About a year ago, my brother and I heard about two girls who started their own nonprofit organization, Kids Saving The Rainforest when they were just nine years old. Their goal was to save the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, where they were living at the time. We were so impressed with their story that we told ourselves that if we ever get the opportunity to visit Costa Rica, we would definitely stop by their sanctuary to see all the amazing work they are doing.
Well, as luck would have it, Carter and I were recently invited to speak at the Global Summit on Childhood, hosted by ACEI (Association for Childhood Education International) in Costa Rica. To our amazement, we were presenting with the folks at KSTR during the conference. So we reached out to their president, Jennifer Rice, and coordinated a trip and tour of their facility.
Back in 1999, two friends, Janine Licare and Aislin Livingstone, got the idea to raise money for a project to “save the rainforest,” so they set about selling papier-mâché bottles and painted rock paperweights from a “crazy cute” roadside stand.
They were shocked to discover that the money they raised was not enough to buy and save the entire forest—they were only nine after all—so they started small by making monkey bridges. What are monkey bridges and how do they save the rain forest? Watch this video with the KSTR spokeskids to find out!
Here are a few of the interview questions I posed to both Aislin Livingstone and Janine Licare:
What is your favorite species that you have worked with?
I thought maybe I would try to be creative with this one but the answer can only be: squirrel monkeys! (Read below for the catch). While I do not work directly with the animals in the rescue center, KSTR started out by raising awareness of threats to the Central American squirrel monkey. These are endemic to the Pacific coast of Central America—meaning a large concentration of them are located in the area where KSTR works. I have fond memories of warning national park-goers about the dangers of feeding the monkeys and of habituating them to human contact.
Drawing attention to the threats facing local wildlife by telling the story of animals that people are naturally drawn to is essential in supporting KSTR’s wildlife rescue work with other, less-charismatic species in need.
Have you taken your animal conservation efforts outside of Costa Rica?
I do not work in a wildlife rescue setting in Canada, but nature conservation is definitely at the forefront of my studies in landscape planning and design. Protecting and restoring wildlife habitat is a key aspect of the projects I hope to work on in the near future!
How did the two of you (Janine and Aislin) meet?
We were actually neighbors, friends, and classmates in Costa Rica since we were four years old! Our hometown used to be a bit isolated before tourism expanded, so there was a tight “friend network” among the children in the area.
Have you ever released an animal back in the wild that has come back and visited you? And if so, what kind?
Many of our sloths have come back to visit, as has a kinkajou and some parrots. They appear to want to let us know that they are OK!
What message would you have for parents who have kids showing an interest in saving animals or the environment?
I wholeheartedly encourage parents to support their kids’ interest in wildlife and the environment. While there are many threats to the natural environment, we live in an exciting time where the value of nature is being recognized. People are coming up with innovative and exciting ways to reduce our impacts on the environment while making sure that everyone has access to it—this is especially true when it comes to the benefits that nature has for children’s health and happiness!
Stay tuned next week as we learn how ‘Kids Find Solution to Plastic Pollution‘.
Olivia Ries is our National Geographic Society Youth Empowerment writer. Together with her brother Carter, she hopes to inspire others to realize that “Anybody can make a difference… if they can, you can too.” Make sure to check out their website at OneMoreGeneration.org and also ‘LIKE’ their FaceBook page as well 😉