“All life is worth living and should be given the
opportunity to do so freely.”
Who are you and what is your mission?
My name is Vinourica Ndou. I studied nature conservation and branched into environmental education. I chose environmental education in order to impart knowledge and increase awareness of the importance of caring for the natural environment which we share with all other living organism as well as other individuals. To live sustainably and in a manner that does not harm ourselves or that environment's inhabitants.
How did you get started and what were the obstacles you had to overcome?
My career in environmental education started as a student trainee with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. I learned a lot about endangered species and the challenges that conservationists deal with when trying to protect these animals from extinction.
The biggest obstacle of working in environmental education is that most of the people who you end up working with are poor communities, who don't intentionally destroy the environment for their own benefit, but who have adopted an environmentally destructive way of living and way of supporting their livelihood. Due to problems that they have unknowingly inherited, such as habitat destruction through population increase and urbanisation which then leads to human - animal conflicts for example.
In such cases, it is not easy to tell a man not to kill a leopard that is feeding on his livestock which is his main sources of income and livelihood. Neither is telling him to call a number so that someone can come capture this problem animal. Therefore, most of the obstacles that one deals with need a buy-in from the government and other stakeholders who share the same vision and are willing to donate either their time or funds to the cause.
Networking, speaking up about your challenges, creating partnerships and relationships where you can trust and be trusted by the people that you work with - especially the communities - is very vital in achieving success.
What advice would you give to somebody who is just getting started on their own mission/journey?
Everyone that you will meet when working in environmental education, whether a professional or an illiterate community member, know how their actions are negatively impacting their immediate environment. They usually lack the holistic knowledge of their impact on the environment and access to alternative sustainable ways of living.
National and internal politics within communities are some of the things that one needs to be wary of and adapt a way in which you avoid being caught in between.
What are the three most important lessons you've learned in life and on your journey so far?
1. To have patience, empathy and understanding of the situation before you start implementing any textbook ideas.
2. To give myself time to find out what makes an individual, community, or situation unique. This enables me to work from a point of understanding.
3. To have an open mind and be creative when dealing with obstacles and to stay true to your mission, objectives, and yourself, but most important to have genuine love for what you do.
What do you do when you feel stuck, insecure, or overwhelmed?
I discuss my situation and feelings about what l am working on with others in my field of work or another professional. I have learned not to shy away from asking for help.
What are three values you live by?
What is your definition of freedom? And what do you do to get there?
To me freedom is the ability to express myself in a respectful manner that does not infringe on others’ privacy and rights, at the same time acquiring knowledge and setting my own life's mission objectives.
Who or what inspires you?
LIFE. ANY LIFE FORM - HUMAN OR ANIMAL.
All life is worth living and should be given the opportunity to do so freely.
A closing sentence.
Every person has a story to tell and everyone we meet shapes us, consciously or subconsciously. I also believe that our past shapes us and everything we consume whether it's spiritually, physically, or emotionally - it makes us who we are. Therefore there is always more to the story than meets the eye. We live once, do what you love and enjoy in order to be liberated and enjoy life every single day.
Vino is part of the BornFree Foundation, check out their projects.