Margot Raggett: Determined to Remembering Wildlife

Margot Raggett has worn many hats—Public Relations Director, Consultant, Wildlife Photographer and now the creator of Remembering Wildlife.

Margot grew up in Hampshire, on the South Coast of England. Her father was a keen sailor, so she spent much of her early years on the waters of the Solent as a child. The family never had pets, so apart from the occasional visit to see New Forest ponies, Margot had little exposure to wildlife until her first safari in Africa in 2006.

A young Margot sailing

Even though Margot didn’t grow up with animals, she loved the idea of animals and watched David Attenborough documentaries voraciously.

Similar to her early childhood, Margot’s initial career also didn’t include animals. She followed in her mom’s footsteps and aspired to climb the corporate ladder. She wanted to attain a level of success where she could financially support herself. However, in 2010 Margot found her true passion.

She signed up for a trip to Masai Mara, a national reserve in Kenya. This wasn’t her first safari (that had been in South Africa in 2006) but it was the first time she was exposed to the art of wildlife photography, by the tour leaders, award-winning wildlife photographers Jonathan & Angela Scott. It was on this trip Margot discovered the beauty of photography and wildlife, and how photography can help promote conservation. Jonathan & Angela went on to become mentors to Margot and huge supporters of the Remembering Wildlife series.

When she returned home to the UK, Margot signed up for a course at the London Photography School. Upon completion of the course and armed with a better camera, Margot set off for another safari, just a few months after her adventure in Masai Mara, and thus began an addiction.

With her love of photography growing, Margot left her position as PR Director and started her own consulting business. This switch from employee to self-employed, not only allowed her to choose which projects she wanted to work on, but gave her the flexibility to travel.

One such project was Entim camp in the Masai Mara in 2012. Margot entered a partnership/agreement with the owner of the camp—in exchange for consulting services and help with their marketing, she would be allowed to stay at the camp and build her photography portfolio.

In 2014, while on a safari in Laikipia, a different part of Kenya, she was woken by the sound of hyenas early one morning. The noise was so loud it became clear that something unusual had happened nearby.

At first light, she and a guide went to investigate. They came upon a young male elephant with a poisoned arrow sticking out of him. He was dead and the hyenas had been feeding on his remains. The guide told her the young elephant had most likely suffered for days before he succumbed to the poison. His young tusks were still in him.

Margot was furious. It was at this moment, she went from wildlife photographer to wildlife warrior. She channeled her fury into a promise to do whatever she could to help.

While many ideas churned in her mind, the one that took root was to make a book.

She reached out to Will Travers, the Chairman of Born Free—a charity dedicated to wild animal welfare and conservation, and proposed a partnership. Margot would produce a book of elephant images by world class wildlife photographers, and Born Free would help guide her on how best to spend the funds raised.

The first book was Remembering Elephants. The initial step was to raise enough money to cover the cost of producing the books, so that all the proceeds from the sales of the books would go directly to wildlife conservation projects.

In 2015, Margot launched her first Kickstarter Campaign with the goal of raising £20,000 to cover the production costs for 1000 books.

The tricky part of a Kickstarter Campaign, is that once you decide on your goal, it is all or nothing. If you don’t raise the needed funds to meet your goal, the project doesn’t move forward.

The campaign was to run four weeks. In the first three hours, the campaign had raised £8,000, but then the momentum slowed. Margot reached out to Will and asked that Born Free share the campaign on their social media, he complied and things picked up— the £20,000 was hit that same evening. By the end of the campaign, Margot surpassed her goal and raised £58,000.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t fully celebrate her enormous achievement.  On the final day of the campaign, Margot found out she had breast cancer.

Unwilling to postpone the making of the book, Margot worked on Remembering Elephants while she endured three months of radiation therapy and surgery. Treatment was successful and six years on, Margot is in remission, but the time made a lasting impression on Margot and her approach to life. “I felt that the elephants were looking out for me during that time, just as I was fighting for them. I now never take life for granted and truly believe you should always have one eye on the legacy you wish to leave behind.”

Remembering Elephants came out in 2016, followed by Remembering Rhinos, Remembering Great Apes, Remembering Lions, Remembering Cheetahs, and the newest book, Remembering African Wild Dogs will be published in November 2021.

Margot and the incomparable Dr. Jane Goodall

To date, Remembering Wildlife has raised £848,000 ($1.1 million USD) and has funded fifty-five projects across twenty-four countries.

Some of the projects Remembering Wildlife has been able to fund are:

  • Livestock Guarding Dogs for Farmers. These dogs bark and scare away predators, which means farmers don’t have to shoot or trap lions, cheetahs or other animals who are seen as a threat to the farmers livelihood.
  • Fund salaries and vehicles for ground teams to monitor and protect wildlife from poachers, trafficking and habitat destruction.
  • Fund outreach to local communities to discuss their concerns and come up with realistic solutions so that humans and wildlife can live in harmony.
  • Fund the purchase of tracking collars, cameras, drones, aerial patrol units. These are all key to tracking endangered species as well as poachers.
  • Fund projects to provide employment and income for women in communities. It is known that working women have less babies, which alleviates the issues with over-population and poverty.
  • Fund conservation education within local communities.

In the 15 years since Margot went on her first ever safari, she has accomplished so much to help animals. In particular she has brought together a community of world-class photographers who have generously donated their photos to help these beautiful animals survive.

When asked what the hardest part of creating Remembering Wildlife has been, Margot says,

“In the early days I didn’t actually know 50 photographers – my goal of the number of photographers I wanted to contribute to that first book, so researching and approaching people to take part was a challenge. But once word got around and I had a good number signed up, the test became much easier. We were so successful however, we now often have the opposite challenge – more photographers wanting to take part than we have space for!”

And the best part:

“I always say making the donations, and knowing how gratefully they are received is the best part of the job. It has been curtailed for the last 18 months of course due to the pandemic, but getting the chance to visit some of the projects and see and hear firsthand the difference our funds make, is enormously gratifying for me.”

Margot has made such a positive difference in the lives of so many animals and people, but if there was one thing she could change in the world, she would…

“Stop humans from assuming they have an automatic superiority and right to assert themselves over every other species!”

For more information on Remembering Wildlife, please check out their website: https://rememberingwildlife.com/

I can personally attest to the beauty of the books. The photographs are breathtaking. We have all of them and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Remembering African Wild Dogs. They make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves animals or enjoys magnificent photography.

Episode 30: Kindness Is Transforming Harmful to Beautiful

Natalie McIntosh

Fifteen-year old Natalie McIntosh is doing her best to not only help rid the ocean of discarded fishing gear, she then transforms these ‘ghost nets’ into beautiful items such as bracelets, coasters and baskets. Natalie donates 100% of the proceeds from her sales to charities working hard to remove dangerous fishing gear and plastic from the oceans.

Natalie talks about why these discarded nets are harmful to marine life and why they are called ‘ghost nets’.

To learn more about Natalie and her dedication to helping our planet and the species we are meant to be sharing this planet with, check out her website: https://www.nauticalwaters.com/

You can also follow Natalie here:

Twitter: @NauticalWaters

Instagram: nautical.waters

Facebook: Nautical Waters

As a thank you to Natalie for sharing her story, Anitha donated to London Environmental Network. This charity, situated in London, Ontario, is trying to make London one of the greenest cities in Canada. This group creates programs and projects for the community. To learn more about this charity, please check out their website: https://www.londonenvironment.net/

Episode 27: Kindness Is Helping Birds

In Canada, 25 million birds die every year from injuries sustained when they collide into windows. Angela Demarse from Bird Safe Guelph talks about what this organization is doing to prevent this terrible tragedy from continuing.

Angela shares simple tips on what each of us can do to prevent birds from crashing into our windows.

To learn more about Bird Safe Guelph, check out their website and Instagram page:

https://birdsafeguelph.ca/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/birdsafeguelph/?hl=en

As a thank you to Angela, for sharing her story, Anitha donated to Nature Canada.

Nature Canada is one of the oldest national nature conservation charities in Canada. For 80 years, they have helped protect over 110 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada. They have also protected countless species. To learn more about this wonderful charity, click on this link: https://naturecanada.ca/

Correction: During the podcast, Angela mentions that 1/4 of the globe was covered in wilderness. Upon further reading, Angela noted that it is closer to 1/2.

Episode 26: Kindness Is Saving Sharks

Thirteen-year old Finlay Pringle, joins Anitha to share his passion about sharks.

Sharks have been cruelly misjudged and wrongly considered ruthless predators of the sea. Finlay dispels these myths and tells us the truth about sharks. He also talks about the reasons 100 million sharks are killed every year and why it is so important to save them.

An incredibly eye-opening episode!

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Bite Back Shark and Marine Conservation. To learn about the wonderful work this organization does to protect sharks, click on the link: https://www.bite-back.com

To learn more about the wonderful work Finlay does to help sharks, check out his website: https://ullapoolsharkambassador.com

Episode 23: Kindness Is Saving Whales Together

In this very special episode, Jessica Cambell and her fifth-grade class from Mount Madonna School in California join Anitha to talk about their year- long class project to protect whales.

The students take turns talking about why they chose whales for their environmental project, what they have learned, the activities they have organized to spread the word about the plight of whales, and so much more.

These students show how much can be accomplished toward making the world a better place for all species, when people work together.

A truly inspiring episode!

As a thank you to Ms. Cambell and her students for sharing their story, Anitha donated to Save The Whales.

To learn more about Save The Whales, click here: https://savethewhales.org/

Episode 22: Kindness Is Choosing Your Cause

Isha and Khushbu

Isha Naik and Khushbu Kumari join Anitha from Australia to share their story of creating Choose Your Cause, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering young people about local and international issues that impact adolescents like themselves.

Isha and Khushbu talk about what inspired them to come together and volunteer their time and energy to help youth become involved in charities.

This is a wonderful episode about finding a charity one is passionate about and developing a lasting relationship with these charities.

To learn more about Choose Your Cause and all the charities and projects they are involved with, click on this link:  https://www.chooseyourcause.com.au/

As a thank you to Isha and Khushbu for sharing their story, Anitha donated to The East West Foundation. TEWF is a not-for-profit, volunteer-driven foundation committed to achieving the development and empowerment of socially and economically marginalized communities in rural India. To learn more about TEWF, click here: https://www.chooseyourcause.com.au/tewf

Episode 9: Kindness Is Cooking & Cards

Like many kids, when the pandemic struck, Spencer Burwell found himself stuck at home in much need of something fun to do. A friend introduced him to Explorer Hop. This innovative organization teaches kids about global financial literacy entrepreneurship. But it also teaches them about giving back to society and the importance of helping those in need.

Spencer shares his experience of creating businesses, raising money, and donating that money to CARE and The Canadian Mental Health Association. For more information on these charities, click on the links below:

https://care.ca

https://cmha.ca

In this episode we explore what success really means.

To learn more about Explorer Hop, click here: https://explorerhop.com/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to the Parkdale Food Centre. To learn more about this charity, click here: https://parkdalefoodcentre.ca/

The Many Hats of Eric Walters—Author, Speaker & Co-Founder of Care For Hope

One of my favourite parts about this blog, is connecting with people who use their skills or talents to help others. Eric Walters is a prime example of such a person.

Eric was born in Toronto, Canada in 1957. He went on to become a social worker and then in 1992 earned his teaching degree. It was his experiences as a teacher that first drew him into writing.

In 1993 when Eric was teaching a Grade 5 class, he realized many of his students were what he calls “reluctant readers and writers”. In an effort to instil them with a love or at least a willingness to read and write, Eric wrote his first novel, Stand Your Ground. The story was set in the school where Eric taught and many of the characters were named after his students. He hoped by making the story personal and relatable to his students, they would be encouraged to read it.

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Eric’s grade 5 class picture – He’s in the 2nd row from the top, 3rd from the left. His teacher was Miss Gay.  She’s the person who told him he could be a writer when he grew up.

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Miss Gay & Eric at the ‘book launch’ of Fourth Dimension.  She was invited but actually it was a surprise 93rd birthday party for her!

 

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Cover of Eric’s  first book, Stand Your Ground

He was right! His plan was a success and thus began Eric’s career as a writer.

In 2006, Eric transitioned from full-time teacher to full-time writer. To date, he has published 111 novels and picture books. He has won more than 100 awards for his writing, and in 2015 he received the Order of Canada for his contributions to literacy and social justice.

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Eric receiving the Order of Canada

Eric’s novels are available throughout the world: New Zealand, Australia, India and Nepal. He is what some might call a workaholic—although Eric would say, “that when you love what you’re doing it’s never really work.”  In addition to finding time to write, Eric manages to do approximately 500 presentations in schools and libraries each year. So far, he has presented to more than 1,800,000 students across North America and internationally in Japan, Kenya and Germany.

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Cover of Eric’s latest book,  Don’t Stand So Close To Me(Orca, 2020)

 

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Cover of The King of Jam Sandwiches – a semi-autobiography to be released September 2020 by Orca Book Publishers

Most people would find it difficult to maintain this schedule, but Eric found a way to fit in even more.

In 2007, Eric and his son travelled to Kenya to visit with the family of a close Kenyan, Canadian friend. This trip lead to a chance meeting with a young orphan boy – Mutuku – in the marketplace of Kikima, Kenya. Eric discovered that Mutuku was one of more than 500 orphans spread across the Mbooni district in rural Kenya.

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Eric’s wife, Anita, with Mutuku

Kenya has the fourth largest HIV epidemic in the world. The disease has devastated the population, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million orphans; far too many to live in the existing number of orphanages. Thus, many orphans are homeless and forced to live in the streets.

Eric wanted to help Mutuku and discovered the best way would be to pay for the boy to be taken in by an orphanage.

Once Mutuku was settled into a proper orphanage, Eric wanted to help more orphans. And he did exactly that!

Eric, along with his wife and friends, Ruth and Henry Kyatha, founded the Creation of Hope in 2008.

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Anita with Ruth to her right

Hope currently supports close to 200 orphans as well as indirectly helping hundreds of other impoverished children throughout the area.

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Birthday party for the orphans and celebrating Today Is The Day

 

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A little girl named April. A midwife, who HOPE brought over, saved her at birth

Support is provided in the following ways:

  1. Food Distribution.

Many of the orphaned children within the program still live with their guardian families like their aunts, uncles or grandparents. Food distribution allows children to remain in their homestead with their loved ones and ensures they and their family are receiving food. Whenever possible, Creation of Hope tries to keep children within their own homestead as to not take them away from their community, school and family. Monthly distributions of food give families the opportunity to function independently.

  1. Water Projects.

Providing food is necessary to avoid starvation. However, providing a source of water, could prevent the risk of starvation from arising at all.

Creation of Hope has formed partnerships with communities to create water projects. The charity provides many of the supplies and outside expertise, and the community provides supplies such as sand and gravel, as well as labour. The projects are overseen by a local committee.

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Opening a new water project!

This partnership means that community members are not only invested in the project but are intimately involved with how to maintain the project. If there are problems that evolve, they have the expertise and the ownership to fix it. In addition, labourers are paid a fair wage for their contributions.

  1. The Rolling Hills Residence

In 2019, Creation of Hope built The Rolling Hills Residence. It is now home to 79 orphans. These are children who have lost both parents and also have no one within the community who is able to provide support.

There are four separate dormitory rooms in the residence – younger boys, older boys, younger girls and older girls – and a large dining hall, study and gathering area. Additionally, the residence has a large kitchen which has one of the very few ovens in the entire region. They produce cakes, breads, and muffins which are sold to local stores and schools to provide additional income for the project.

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The Rolling Hills Residence

Another unique feature is a community conference room which can be rented out, or used by Hope staff.

All materials to build the residence, wherever possible, came from community sources. This includes locally manufactured bricks, quarried stone, fabricated metals, furniture made in Kikima, and local trees with a replant program to avoid deforestation.

During the almost three years of residence construction, Hope was one of the largest local employers. Hope continues to value and utilize local resources, materials and labour to benefit the community and its people.

 

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Mattress delivery!

Creation of Hope sees itself as more than a charity. It is an opportunity; a way to invest in the future of these children, their community, and ideally Kenya as a whole. The program is run “on the ground.” Decisions are made by a local board of directors. While Eric and his wife are members of the board, they are only two voices on a committee of twelve. The community has embraced the program, and in some years, almost half of the funds come from Kenyan sources.

When I asked Eric about his foundation, he was very humble and made a point of talking about the contributions of others. But when he spoke about the children and their successes, his voice shined with pride.

 

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Willy, one of the many graduates and one of Eric’s favourite kids

Currently, they are 79 children residing in the main building, receiving food, shelter and education. There are a further 64 children/young adults in high school, college and university, also supported by Hope.

Since the project began, 44 people from the Hope project have graduated from post-secondary education and  have gone on to become teachers, hair dressers, carpenters, electricians, auto mechanics, business people, a research assistant, an IT specialist, and a banker.

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Eric, celebrating with some of HOPE’s trade school graduates.

 

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Some of HOPE’s college and university graduates.

One of the most gratifying parts of this foundation must be watching the graduates return to the residence and take on roles of mentoring and tutoring the other children. The graduates give back to the program that gave them a chance to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. Eric says the charity will financially support the children for as long as they need.

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Two of HOPE’s college graduates who married and had a baby. Traditional Kamba is to name first male after paternal grandfather. As they had no fathers, they asked Eric if they could name their baby Hope as Hope has been their parent.

The first child in the program, Mutuku, was also one of the first graduates. He received a business diploma from a college, but went back to his ‘calling.’ Mutuku has created an academy and church, where he is the director and pastor. His inspirational story of being abandoned, orphaned and living in a garbage dump to where he is now and what he has achieved, lifts many spirits.

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Eric and Mutuku

 

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Mutuku proudly standing in front of his building

 

Eric and his wife, Anita are major contributor to the charity. They personally donate their own money in addition to Eric securing donations from the hundreds of schools he visits each year. However, the pandemic has prevented Eric from visiting schools and thus donations have fallen.

Unfortunately, like so many charities, Creation of Hope has suffered due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. There has been a drop in donations from schools, and several other donors and sponsors have also had to back out due to their own financial hardships.

Eric is working hard to secure more sponsors and donors. The children are counting on him and he is committed to helping them.

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The children always make thank you signs for all the donations

He is grateful for the on-going support from sponsors in Canada and the United States. In particular, he would like to thank the people in the writing community for their continued dedication to help these children. People such as: Teresa Toten, Natasha Deen, Lorna Nicholson, Deb Ellis, Valerie Sherrard, Carol Matas, Margriet Ruurs, as well as regular contributions from Martha Martin and Marina Cohen. Eric would also like to thank Amy Black of Penguin Random House and Andrew Wooldridge of Orca Book Publishers for their sponsorships. Plus, a special note of appreciation to Penguin Random House and their on-going donations related to Eric’s novel, Walking Home.

If you would like to learn more about Eric’s books, Creation of Hope and how you can help, please visit his website at http://www.ericwalters.net/