by Jack Dalton, the Kid Conservationist.
For over three years I have been working to spread education and awareness of the critically endangered orangutans and the issues that surround them. A few months ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit the home of orangutans: Indonesia.
On this trip, I got to hike through the rainforest, saw rare wildlife (ORANGUTANS!), visited a native Dayak village, camped out by a river bank and so much more. One of the most memorable parts of this trip for me was visiting The Leuser School in Northern Sumatra.
The Leuser School is located in the heart of the vital Leuser ecosystem, and the school itself is just as unique as the serene setting. Nearly all of the curriculum includes being outdoors and the school is based on helping the local environment. The buildings are built out of bamboo architecture, an eco-friendly alternative form of building, while the tuition is seeds that go towards trees that will be planted on the property. From an early age, this school nurtures a love and appreciation of the natural world.
The outdoor classroom at The Leuser School with the students, staff, and our crew.
I was so happy to have the opportunity to join the students attending The Leuser School for a day. After a brief warm-up morning exercise routine, I got to speak with the kids about my conservation experience. Because these students only know some basic English, I had to talk through an interpreter. This was a new experience for me, but I was all for it! It was so special knowing that even though I couldn’t speak to these students directly, we could still break the language barrier and communicate with each other. I got to share who I was and why I was visiting them at their school from half-way around the world. I even got to practice speaking bits of Indonesian to introduce myself and say a few words I had learned. Spending the day with these kids- who are the same age as me- was truly an experience that I will never forget.
Jack with some students at The Leuser School.
In addition to meeting my fellow students, we also went to this school to donate! We donated 50 copies of my children’s book Kawan The Orangutan, Lost In The Rainforest, and because of this, 50 trees were planted. Actually, the tree planting site is right next to the school, and we got to visit it as a part of this trip. While we were there, we got to plant some of the trees that I have been working so hard to raise the funds for. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, seeing how my work was actually making a difference. Plus, I shared this experience with the Orangutan Alliance team, which consisted of one of my mentors, Maria, my dad, who has been so supportive of my work, and Lexi, the zookeeper who started my conservation journey and illustrated my children’s book.
Jack and Lexi planted a tree that was donated from the sale of his book.
While there, we also donated $500. Recently, I received a message from the school where I learned what they used these funds for, which was WAY cooler than I could have even imagined. The school has spent a portion of that money on local, environmentally friendly handmade bamboo chairs. These chairs not only support the students but also everyone in the local supply chain: the people harvesting the bamboo, making the chairs, transporting the chairs, etc. I’m so happy I got to give back to the Indonesian school and community that welcomed me so kindly to their country.
Picture of the chairs that were built with my donation to the school.
This day with these students was so inspiring to me. The Leuser School educates and inspires kids from a young age to embrace the nature and wildlife around them. I am so grateful I got to be a small part of this community and the special people that it is composed of. I am so grateful that everyone, no matter their age can make a difference.