Thank You Thursday: Plastic Bags No More

Plastic bags… a convenient invention without foresight at the time, and now we are facing a huge hurdle not only with our waste matter; but what to do with the millions of plastic bags across the entire planet. This has been particularly a problem on the small island of Bali, where there is about 1.6 million tonnes of waste each year and 303,000 tonnes of that waste is plastic. 33,000 tonnes of this plastic leaks into Bali’s waterways causing pollution and health problems.

On June 23 this year Bali became the first Indonesian province to ban all single-use plastic bags, polystyrene and even straws, in a move that environmentalists are hoping will have a domino effect across all of Indonesia. Most of Bali’s residents are now willing to sort their waste and make a real effort to reduce, reuse or recycle. Much of the credit for this dramatic change has to go to sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen.

When these two young girls were just 10 and 12 years of age they were learning about impactful world leaders and change-makers, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Lady Diana. They started thinking how could they, as ‘just kids’ make a difference? Playing in rice fields, walking along the road or beaches they noticed just how plastic bags had clogged up gutters and rivers. It was soon after that they founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), an organisation driven by youth to say NO to plastic bags.

In a bid to get their local government’s attention they took up a petition gaining permission to collect over 100,000 signatures behind customs and immigration at Bali Airport. However, Governor Mangku Pastika was unimpressed and ignored a request to meet the two sisters. What were they to do? Visiting Mahatma Ghandi’s house and under strict supervision of a dietitian, the girls went on a hunger strike from sunrise to sunset. It worked!

24 hours later, escorted by police officers, Melati and Isabel found themselves in front of the Governor signing a Memorandum of Understanding to help Balinese people say no to plastic bags by January 2018.

BBPB raises awareness and educates about the harmful impact of plastic on our environment, animals and health while also sharing how to be part of the solution. The girls have had many successes since such as:

  • Bali’s biggest beach clean-up – with 12,000 volunteers of many different nationalities.
  • The Indonesian Government pledging its part by the year 2025 to reduce plastic pollution by 70%.
  • A starter kit and book developed to guide young people through the process of ‘How to Start a Movement’.
  • Mountain Mamas – a social enterprise initiated by BBPB for local women giving them skills to produce alternative bags made from donated recycled material. 50% of profits goes back to the work of BBPB and 50% of the profit goes back to the village to be used for three key elements: waste management, education and health.

It has taken the sisters five years to get to this point but they have proven that ‘YOU are the ONE person who can start to make a change’. Melati and Isabel have been on an incredible journey since starting this movement, taking them around the world, including London and New York where they made an appearance at the United Nations. Their vision has inspired thousands and is really making a difference in our world.

This Thank You Thursday, we say thanks to Melati and Isabel, the Indonesian government for sitting up and listening to their youth and the BBPB teams all across the globe.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

A personal story of Parkinsons Disease The Fish Chick

Shaking Things Up: In loving memory of The Fish Chick’s Dad

Many of you may know about my Dad’s health challenges this year or may remember a very personal Thank You Thursday article I wrote a few years ago about his Parkinson’s diagnosis. The kind feedback I received at that time was lovely and I felt so supported. With that in mind, I wanted to honour my Dad once more and share the news that sadly he passed away earlier this month. It’s been a tough month for our close-knit Crocker clan, but we are reminding ourselves of how lucky we were to have him at the helm for as long as we did.

Thank you to those of you who have sent heartfelt condolences over the past few weeks as this news has filtered out. The kind messages and emails have been warmly received. Fish has never been just a job for me, it’s a vehicle that allows me to create positive change and has grown into a little community that I hope is making a difference.  It’s provided me with the opportunity to meet many incredible people and work with some amazing charities, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

My Dad was a good and much-liked business man most of his life and I know he would be just as proud of this business I have created as I am, and that makes me really happy. Thank you for being my inspiration and mentor, with the wisdom and love that you readily shared, Dad. I love you too and will miss you every day.

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Just over three and half years after I wrote this original Thank You Thursday article about Shake it Up Foundation, my Dad and his Parkinson’s diagnosis, I have a sad update to share.

Dad lived with Parkinson’s Disease for over five years with reasonably slow progression, but earlier this year he got quite unwell and things rapidly worsened. We were told that it is likely he had Lewy Body’s Dementia, which is a form of Parkinsonism, but also a form of dementia. All of these conditions are challenging to diagnose as they are so closely related and can often be misdiagnosed.

After a few difficult months of increasingly failing health, sadly, we lost our dear Daddy Fish peacefully on the morning of 2nd November 2019.

I’m so very, very sad that he is gone, but feel so very fortunate and proud to have been able to call him my Dad. He will be remembered as an incredible man of great strength, positivity and love for his family.

We’ve established a fundraising page in his memory to fund research into Parkinson’s Disease with the Shake It Up Foundation and I know Dad wouldn’t expect any less from his fundraising gal.

https://shakeitup.grassrootz.com/in-memory/in-loving-memory-of-richard-crocker

Thank You Thursday: A Sanctuary for Dumbo’s friends

For decades, elephants in Thailand have been forced to work exhausting hours in the logging, trekking and tourism industries. Use of bull hooks and chains, and lack of basic shade or cover from the elements, have all added to the appalling treatment of these gentle creatures.
A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of visiting a small, yet beautiful haven for rescued elephants while on holiday in Koh Samui.

Samui Elephant Sanctuary was established in January early 2018 as the first elephant sanctuary on the island of Koh Samui. The sanctuary offers eight hectares of lush green land for a small group of rescued female elephants. (Elephant bulls require a lot more space, so the decision was made to only keep females here.)

Samui Elephant Sanctuary’s concept of elephant care and welfare is inspired and supported by Lek Chailert, world renowned elephant conservationist, founder of the world-famous Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

Watch this short video of Samui Elephant Sanctuary Founder, Wittaya Sala-Ngam, as he explains why he established the first ethical elephant home on Koh Samui.

Although my experience at Samui Elephant Sanctuary was tinged with sadness as we learnt about the lives of pain and maltreatment these beautiful animals had endured before their arrival there, it was truly heart-warming to see the way the staff team and volunteers care and nurture them. They shared their passion with us as the elephants roamed around the park in their own time, of their own free will; swimming in the purpose-built pool or bathing in the mud pond when they wanted to.

Led by park guides, Ja and But, we met each of the elephants, all between the ages of 46 and 61, who had only started to experience the peace and joy of sanctuary life in their most recent years. We were able to feed and walk with all five of them; Khum Phean, Kaew Ta, Mae Kham Kaew, Kham San and Cartoon, who was the first elephant rescued here and started this sanctuary. A few really loved a little pat.

While the Thai Government prohibited logging in 1989, the increase in tourism and holiday makers looking for an elephant experience over the last thirty years has not really reduced the level of abuse Thai elephants are subjected to.

More education and information for travellers and tourists in recent years is leading to a better understanding of truly ethical elephant parks and those that are not. The decisions we make can directly influence the demand for captive elephants and their treatment as commodoties.

Getting up close and personal, ethically

Unfortunately, I have to admit that a number of years ago I rode on an elephant’s back and bathed with them, at what I mistakenly thought was an elephant sanctuary. However, armed with better information and a stronger understanding, I can now make more ethical travel decisions… which is what led me to Samui Elephant Sanctuary.

Personally, I’m disappointed that I had been misled in the past about appropriate elephant-human interaction and that I had not questioned things further. However, as Maya Angelou said, ‘When we know better, we do better‘, and I definitely know better now.

Despite the work happening in today there are still an estimated 4,000 elephants living in terrible situations across Thailand. Saving and providing sanctuary for troubled Thai elephants isn’t cheap work. It can cost up to 1-2 million Thai baht (THB) to rescue an elephant. And these incredible creatures eat 30,000-40,000 THB worth of food every day, including pineapple leaves, bananas and cucumbers.

So today, on Thank You Thursday, I give an elephant-sized shout out to Lek Chailert for paving the way in elephant conservation, Wittaya Sala-Ngam for his passion for founding this beautiful place and all the team and volunteers at Samui Elephant Sanctuary for their love of the creatures in their care.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Thank You Thursday: A new narrative for men

Many of us have heard of ‘the man cave’, a place where men hideout from family pressures – a place where they can really try to be themselves, a place to tinker with their bikes, cars and/or hobbies. But did you know there is a real man cave helping young men with their emotions and mental health?

As World Mental Health Day is acknowledged on 10th October we’re taking this opportunity to highlight this growing organisation, The Man Cave.

Thank You Thursday: Local Librarians

International Literacy Day is celebrated on 8th September to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies, so this month we’ll make mention of a little organisation doing that across neighbourhoods in Australia called Street Library.

Street Library was founded by Nic Lowe whose vision came about from wanting to have an Australian-based free library movement to encourage literacy and community progress. Based on Little Free Libraries in America, Nic saw what they were doing and thought what a great idea to expand in Australia, and so a group of people got together to make it happen. Nic built and installed the first Street Library outside his home in Newtown.

Street Libraries are wonderful little homes for books that are accessible from the street and an invitation for sharing the joys of reading with people from all walks of life. One can simply reach into these little ‘homes’ and select what interests them. When done, they are returned or can be passed on to a friend knowing the ‘checking in’ or out of the book is not needed.

By participating in the Street Library movement, people – known as street librarians – can help to encourage reading, sharing and that a sense of community. The average little home for these books holds between 20 – 40 readers, plenty of room for your most enjoyed books to fit in.

Officially beginning in Sydney, New South Wales in November 2015 the idea has swiftly expanded. Street Library has three main objectives:
1. Encourage Literacy – “The more you read, the more you will know.”
2. To motivate people and bring neighbourhoods all over Australia closer together. By taking a book and leaving another one in its place, a cycle of generosity is shared.
3. To have registered by December 2021 – 5,000 Street Libraries.

Street Library aims to be self-sufficient by selling libraries to those who do not want to build their own and also host workshops for those who want to learn to build.

Street Libraries are a symbol of trust, hope and a passageway to literary happiness. Their motto is:

“Take a Book, Give a Book, Share a Book.”

So, this Thank You Thursday, we’re thanking Nic and the team behind Street Library, as well as all the ‘street librarians’ out there that host and helped establish a home for books in their local community.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

* Photo courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald: The first street library outside founder, Nic Lowe’s home.

Thank You Thursday: Young Healers

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day is celebrated on 4th August. It’s an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that culture, family and community play in the life of every child.

Malpa is a charity that is doing just that. Through their health leadership program called Young Doctors, Malpa is training Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people to be health ambassadors for their communities. Designed and run by local Elders, along with respected community members and supported by health workers, this program teaches hygiene, health literacy, nutrition, and wellbeing as well as identity.

The Ngangkari, being the traditional Aboriginal healers in Central Australia, have been passing on their skills to the young for thousands of years. These skills are deeply embedded in Indigenous culture and life and now the idea has been given a new injection of life with the Young Doctors project.

As the young people become health leaders and peers to their younger community members, it is not only creating a stronger group of people but, is opening up career pathways to better health. In each of the areas the local language is used, and over a fun packed but structured program these communities are taught traditional and contemporary ways by respected members and Elders and as a result the Young Doctors are becoming health ambassadors.

The importance of hand hygiene, cleaning noses, washing, keeping the house and community clean as well as bush medicine etc. is learned by the Young Doctors. Malpa CEO, Don Palmer says:

“The whole idea is to equip kids on how to teach their brothers and sisters a healthier lifestyle.”

Some outcomes for the young doctors who have participated in this project include:
• 98% were found to be happy to go to school since becoming Young Doctors
• 100% thought about working in a job after completing school
• 100% reported knowing more about Aboriginal culture
• 3 in 5 enjoyed learning from their Elders and Aboriginal community leaders

With professionals such as doctors and dentists right across the country teaching children about having a good healthy lifestyle, the benefits about Indigenous issues are being learned; and the friendships made are about reconciliation and recognition between communities.

This Thank You Thursday, we say thank you to the team at Malpa and everyone involved in delivering the Young Doctors project.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.