Photo credit: Zi Zhang Cheng via Unsplash
Many people are afraid to discuss the reality of animals with their children, likely because they don’t want to disillusion their children, or perhaps because they simply don’t know how to explain things in a way that’s easy for them to understand. I knew a mother who didn’t want her eleven-year-old daughter seeing images of the hurt koalas when the wildfires in Australia broke out last winter. This got me wondering: should we censor this kind of content? Is it harmful for children to witness this sad reality? Can we show them the horrors that animals experience while having a discussion with them?
When speaking to my brother last week, I discovered that his daughter, my niece, Marisol, saw these shocking images. A few days later, she talked to her father about how she wanted to raise money to help the koalas. With a few mason jars with ingredients inside for recipes like brownies and cookies, she successfully collected over $1000 with three other friends, Lily-Rose, Alycia, and Lena (with help from Jasmine and Sofia), to support the cause. This really hit me because I realized how these images sensitized children to the animal cause. Had she not heard about this tragedy or seen the photos, maybe she would never have had the idea to raise money to help. I told myself this must be how we can really make a difference and guide the next generation. Children have a sensitivity that allows them to listen to everything around them and even take action.
For this reason, I sat down to talk to these girls to get their opinions on the matter.
Melina: How did you all arrive at the idea of collecting donations? How did you hear about what was happening in Australia?
Lily-Rose: TVA News (laughs). No, for real, it’s thanks to Marisol.
Marisol: In the beginning, my mom wanted to do this at her school (she’s a high school biology teacher), so I thought that it could be a good idea to do this in our school too. It was then that I spoke to Lily-Rose and Alycia.
M: Did you have a specific goal, or did you just wing it?
Alycia: We were given an objective. We said that we wanted at least X number of mason jars filled, but that could change after.
L-R: We didn’t have a huge objective because we said that it was a small project we were going to do. We didn’t even know at the beginning if it would be accepted, so I can’t tell you what our exact objective was.
M: So tell me about this project, what was it, and how did you arrive at the idea?
L-R: I think it was Marisol’s dad who gave us the idea to use mason jars. We thought it was a great idea! It wouldn’t cost much, because we would save up our budget and split it up and take a little bit to pay for the ingredients, and the rest would go to the koalas.
A: We had many ideas, but when Marisol’s dad gave us that idea, we decided on it right away!
M: As far as collecting donations, you did this at school?
Ma: In the beginning, I invited the girls, and we made cards to distribute them in the classes and tell them about our project. Afterward, I invited the girls to my house to make sweaters with koalas for us and prepare the jars. But in the preparation, there ended up being more. We have several friends who came to help us.
L-R: Making the mason jars went well; we made a lot in a short amount of time!
A: We then collected donations from the daycare. When parents came to pick up their children, we told them about our project. We had two kiosks, one for mason jars, and one just for direct donations for koalas.
Ma: They wrote their names on a paper, and we prepared their orders. What took the longest time was counting all of the change and putting them in rollers to send to the bank.
M: Earlier, Lily-Rose, you told me that you saw this event on the news, but had you seen any photos or videos? I saw it, which made me really sad, but I think it made me realize more of what was going on like it’s far from us.
Ma: We saw the news on platforms like Tiktok, where videos were showing what was happening. After my mom talked to me about it and we saw firefighters and other images of the event in the news.
A: I saw in the news what was happening, and I asked what was happening to the animals in all of this, and realized that they were burned.
L-R: But we saw photos of burned koalas, without hair and irritated skin. Me, personally, that’s what motivated me the most about the situation. I became aware.
M: How did you feel when you saw all of the money you collected?
A: In the beginning, the idea was just to adopt a koala. It became big and exciting!
M: Were you happy to receive support from your circle of friends (from your parents)?
L-R: My sister couldn’t believe it (that I did that). But my dad, now, his screensaver is a koala.
A: For me, the person who supported me the most is my grandmother.
Ma: My dad helped me organize the project, my mom helped me count the money. They really were there for us throughout the whole project.
M: I know that you just bought a koala, Marisol, what does that mean?
Ma: You adopt a koala, and you get a certificate. But basically, it’s more a way of donating money to the association, and in return, it’s like it’s your koala. It’s to plant eucalyptus to help them.
M: Would you be interested in raising money in the future to help animals?
A: For me, it depends on what it’s for!
L-R: Without Marisol, we would have never done this. It was her and her parents who got us involved. But if I had to re-do it in the future, it would be a big yes for me. I loved doing it, I love doing it because it’s not useless; it’s really helpful. Whatever the foundation, if it’s for animals or people who have disabilities, I would help.
M: Do you think what you did had an influence on your friends at school?
L-R: For me, I think a lot of people will recreate the project in the future. I have a friend who often spoke to me about how he would like to get involved. I believe that it had a real influence.
A: The question is, above all, even if they are interested, will they really take the time to do it: to do the jars, prepare everything, etc.
In having this discussion with these girls, I realized how important it is to make children aware and talk to them about what’s going on in the world. Because eventually, they will hear it from others, in the news, at school, and on social media.
When Lily-Rose told me seeing the hurt koalas made her realize what was happening and want to take action, it stuck with me. It confirmed my feelings that we must talk with children and not censor everything. I wouldn’t say everything, but certain things are worth sharing. We must let children become leaders. If we close the door and take away the key, they will never know what doors they can open.