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The girl with something special

When noted environmentalist Jane Goodall spoke in Sudbury in 2009, Erica Hall was listening.

She was inspired by Goodall’s passion to make a difference in the world. She is now volunteering with a Tanzania school program, the School of St. Jude, started by Australians.

Goodall, an international expert on African primates, spoke as a guest of Science North at the Roots and Shoots environmental youth conference. Roots and Shoots events are part of a worldwide movement that encourages young people to be active in caring for the environment.

“I looked up to her all my life,” Hall said recently about her mentor. On the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada website, Hall writes, “Growing up among the lakes and wilderness of Northern Ontario, I was continually fascinated by animals and the intricacies of nature. I can remember learning about the work of Jane Goodall in elementary school, and thinking that someday I too would like to be a woman studying wildlife.”

After graduating from wildlife biology at the University of Guelph last spring, Hall, 22, worked as a volunteer with the Jane Goodall Institute and spent seven-months living in Goodall`s home in Tanzania, in eastern Africa, Hall organized various urban Roots and Shoots projects in Tanzania. She also travelled to remote areas where children had never seen a white person. She encouraged girls to be more empowered and organized a Peace Day event involving both local government officials as well as representatives from international embassies.
Hall enjoyed listening to Goodall as they sat around the dinner table.

“Jane would tell stories to her grandchildren and son about her travels to her Roots and Shoots clubs,” she said. “Because she knew I was from Sudbury, she mentioned our city.
“She said our story was amazing. It made me proud our environmental success stood out.”

Goodall makes mention of Sudbury’s environmental restoration work in her recent book, Hope For Animals and Their World.

Hall has been doing volunteer work since she was a teenager. She volunteered at the office of a veterinarian, and was involved with the library in helping elderly shut-ins receive books.

I did a lot in high school,” she said. “I was in every single club from Amnesty International to the environment club.”

She was also involved with her church and helped to teach Sunday school.

Hall continued her volunteer efforts with the Wild At Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre in Lively during summers when she attended university.

In 2009 she volunteered at an African orphanage for a month through a Tanzanian organization.

She saw the volunteer position at the website of the Jane Goodall Institute and applied in the summer of 2010, providing a written application and participating in several Skype interviews.

She raised money from summer clerical jobs and fundraising to help pay for her air fare to Africa. She appreciates the support her parents provided as well.

“My dad (Robert) is a musician so he helped raise money for me at my church, St. Andrews United on Larch St.,” she said. “He showed some Charlie Chaplin silent films and played the piano to accompany them.”

Hall spoke to Sudbury Living when she was home at Christmas. She left for her new job in Tanzania at the end of January.

Her advice for youth is to dare to be different.

“I was never afraid to be different for doing volunteer work,” she said.

Bill Bradley is a Sudbury writer (www.northernpecan.ca).

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