This week I was lucky enough to interview Lorna Miller Good, a wildlife conservationist and teacher of 21 years. She’s working hard every day to help endangered species through her program, Project Cecil.
With her innate love for lions, she was particularly distraught about Cecil the lion’s death* in 2015. She knew she wanted to turn the event into something positive; she now works with children all over the world spreading awareness and hope for endangered species. Here’s how she’s doing it.
Tell us a little bit about Project Cecil and how it came about!
Project Cecil is basically just a really fun way for children of all ages to express their love and concern for animals.
Since Cecil’s death, I’ve done a Compassion Campaign each year with my students where we research the plight of animals we love. We design posters that express our love for these animals and illustrate their importance in this world. We share them on Facebook at Project Cecil: Save 1 for me! For Wildlife Conservation Day on December 4th, people around the world support us by posting their own or sharing ours.
This campaign was prompted by the students who decided they couldn’t change the world unless the world wanted changing. They all agreed we needed support [so they worked hard] to get that online. These same kids, The Project Cecil Kids, then designed t-shirts to raise money for various charities that helped rescue and protect various animals in need. We’ve been working nonstop since 2015.
The Rock Concept
This summer, my friend Irene (who follows our project on Facebook) told me that there was a fun new craze going on in the U.K. where people paint rocks and leave them for others. She suggested I paint some of animals and leave them. I thought, “Wonderful… let’s get loads of people involved!” She’s a teacher as well and will be helping her young students in Great Britain do the same.
The rocks are eventually discovered by others (and more pictures are taken!) Eventually that person places the rock in a brand new location and possibly joins us in the creation of another rock.
We watch the rocks traveling on Project Cecil Rocks on Facebook and map each ones new location. All the while, spreading love and compassion for animals and raising awareness along the way!
I’m also shipping the children’s rocks to various countries so that their rocks pop up globally and make mapping even more fun for my students – their message will truly be heard universally.
What is your goal for this project?
I want children everywhere to have a greater understanding of the plight of so many of our most beautiful species.
Ultimately, this world belongs to them and I believe they should be given the power to voice their own desires for our animals’ future.
I want to teach them that voices carry, even the smallest. I want them to learn that we all have the power to inspire, and inspiration brings about change. I want them to see how their words and drawings evoke others to do the same. I want them to watch the their own ripple effect from the inside, out.
I hope my students inspire many, many others to do the same. The animals are in dire need of a movement and this one might just need to be led by the children. They know that within 5 years time rhinos, elephants, lions and tigers could be gone. Is it fair that their own children may never see them? Is it fair that the children are too young to stop this horrific fate? I want the world to listen. I want eyes to open. I want the suffering to stop. I want the world to see through the eyes of a child.
What has been your favorite moment or success with the project so far?
Seeing our rocks placed in Hwange National Park by lion conservationist Brent Stapelkamp… just perfect. I hear Brent may have actually recorded a message for my students as well! His son Oliver has one of our rocks! That’s incredible!
I think the Rocks themselves are pretty special too. They’re truly precious and rare gems. Each one is a masterpiece and was created with love. I always think the children will beg to keep “their” rocks because they’re so unique and just absolutely amazing but they never do… they always smile and say something about how excited they are to see where they will wind up!
How can parents and teachers get involved with Project Cecil ROCKS?
That’s easy! They can paint rocks too!
I know of some Project Cecil Rocks paint parties that are happening as well. All you have to do is design a rock that spreads compassion and awareness of the plight of another species. Then, add a note on the back asking the “finder” to take photos and share them on the Project Cecil Rocks Facebook page! Next, take a photo of your rock before leaving it in your own very special location and post it on the Project Cecil Rocks page.
Then you can sit back and watch as your rock travels the world!
A note to teachers: I had my students each paint two. One for them to “hide” and another to send off to teachers and friends in other countries so that the students can see their rock and map it in various parts of the Earth. (If anyone wants our rocks to hide, or if you’d like me to send some your way, let me know!) Contact information is provided after the interview.
How else can parents and teachers get their children excited about conservation and animal welfare?
Talk to your children. They truly get it. Children are born to hug teddy bears and cry at Disney films. Children are just naturally excited about animals. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and I’ve never met one that didn’t have a favorite. Most children find them all intriguing. Paint some rocks together, create a poster, or buy books about their favorite animals. Adopt a wild animal or orphan together.
We also have a website where you can buy student designed merchandise to benefit animals. We’ve given to IFAW, The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee and Born Free. We’re currently raising money for The Rhino Orphanage of South Africa.
Thank you for all you’ve done and all you continue to do, Lorna!
To get in touch with Lorna, email Projectcecilsave1forme@yahoo.com.
*Cecil the lion’s death: Cecil was a popular and heavily studied 13-year-old lion in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. He was killed by a trophy hunter in July of 2015, sparking outrage and international media attention.
Cecil. Image: Flickr