by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~
In many years of reporting on animal issues I’ve taken thousands of photos. But I can’t think of one I like better than the one you see here.
Like many of the best things in life, this shot was completely serendipitous. At Earth Fair San Diego this month, I threaded my way through the thick crowds, hurrying to do an interview with a representative of an environmental group. Suddenly there was someone in front of me, blocking the way. She was a very small someone. Red hair in pony tails. Face paintings. A striped sundress.
It might have been easy to just walk around her. But… maybe not so easy. In fact her eyes made it impossible.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look more earnest.
Trying to save animals
“Please,” she said softly, “could you make a donation?”
She held out a purple plastic bucket, the kind that on other days she might use at the beach to build sand castles. It contained some pamphlets and a few bucks.
“What’s it for?” I asked.
“We’re trying to save animals.” She pointed at a banner on the booth behind her, adding quietly, “Elephants and rhinos. They need our help.”
I was going to be late for the interview, but I fished into my pocket, where I’d stashed some change. “How about a dollar? Sorry, it’s not much, but I’m in a huge hurry right now.”
“It’s OK. Thank you.” She grinned, dropped the money into her bucket, and moved on to the next prospect.
I rushed off, but about five paces later it hit me that I needed a photo. She was one of the youngest animal advocates I’d ever met, and one of the most effective.
When she finished making her pitch to a middle-aged couple, who gave her two dollars, I asked if she would take me to her parents. She pointed out a man in the nearby booth. This time I paid better attention to the banner.
“Save a Horny Friend Foundation,” it read, surrounded by photos of elephants, rhinos, and their tusks.
I chuckled. If that didn’t win the prize for best animal rescue group name ever, I couldn’t imagine what would.
Apparently the group was busily fundraising to buy drones for the purpose of fighting ivory poachers by catching them in the act.
The task of legacy
The little girl’s dad gave me permission to photograph his daughter. She posed gamely. I thanked them both, then dashed away for my interview.
It wasn’t till today, while glancing through my photos for an article about a different animal/environmental issue, that I realized the most important issue of all is represented by the picture of that small redhead.
Nearly everything animal advocates do is valuable, but nothing compares with the task of legacy. If we don’t manage to inspire and prepare the next generation to carry on and build upon our work, it will all be of limited value.
In my haste at Earth Fair, I snapped only one photo of the young activist. I failed to get her name or even her age. I foolishly neglected to ask her any questions about her cause, or about what inspired her to spend a splendid San Diego spring Sunday volunteering for the animals, when she might be playing with friends or watching TV instead.
But I do know one thing: she inspired me. Animal rescue and advocacy can get pretty depressing at times. It’s an uphill battle, at best. But in the future, when it starts to bring me down, I’ll just look at the photo of the diminutive fundraiser.
Seeing the earnestness in that little girl’s eyes—the quiet, innocent, yet powerful determination to help those who can’t help themselves—we know that come what may, no matter how hard it gets, with allies like her in the fight, we’re bound to be on the winning side.
Please visit Spicy again soon for more on this young animal advocate. (Yes, we’ve tracked her down and will post a follow-up article.)
Meanwhile why not help with her fundraising work for elephants and rhinos? Go to Save A Horny Friend Foundation to donate, and please spread the word about their cause.
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