I was standing in front of a room of twenty-five 8-year-olds, each one listening closely as I answered a question that many still can’t solve. Even I struggle to solve. “How can we save the elephants?” Before I answer that question, let me take you back to the beginning.
I am Angelina Lue, and I’m 15 years old. Two years ago, after watching The Ivory Game, a documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, I founded clothing company Ivory Tees to help save the elephants by adopting baby elephant orphans through the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust from the funds raised.
For the past couple of years since I started Ivory Tees, I was unsure of whether or not adopting a few elephants was making a big enough difference in the poaching crisis. I felt like Ivory Tees wasn't proactive enough. That was until about three months ago when I got an email from a girl in third grade named Olivia.
In the email, she told me how she had learned about the elephants at the zoo and how she was inspired by my efforts to help secure a future for the elephants. She asked me how she and her school could help us in fulfilling this mission.
After reading the email, I realized that this could be the beginning of something bigger. A movement. A movement where students and their parents could learn about a cause and make a change. So, I asked Olivia if she and her school would be interested in selling a shirt on Ivory Tees to raise awareness about elephants in her school community.
We spoke on the phone and then met in person to design a shirt together, as pictured. The shirt by design is a symbol of kids coming together, just as Olivia and I did, to support the elephants.
Something that shocked me the most was when I saw Olivia’s school community taking a stand for the elephants. A few weeks before my spring semester finals, Olivia and I presented our project to the students and parents at her school assembly. I then stayed in her class to talk about the poaching crisis, expecting to speak for about ten minutes.
To my surprise, the students were so interested that they proceeded to ask me questions for almost half an hour.
In that moment, I realized that the issue wasn’t that people didn’t care, because I remember seeing twenty-five kids’ faces filled with interest and concern for the elephants. The real issue is that many people aren’t aware of what is happening.
Once the students learned more about the crisis, they became more interested and motivated to end the crisis. We sold these shirts on our site ivorytees.com for a month, and we were able to adopt 13 baby elephant orphans from the funds raised through the sale of the shirts. More elephants than we’d ever adopted before!
That one email from Olivia was a pivotal moment in the way that I view Ivory Tees’ mission. I realized Ivory Tees is not just about raising money for the elephants. Ivory Tees is also about spreading awareness of the crisis and how we, as a global community, can save the elephants together.
So, how can we save the elephants?
The first step to saving them is raising awareness. Maybe tell a friend or family member, and maybe they will tell their friends as well. The more people who know about the elephants, the stronger we can be in fighting for their future together.
The future of the elephants and Mother Nature is in our hands, your hands. Once we recognize that we are a part of nature, saving nature and the elephants is really about saving ourselves. It’s up to you to decide if you want to join us in our fight to save the elephants. Visit our website, buy a shirt, help save an elephant.
Angelina Lue, a Los Altos High junior, animal rights advocate and founder of Ivory Tees. Opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].