PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH WENDIE WENDT.
Why do you believe it is important for women to be informed about world issues?
It is important because it gives us perspective on our own lives and how we live. Having that kind of information is essential to being well informed on various issues, it broadens our horizons. How do other people live their lives? What are other people doing in other countries?
Do you think that today’s younger generation or working Mom’s with a little free time on their hands, are interested in world issues and particularly causes such as this one?
We are in a really good time for the younger generation to step up, especially as it relates to the environment and the emphasis on global warming. It’s amazing when you talk to people, even when I talked to my godson about buying a car, I know a couple of years ago he would of been buying the fastest, coolest, car out there, now it has to be a hybrid. It is actually kind of hip to be involved in environmental issues and causes.
The Trust has a lot of appeal, who can’t look at these baby elephants and not want to be involved? Even after the airing of 60 Minutes I had a call from a woman in Manhattan, who is very successful but she and her family are taking a hit economically. She felt that at least one day a week she could try to do something and help.
Now for the working mom, who is a single mom, the sole breadwinner; there is a lot of pressure to raise her children and pull in the money, she may have more difficulty finding the time for something like that. But there are women out there who work or raise children who do have time left over for causes they feel are important.
It is all about the type of person you are and there are so many different reasons why people volunteer. Some people do it to fill a need within their selves that is not being met, find their place in the world or for networking and a non-profit organization can facilitate that.
If a woman wants to get involved with making the world a better place, where would you recommend that she start?
Once you have identified the organization, contact them to find out what kind of programs they have available and how you can help out. Many organizations have volunteer programs and they are excited about getting more volunteers, like Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, they run off of volunteers.
You just have to find an organization and look at whether they have a program in place, if they don’t, try to create an opportunity. I created my opportunity with the Trust, because they don’t have a volunteer program. It took me awhile, the first few times I was met with resistance because they hadn’t had such a call before, they didn’t know me and I’m halfway around the world. We get a lot of people who were very interested who fade into the background once they find out the requirements. When you find the right place, think about creative ways in which you can get involved.
If you don’t have the time, you can still make a difference, money is always appreciated, especially now with the economy the way it is. When the economy is down people start looking for ways to cut and the first cut is usually donations. Some people are donating to fewer charities at this time, but when they give, it is more money to selected organizations. I give all my volunteer energy to the Trust as well as money and I have other organization that I donate to.
What would you say are the rewards you have experienced in the philanthropic work and how has it changed you, personally and professionally?
Well without question, I feel like I’m making some small difference in the world. I think elephants are so important to Africa’s environment. For me personally, I’m contributing to that, it helps me feel like I do have a place, in this area of my life, a place where I am putting that energy. It has been such an exciting experience, eye opening on so many different levels. When I go over there, I meet the people; get a feel for the culture. I see the baby elephants that were at the Trust and now out at one of our release places, getting ready to go back out into the world on their own. It makes you feel good, and it’s fun, exciting.
If there was one thing that you would like to say to the women reading this what would it be?
I think it would be to try to volunteer or get involved in something that you are passionate about or that you feel connected to, because it is so rewarding. It opens up your life to different experiences and possibilities, especially for people who feel like they are doing the same thing every day. They get up, they go to work, they come home to their family, everything is great but they want something just a little bit more. To give a woman something that is her own, her own focus, for herself and the organization.
As long as you get with the right organization, and it is something you feel passionate about or connected to, I think it makes a huge difference. It can open up avenues to things you never thought were possible. When I talk with women who are depressed I try to suggest they get involved with something, involved in an organization. Step outside their life for awhile, and do something, shake it up a little bit. Try something new, you can’t keep doing the same thing every day and waiting for something to happen to make you feel better. You have to go out there to try to make it happened for yourself. There are many ways in which you can do that, this is just the way I found most helpful.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us –
Feeling inspired by Wendi and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust? Visit their website www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org and research all the projects that make this organization worth supporting.
As well as the work that they do for the animals the Trust also has excellent community outreach programs that benefit local children from various schools. In addition to providing desks and sporting equipment, the children are treated to field trips that allow them to see elephants and other wildlife; this also serves to educate the children on the importance of conservation. There are employment opportunities for local people who commit five years of their life as an elephant caretaker and other community initiatives that benefit Kenya. If you are not sure which one of their projects are in need of your help, let the Trust decide where your donation is most needed.
Jennifer acknowledges the great vision and dedication of people like Dame Daphne Sheldrick, Wendie Wendt and everyone involved with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.