Tell us about the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation (SEF)? How did it come about?
I started Animal Avengers, the dog and cat rescue charity in LA in 2001. As I became more and more aware of the poaching crisis in Africa, I wanted to see for myself and how I could help stop it. So much of my work is here but I also fell in love with South Africa so I now live here for much of the time. I partnered with conservationist and writer, Peter Borchert, and combined all the lessons learned and made the decision to rebrand the organisation to what it is now, the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation.
What is the aim of the foundation? What do you hope to achieve with it?
The remit of the SEF now embraces the organization’s own initiatives which include Animal Avengers as our youth conservation program, and our Wildlife Review Initiative under the curatorship of Peter Borchert. These reviews are aimed at involving people at all levels in conservation issues.
Through its program of grants, the Foundation also supports reputable organizations such as the Rhino Pride Foundation and Flying for Freedom SA. Lobbying for just and effective wildlife laws is a central thrust of the Foundation’s activities, while future goals include projects that champion responsible tourism and securing land to protect vital ecosystems.
Much of your conservation focus, including now with the launch of SEF, is in SA. Why is that?
Much of our fundraising and awareness is driven out of the USA where we are able to create maximum awareness for our programs and the issues we support, the South African chapter is where we run the programs. This allows us to maximise our international reach, but also to focus on where the work is needed most - on the ground in Africa, working with other organizations and local communities to do all we can to save the animals and land we set out to protect.
You’ve chosen to work with a South African NPO – Relate Trust – as part of the launch of your foundation. Tell us how that came about and why you decided to partner with Relate.
Relate shares the same values as our organization - the ability to create real opportunity by uplifting women and youths. We believe in this. We also believe that the bracelet is a unique and authentic fundraising tool for us to use all over the world that carries a great message of our own work, but that also ensures that we are already contributing to a legacy on the ground in Africa. Everything we do, we aim to work with local organizations and to empower particularly women and children as much as possible. Relate also has a long and sustained track record and is a reliable partner in exploring how we can achieve fundraising goals both here in SA and overseas.
Tell us about the bracelets you designed and the inspiration behind them.
The bracelet had to be 100% environmentally friendly, so the selection of hemp and coconut wood were choices we made to ensure that we had the least impact on the environment - after all, we want to protect the planet, not hurt it further! It also needed to represent our brand ethos successfully. It is authentic, visually appealing and we believe inspires a sense of pride in all those who wear it. It allows people to be a part of something meaningful and impactful, while also looking cool and being a conversation piece, and not just a conservation piece.
What do you hope to achieve with the funds from the bracelets?
Funds raised will go towards developing our own initiatives that include:
- Animal Avengers: Which aims to turn our heroes of tomorrow into the Animal Avengers of today. We are developing some exciting programs for children to learn more about endangered and threatened animals around the world and how everyone can help to make sure our rich natural heritage is defended for generations to come.
- Wildlife Review Initiative: We believe that global conservation and sustainability priorities are advanced in terms of public opinion and education programs, as well as donor awareness and philanthropic funding, when supported by credible, up to date and objective information freely shared in the true spirit of collaboration. Our Wildlife Review Initiative (WRI) aims to become a driving force in this endeavor by becoming the prime globally recognized hub of such information, and to better direct donor funds to the front line of conservation where it is needed most. The first project from this initiative is Rhino Review which we aim to launch in the next few months that focuses rhino and the crises they face all over the world.
Where can people find the bracelets?
On our website www.shannonelizabeth.org.
And we will also be developing retail partnerships in due course as well.