Learning from Nature with WWF’s One Planet Youth Programme
by Ruby Chu
I’m a year 3 Education student at The Education University of Hong Kong. I love nature and have been interested in every creature since I was a child. That’s why I learned to dive when I was 12. The first time I went diving was amazing. I could get close to corals and fish that I could only see in television or books. Besides there was something else on the seabed – a single-use plastic fork. I picked it up and put it in my pocket because my instructor told us that if we see any rubbish, we should pick it up and dispose properly on land. That was the first time I understood how humans are affecting nature. My love of nature also helped develop my interest in environmental protection.
In 2017, I joined WWF’s One Planet Youth (OPY) Leadership Training Programme during my first year in university. This programme offers many opportunities to experience the field of conservation and educational work. We participate in different works, whether it’s through volunteering, like assisting at educational events, helping out with research projects, and we learn about the works of conservationists from different perspectives.
I have been part of the OPY birdwatching team in the WWF Big Bird Race (BBR) for two years. Joining BBR is a wild experience for me, because I love birdwatching. But I had never joined a competition that involves birdwatching for 12 continuous hours. By joining BBR, I have learned a lot about birds, not only their names, but how to identify them through some characteristics, the sounds of different birds, different behavior of some similar species etc.
Then there was a trip to Kudat, Malaysia to learn about sea turtle conservation. Although we did not have the chance to see any wild sea turtles during the trip, many unforgettable moments were created throughout our stay, including camping in the wild and staying with the locals. Therefore we had many chances to interact with nature, and learned first-hand how wildlife conservation is related to local livelihood, while also getting a taste of Malaysian culture.
Since joining the one-year OPY Leadership Programme, I have now become a member of OPY+(an advanced level of OPY Leader) where we continue to explore more about ourselves and do more. Last year, we were involved in organising and developing ideas for Earth Hour, one of WWF’s largest environmental campaign. We spent months coming up with ideas for booths in the Earth Hour Village, making props and manning the booths on the day of Earth Hour. Those were exhausting times, but we learnt a lot about holding a public educational event. Helping out with Earth Hour 2019 has definitely been my most memorable OPY experience to date!
Besides the experiences and knowledge gained from the OPY Programmes, I have also made many friends who share similar interests. We go diving, kayaking and birdwatching together during our free time to share and enjoy memorable moments together, which is why the OPY family is so special to me.