). They would volunteer for 3 months or until they achieve their hours.
The hours were divided into three:
- 45 hours = ⭐️
- 55 hours = ⭐️⭐️
- 75 hours = ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I thought I’d achieve 75 hours but life happened and I only managed to get 1 star, which was good enough for me considering my situation.
Why Didn’t I Work More Hours?
In the months of July to September, not only did I volunteer with Roots & Shoots Malaysia working on their social media content and a couple of article writing, but I also:
- managed to quit my 9-6 and jump straight to full-time freelancing
- attended rigorous dance training & classes
- entered a dance competition with my crewmates
Suffice to say, those 3 months were packed so I didn’t have time to volunteer with any other NGOs as I initially thought I would. Plus, I think I did my work quickly.
What I Learned From Roots & Shoots Malaysia
While most of the volunteers got to be on-site or in the forest with local communities, I was mostly on my desk with my laptop, communicating virtually with 3 other team members.
I actually enjoyed that.
Although I would have liked to go to Royal Belum, I think at that point in my life, it was just right for me to work on social media content.
And this is what I came to learn and accept: I didn’t need to be in the forest or the parliament to help the environment. I could just be at home curating insightful posts to inspire others to do their bit for the environment.
Working on social media content for R&S really fueled me to continue to spread the message on my personal platform as well.
Content Curation Is Not All Sunshine And Butterflies
Having the knowledge of marketing, I did want to challenge myself to curate something that’s worthwhile, eye-catching and thought-provoking. But at the same time, I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m no match for the algorithm especially when it was all organic reach.
So I did the best that I could with all my brain and heart in each post.
I would say that what Roots & Shoots Malaysia lacks is consistency and focus (which are what I sometimes lack in my life too funny enough).
I’d say consistency less so when volunteers were active. But they lack focus in terms of the topics. I guess it’s good that they are championing all topics but in terms of marketing, that’s not a good strategy. People tend to switch off to things that don’t matter to them or when the topics are too broad. And most of the content for Roots & Shoots’ social media was about environmental awareness days which covered many grounds.
As I was only a volunteer, I couldn’t change that. I at least played my part in making the content a bit more interesting (I hope!). And I am happy with each outcome.
The Award Ceremony
When I applied for the RASMA program, I didn’t know that we would meet Jane Goodall.
But then they told me about it within the first week of the program. Naturally, I was ecstatic and this was a boost for me to do well.
Three months passed and I managed to complete the minimum hours. This meant that I was eligible to receive the award.
I actually continued doing their social media for another month because I felt I should end with the Vegan Day post 😊
The Award Ceremony took place on the 21st of November 2019 at Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club.
That place brought back fond memories of riding classes, so it made the event a bit sweeter.
Meeting Dr Jane Goodall
The RASMA alumni were invited for a private session with Dr Jane Goodall. Initially, I thought it would be just us volunteers in a room with JG. And that we would be able to freely ask her questions and discuss pertinent matters about the environment.
However, it was more of a spectacle rather than a private event.
There were media representatives as well as the representatives of the 15 partner NGOs.
The fact that the media were given the chance to ask more questions directly to JG instead of the alumni pissed me off.
For the alumni, our questions were merely written on pieces of paper and placed in a transparent bowl. Only four or five of the questions were picked out and none of them was mine.
After Dr Jane Goodall answered a few randomly picked questions, several media reps were called out to ask their questions directly.
Wasn’t this supposed to be an event for the alumni?
All Vegetarian Buffet
One thing I was really happy about was that the buffet was definitely all vegetarian and mostly vegan.
I actually requested a vegan meal and the organiser did prepare one. But I was told they mistakenly thought that the requested meal was for Dr Jane Goodall. So they gave that to her.
I wasn’t too bummed about that because the buffet was actually pretty good.
It’s funny how they think a special meal was for the special guest when that guest wasn’t even vegan (at that time, to my knowledge).
Humans are funny creatures.
A Pretentious Display Of Grandeur
So after that private session and buffet which ended roughly around 7pm, the main event—the award ceremony—began.
Again, I thought it was just for us alumni.
But it was more for the VVIPs who had either paid a huge sum or been invited to the exclusive dinner.
There was even the Queen of I don’t know which state (possibly Perak).
So there was all this protocol that we had to adhere to.
And the funniest thing was that us alumni weren’t even given a table to dine in the ballroom!
Well, I guess that was what the buffet was for. To keep us satiated through the night.
We had to wait outside for about an hour before we were called in to receive our framed certificates. And before we climbed up the stage, we had to bring our palms together and over our foreheads as a protocol of respect to the Queen.
I’m just glad I didn’t have to bow to her. I feel uneasy bowing to anyone that has not earned my respect or who is not God.
After the award-giving ceremony, Dr Jane Goodall gave a nearly hour-long speech.
Since there was no room for the alumni, we had to either stand at the sides or sit on the floor.
Great Program, Elitist Award Ceremony
All in all my experience was great. Truly.
I liked the camaraderie between the Roots & Shoots Malaysia marketing team members and I wish I could continue working with them with full wage.
But they are in fact an NGO and not of WWF or Greenpeace calibre.
I’m also glad to have met with the other volunteers who were so inspiring and gave me hope for the future. They will indeed be the people to champion the environmental cause. I hope they will do it with verve and good intentions.
The award ceremony could have been better in terms of prioritizing the alumni (and the partner NGOs) throughout. I guess it’s not common sense to show appreciation to the alumni who were the crucial aspect of this RASMA program.
It would be better if the alumni had an actual private session with Dr Jane Goodall. I didn’t so much mind them scuttling us like cattle during the award ceremony. But at least give us the chance to speak directly and privately to Dr Jane Goodall. At the very least.
Nevertheless, I hope this program shall continue to be a yearly occasion. I think it’s a good opportunity for youth to experience volunteering with various environmental groups in Malaysia.
I only wish I had volunteered more during my school days.