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Voices for the Forest

Abdul, the orangutan in this photo, was shot and killed last year near Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra

Like so many students in my classroom, especially young girls, I was a quiet and sensitive child, afraid to speak up. I can understand how they feel. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada, when life at school got too much for me, I disappeared with my dog down the bank that divided our back garden from the wild woods of Grouse Mountain. I was blessed because my parent’s house is far up the mountainside on the edge of the rainforest, with a river behind it that runs into the sea.

The forest was my refuge and my sanctuary, my favorite place in the whole wide world. Whiskey and I spent countless hours going for walks, splashing in the river and breathing fresh oxygen from the trees. I read books in my treehouse while Whiskey snuffled around in the undergrowth. I folded maple leaves into baskets and collected ripe salmonberries and blackberries. The spirit of the forest surrounded me, and I always felt safe and protected.

Now, years later in the rainforests of Indonesia, I feel a similar sense of peace and calm. As if I were a child again, I’m filled with wonder at the sight of an orangutan high up in the trees, butterflies feeding together on the riverbank or Achenese elephants trumpeting as they bathe in the river.

This time, however, I’m uneasy because I know that this forest is in extreme danger. Now that I’m older, I realize how much time I’ve spent as a writer covering mostly what editors have assigned to me. I’ve spent most of my life being TOO QUIET about what really matters. Now I feel I must speak up about the forests of Indonesia because I’m sure if people knew, they would really care and do something to help.

When teaching English in Sumatra, I’ve also been educating children about the orangutans, elephants and other creatures that live only a couple of hours from their own backyards. Recently, when a friend gave me a book called Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, I was inspired to take further action. Through the list of websites in the back, I found World Pulse, this amazing community of women doing things to make our world a better place.

I truly believe that women are the caretakers of the earth. With the courage to raise our voices, we can help protect the remaining rainforest and demand that multinationals behave ethically. My vision is to help others be more aware of the rainforests of Indonesia, the indigenous people who are affected by their destruction, and the organizations working to protect them. As part of this vision, I also want to coordinate an education program teaching children about the beauty and value of their natural environment. I want to teach them to care for the forest and not be afraid to speak up and protect it. The rainforests protect and nourish us; now we must do the same for them.

These elephants were rescued from the disappearing forests of Aceh and now live in Tangkahan, North Sumatra.
A Thomas leaf monkey in Gunung Leuser, a national park that is nevertheless still in danger of deforestation
Butterflies feeding at the Bohorok River
In the forest, "the great door, that does not look like a door, opens."


Stella Paul's picture

Best wishes!

As an environment journalist, I am always happy to meet women trying to protect the nature, trying to make the planet a better one. I see a reflection of deep motherly love in that because this is to me gifting the children a better tomorrow. In India, I too grew up in an area where forest worked as a source of livelihood. The vanishing of those forests are vanishing of our culture, our history.

May god help you in your fight. And then you have got my support!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

WendyBoneAbroad's picture

Thanks Stella!

I am amazed at the feeling of empowerment that came to me when I received your response. Thank you for that : ) What a feeling to join together with you and the women of World Pulse for a common cause! It is truly remarkable, and I sincerely hope we can work together in the future. I agree, women do indeed have that special quality of motherly love we can extend to nature, and even to other areas such as politics where the love and care of women is so woefully absent!

I closely follow the work of Vandana Shiva, who, as I am sure you know, is fighting for the environment and for farmers' rights in India. I also teach my students here about her work, and would love to hear from you if you have any resources, or your own articles, etc, you would like to share. I pray that you, too, keep up the good fight!


WendyBoneAbroad's picture

Words of Wisdom

"As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens." --Stephen Graham (1884-1975), British journalist, travel writer and novelist

fem4femmes's picture

Thank you!


Thank you for your tireless work in caring for our mother earth, and especially for her indigenous family! Women are the caretakers of the planet as well as our humanity, and I am so pleased to meet the women protecting both!

Much peace and happiness today!


"I am the flicker, flame, butterfly ablaze who wants to fly in search of mythical rainbows beyond the rain." ~ Ana Castillo

Frances Faulkner's picture


Dear WendyBoneAbroad,

I love how specific and clear you are in your vision. You say you have been too quiet in the past, and yet in reading your story it seems the timing is perfect for you as you needed to first grow in nature, travel, teach and write, gain understanding and confidence, and now it all comes together beautifully in a way that makes sense for you and that carries weight. Often passion comes from wisdom, and wisdom comes from experience.

I hope we hear more about your project in the future.
Thanks, Frances

WendyBoneAbroad's picture

Thank you kindly

Thank you for your comments, Frances. They are very perceptive and much appreciated : )

And to you, too, Marissa!


Azaria's picture

What great writing Wendy I

What great writing Wendy I enjoyed reading your post.
I'm struck by how passionate you are about the environment especially the Indonesia rain forest.
Thank you for all that you do for the earth.

I completely agree with you statement "I truly believe that women are the caretakers of the earth" we all as women have to find our own ways to make sure the rain forests are around for the next generation.

Continue to write, we want to hear more form you.



Azaria Ulmer, CHC, CPCC
Wellness & Empowerment Coach

Real Foods Heal
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Lisa T's picture

Great cause!

You are working for such an important cause. I have also found forests to be a sanctuary, growing up in Montana, USA and after visiting the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. I look forward to reading more of your entries and about the progress of your work. Thanks for sharing!

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