Monday, June 15, 2009

Green Champion

I met this lady in Nov 2003 where i was attached with EEU for my 10 weeks practical training. I admire her passion and spirit in environmetal education. However, i am too naive and i didn't take the opportunity to learn as much as i could from her. I love nature very much but i still didn't do much things for it.

Here i found an article from The Star Online about this lady and i am happy to share it with you guys. How amazing she is. Knowing her is the best thing and hopefully early next month i can met her up and talk about EE programme.

By Ian BehThe Star - December 28, 2008
Vibrant, fun and passionate are some of the words used to describe Bernadette Joeman.
Bernadette, or ‘Benn’ as she is fondly known, is the environmental education programme coordinator of the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sepilok.

“At an early age, I really liked the environment. I dreamt of being involved in a job related to it when I grew up,” said Benn, 40.

It was however not the most conventional of ambitions. Local universities did not offer degrees in environmental education, and Benn’s best option then was to study something related to nature.“I had to a get a degree in Zoology first, then specialise in ‘conservation and ecological biology ‘.

Benn was so determined to achieve her dream that she was not daunted even when her application to study zoology was rejected twice.

“I had to apply three times for the Zoology course at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). My application was not successful the first two times. When I put in my application for the third time, I went to see the dean of the faculty of life sciences there and asked him to give me a chance. I got it!”

After she graduated, Benn applied for the position of Environmental Education Programme Programme at the fledgling Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sepilok. She started out as a volunteer for five months before finally landing the job in 1997.

“I did not know what to expect from the job,” she says. “But I went into it with an open mind. I was told that it involved teaching and interacting with many people. It sounded like fun to me. More importantly, it was a job related to the environment. I knew I would love it.”

Benn oversees RDC’s education programme. She plans educational activities and runs them with her dedicated team. Besides that, Benn inspects the educational facilities to make sure they are in ‘tip-top’ condition.

“Everything has to be perfect, I feel a person must always give their 100 percent in everything they do. They have to put their heart and soul into their work and be passionate about it. Only then something can be done well.”

“I never find any of the environmental education programmes dull! People ask me, ‘Benn, you do these courses week after week, don’t you feel bored?’ I say no. Each course is attended by different people with different opinions,” she says. “I always believe it is a challenge to educate any individual on the environment, regardless of their background. There is always an opportunity to educate.”

Benn believes a good educator is one who is able to hold the attention of his audience. To achieve this, she says the educator has to be enthusiastic. “If I am not enthusiastic when I present, how can I expect my class to be enthusiastic as well? It is impossible, the class will not come alive at all. I try my best to be as enthusiastic as possible every time.”

Through her environmental education programmes, Benn has reached out to people from all walks of life. Executives, professors, teachers, students, you name it!

She has fond memories of a course she did for a group of disabled children.

“We had to get their attention. It was a huge challenge for the team. We had to wade into the pond with them and help them sense and feel the rainforest. That really was a lot of fun!”
Benn feels environmental education in schools can be improved. The RDC runs courses for primary and secondary school teachers. These programmes aim to expose the teachers to the rainforest and give them a unique experience outside the classroom.

“I hope with all my heart that the teachers manage to discover new ways of teaching their students about the rainforest. It would be great for the environment if every bit of their newfound passion is transferred to their students.”

The biggest challenge for Benn is changing people’s attitude towards the environment.

“Changing mind sets is very important, but difficult. at the same time. People need the right attitude to care and be concerned about the environment. Many people do not care, especially when being green is not as convenient as polluting. They have to understand they can contribute to a better and cleaner place to live in. I feel great joy when I succeed in influencing a person to do their bit for the environment, ”

Benn hopes to do some research to investigate more effective ways to get people to love and care for the environment.

“It is something I really want to do,” she says. “I want to know whether what I have been doing has really been effective, and improve our current education methods.”

And we can be sure she will be whole-hearted in this pursuit too.
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