A Life As A Human interview with Geraldine Simmons, Wildlife Artist for Conservation.
Geraldine Simmons donates personal works of art to assist and support several animal welfare and environmental groups and also initiated “Riding for Rangas” a biennual charity bike ride that raises funds and awareness for Orangutans and Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF), based in Indonesia.
FNPF is a local non-profit organization working to preserve Indonesia’s wildlife and habitats. The philosophy of FNPF is that we are all connected. They take a holistic, balanced and comprehensive approach that recognizes the inter-relatedness of human beings, animals and the environment.
FNPF has won numerous awards from AusAid, the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and the Australian Consulate in Indonesia. It has been supported by the Humane Society International Australia since 2000.
LAAH: What exactly is it that you do?
GS: I am the founder and organizer of the “Riding for Rangas” charity bike ride that raises funds and awareness for FNPF, a NGO based in Indonesia that protects local wildlife and habitat while helping local communities.
LAAH: When did you start?
GS: It all started after I returned from a trip to the Tanjung Putting National park in Borneo where FNPF carry out their valuable conservation work. I saw firsthand the destruction caused by the planting of palm oil plantations that threaten local plant and animal species, especially orangutans. This motivated me to turn my passion for cycling into an annual fund-raiser event.
LAAH: Why do you do it and what is the motivation or passion that keeps you going?
GS: I do it because I love to. My passion for endangered species motivates me to raise the awareness of their fragile habitat and how threatened these creatures really are. It’s soul destroying seeing the habitats of these magnificent creatures being wiped out as a result on the one hand of human greed and on the other, ignorance at the damage that is being done.
As a wildlife artist and activist I’m urging everyone to not only avoid products with palm oil, but also to more importantly support the relentless and challenging work of the FNPF.
LAAH: Do you feel that what you have done so far has made a difference? If so, can you explain how?
GS: It’s been a very gradual process, a ‘work in progress’ so to speak. I’m sure the more people that hear about FNPF and what they do the more that can be done to support them. It’s great to be in publications such as this as I’m sure there are people reading this now who have heard of the plight of endangered species and would like to learn more. I have sold a few artworks and donated my artwork to make t-shirts for FNPF as well and I will continue to do so.
The “Riding for Rangas” charity bike ride has raised several thousands of dollars since its inception in 2009 but many more dollars need to be raised as well as awareness.
LAAH: Who are your allies and supporters in this enterprise?
GV: Firstly, I am in awe of the commitment, passion and tenacity of “Bayu” or Drh N. Bayu Wirayudha (FNPF‘s CEO and Founder) and the staff of FNPF who soldier on day after day, despite how large or small the challenges may be. It amazes me how FNPF grew from the action of a few passionate vets to what it is today.GS: One of those vets is Dr. Ross Perry – a renowned bird specialist and friend who put me in touch with. Bayu invited me to visit the park after hearing from Dr. Ross Perry and viewing my wildlife art online..
Dr. Ross Perry assisted as support crew in the very first ride and suggested I turn this into an on-going event. I am so glad he made that suggestion. “Riding for Rangas” charity bike ride is now a biennual event and plans are already being made for 2015!
I have always had a great team of cyclists helping me including Ben Cebuliak, Ron Krueger and Peter Robertson. Ben has visited FNPF himself and has been my top fundraiser so far. Ron has helped with media releases and Peter has helped with the printing of t-shirts and caps to help promote our ride. My husband David Roggiero has been wonderful in helping to plan the ride as well as supporting my idea in the first place.
LAAH: Do you have plans to grow your involvement, to expand the scope of your project? If so, can you elaborate on these plans?
GV: Yes I would like to grow this event by encouraging more cyclists to take part and getting more like-minded people involved.
LAAH: Like anything in life worth working for there must be difficulties and struggles too. Can you share with us what have been your greatest challenges?
GV: I guess the biggest challenge has been getting people to believe in this cause and support it. I have had so many knock backs with unreturned calls and emails from organizations that I thought would support FNPF but this won’t stop me from trying.
It’s disheartening when people and organizations see anything that is animal or environment related as not very important or worth raising the money for. I think it’s more to do with lack of awareness though so it’s a matter of continuing to run events such as this to affect peoples’ way of thinking.
My other challenge is that even if I were to include more than 11 cyclists it would mean that I would have to apply for permits, adding extra costs to the event.
LAAH: How can people help you?
GV: I encourage people to travel to FNPF and see for themselves the work that FNPF do. They can volunteer or support the organization by going on one of FNPF’s Eco Tours that also supports the local community. I am sure it would be a trip that they will remember for years to come. Information is available at the FNPF website and donations can be made too. I believe we can all make a difference no matter how large or small. It’s just a matter of putting words or ideas into action as well as having awareness – awareness of how we consume and live.
The Life As A Human team thanks Geraldine Simmons, Dr. Ross Perry, Bayu and the “Riding for Rangas” team for the amazing work they are doing to bring awareness to how palm oil plantations are threatening Borneo’s Tanjung Putting National park’s plant and animal species, especially orangutans.
If orangutans inspire or have touched your life in any way we know they would love to hear from you! Contact them firsthand with feedback and queries at: Geraldines Wildlife Art or follow the progress at Geraldine’s Facebook & Twitter accounts.
“Riding for Rangas” charity bike ride is now a biennual event and plans are already being made for 2015!
All Photos Are © Friends of the National Parks Foundation