Volunteering in a monkey sanctuary

Upper Sixth IB Student, Antonia Illingworth, was the winner of the Mary Greaves Hamilton Prize (for intellectual curiosity) in 2017.

The prize carries a £250 award to enable the student to plan an experience to further develop an interest relating to her likely course of study or career. Antonia reflects her experience volunteering in a monkey sanctuary.

 A few weeks ago, with the help of the school, I was able to start off my summer with an amazing experience – working as a volunteer at the Wild Future’s Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. I had the opportunity to work alongside specialists in primate conservation and care and learnt a lot about how we can do our bit to have a real and consequential effect on the conservation of global and local biodiversity.

There are four different species of primates at the sanctuary, and while I mainly worked with capuchins like Joey, I loved being able to brush my teeth in the morning and out of my window see Pablo’s effortless swinging through the branches of his enclosure. At the time I was staying, 37 monkeys found their sanctuary with Wild Futures, but I’ve picked out a few individuals whose stories I want to share with you.

The first is that of Mario, a Barbary Macaque. On my first day at the sanctuary I was led around by an inspiring young woman called Julie who having studied in Germany had since been travelling the world, and having come back from Costa Rica, now hoped to complete a PhD in animal behaviour. She led me all the way up to the top of the sanctuary hill where we stopped to watch the Barbary Macaques enjoying the evening sun, lumbering through their enclosure with heavy yet graceful movements that seemed to run almost on a different time scale. Their muscular jaws and large facial pouches, able to store as much food as could fit in their stomachs, make the macaques impressive creatures. When I expressed my amazement, Julie began to tell me the struggles that these animals had faced before sanctuary life. Mario, for example, now the strong leader of his monkey group, had been found chained to a lamp-post in Paris probably after being kept as a pet or circus animal. To watch him now, foraging in a large enclosure, it seemed almost impossible that he could have made this transition from such a damaging start in life, and yet here he was, successfully enjoying a fulfilled existence.

Perhaps the most touching of the stories I encountered at the monkey sanctuary was that of Joey, the capuchin. I spent most of my time working with capuchins, preparing their food in the mornings, cleaning out their enclosures and making enrichment that I now know is a vital support for the mental wellbeing of these animals. Joey was kept in a small cage for 9 years. Clearly the conditions he was kept in were inadequate. He was left permanently disabled and is unable to fulfil the behaviours he would be able to if he hadn’t suffered being kept as a pet. It was not only physical damage that he suffered, but mental damage. It was truly disturbing to be shown the pre-rescue videos of him rocking backwards and forwards in an attempt to find some comfort. Without stimulation, there was nothing else he could do. A few of the rescued monkeys at wild futures will continue to show possessive tendencies over soft toys, as they lacked early maternal and social relationships.

Thankfully, in his new life at wild futures, Joey has enrichment made by the team which I had great fun helping with. We collected flowers from around the garden and used monkey nuts to make special parcels and everyone’s favourite ‘box in a box in a box in a box’ (an extreme form of monkey pass the parcel) alongside the odd miscellaneous wellie that had been abandoned by past volunteers and was now gratefully filled with ripped paper to create an intriguing lucky dip. All this now makes Joey’s life much more enjoyable, and just shows the kind of support wild futures offers.

Other monkeys at the sanctuary had also suffered poor diets, such as being fed children’s cereal and coca cola which led to their having induced diabetes, and one capuchin had been kept on a collar and lead when his owners could no longer control him. After this dramatic oppression of their natural behaviours, it was amazing that when David Attenborough came to film at the site a few years ago he was able to observe the monkeys ripping apart red chillies and spring onions and rubbing them all over their bodies to repel mosquitoes. Being someone who suffers quite dramatically from mosquito bites, I’m very jealous of this interesting instinctual capability.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just the primate pet trade that has threatened the existence of primates in the wild. They also face being hunted for meat and the ever-increasing threat of habitat loss. These threats being so, and after hearing all about the suffering of the monkeys before their rescue with wild futures, I hope you are shocked by the fact that it is still legal to own certain exotic pets, including primates in the UK, as long as you can get your hands on the right licence. As the suffering of these individuals shows, monkeys can never be adequately cared for as pets. They deserve an admiration and respect as any other member of our global community of beings. That’s why I would urge you all to sign the petition which you can get to on the link: https://www.wildfutures.org/petition/. Although it may be true that many of the primates kept in the UK are done so without the proper licence, it is still inhumane that a person might be legally allowed to privately keep a primate in their own home.

I hope that I’ve shown you how important this charity and the work it does is to me. It didn’t just show me how to care for primates in captivity but taught me lots of life lessons about living in community. I spent my two weeks with some of the most amazing students I’ve ever met. In the evenings we enjoyed food from all across Europe, as most of the students were carrying out the European Voluntary Service programme. One of the keepers took us on a beautiful evening walk down to the point of Rame head. Even though Cornwall views hold their own special kind of archaic beauty, they’re by no means the only place you can go if you want to explore natural environments before even leaving the UK. We are lucky in that our school is close to lots of habits for UK wildlife on the decline. Priory Marina for example has some great nature walks, and if your interested in protecting UK wildlife such as hedgehogs then this is a great place to start. When I spoke to one of the head keepers at the site, he explained to me that though the sanctuary was creating an environment as good as possible for these monkeys to live in, their situation was by no means the ideal. “Primates should live in the wild.” He told me. It seems to me that the only way to achieve a world in which these wonderful little creatures and many others like them are protected, is to continue to educate as far and as wide as possible about the damaging effect that selfish, human centric ideas such as the primate pet trade can have on the natural world, a world that we all whether we like it or not have to share together.

I want to leave you with a final thought, projects to end the primate pet trade are important. They alleviate suffering, and they promote the wonderful biodiversity of our planet – a planet that needs our care and attention not at our own convenience, but right now, right now in this very second.

European Day of Languages

As part of the European Day of Languages, Upper Sixth student, Elli Chappelhow, blogs on why using foreign languages is so important.

If you perceive foreign languages to be a doorway to diverse cultures, it’s clear to see why many choose to study them.

Once the linguistic door has been opened, you instantly have a broader understanding of that culture, allowing you to be more flexible and appreciative of other ways of life. As a result, multi-linguists have the advantage of seeing the world from different perspectives, meaning they are often more rounded individuals.

When you know the local language, travelling instantly becomes a far more enriching experience. Through personal experience, talking with the locals in their language delights them. Even if you only know a few basic phrases, they genuinely appreciate the effort. When you show an interest in the language and the culture, who knows what opportunities may arise?

With universally high unemployment rates, a multilingual ability is a competitive edge over others. Learning a language demonstrates intelligence, flexibility, openness to diverse people, and decision-making skills, which are all essential in the workplace and in daily life.

Not only do languages dramatically increase your job prospects, they also help you with fluency in your own language. Personally, I have found that through studying foreign languages my awareness of the mechanics of language has increased – such as syntax, grammar, conjugation and vocabulary. Thus, my writing skills have become sharper and my vocabulary has blossomed, due to recognising complex English words that have derived from other languages.

Communication is one of the fundamentals of life. The opportunities foreign languages bring are endless, and with the world becoming ever more accessible there is a constant need for linguists.

Furthermore, due to recent political developments relating to the European Union, it is more important than ever to demonstrate an interest and understanding of our European neighbours, and their language and culture.

If more people were to study languages, I think that the world would be a more appreciative and harmonious place. As German writer Johann von Goethe said: “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

Inspired by Roman Krznaric

By Millie Sutton

Sympathy is very different to empathy. Empathy is when you can place yourself in the shoes of another person and understand precisely what they feel

For a few days without meaning to, I experimented with empathy whilst wandering around Bedford, and I found myself thinking; “I’m so glad I’m not homeless” or, “I’m so glad I have my health”.

Empathy is such a difficult skill, but if we could each immerse ourselves in another’s life even for two hours, we would each gain unprecedented knowledge. In our individualistic society, cultivating empathy would breed understanding and more harmonious co-existence between different races and religions.

Certainly writing this as a young adult, society can be judging and derogatory towards those that do not fit the mould, perhaps if we were to show more empathy and selflessness, we could annihilate social cliques and assumptions. This could even be translated worldwide… What a powerful idea… What if the foundation of every society was based, not on monetary gain, but a wholesome desire to empathise? What an egalitarian place it would be!

But, empathy is not the panacea for all the world’s problems, but rather a tool to solve individual difficulties. Then, used correctly, individuals can initiate an empathetic chain reaction which would (hopefully) make the world a better place.

Recently, I was reading a fascinating scientific article which discussed the boundaries of empathy. The article suggested that empathy is an intrinsic part of being human as it is exhibited in our bodies as mirror neurons. These neurons are triggered when we see an emotion in a fellow human and the neurons allow us to feel what they are feeling. As Rizzolatti put it; “neuroscience has discovered empathy!” Therefore, mirror cells constantly reflect the world around us via our emotions which grants us the ability to empathise.

So, there is no biological boundary to personal empathy, but I’m no expert; I could just be naïve, optimistic and foolish, with an overzealous desire to initiate change. Instead of the latest dietary fad, try incorporating empathy into your daily life!

Are You Sitting Intelligently?

By Ellen Tapp (Lower Sixth)

When faced with an opportunity to take on a ‘mystery project’ for a couple of weeks at school, it’s fair to say that I was not expecting to be confronted with a chair to trial in the classroom. My confusion, however, was short lived.

As soon as I sat on the dynamic, innovative creation of the Håg Movement Conventio Wing, I was rather taken with the specific design of this chair as a part of intelligent learning. Not only is the modern chair good looking, the scientific thought process behind the construction of it really appealed to my nerdy nature. On a quest to find out what separates this classroom essential from the rest, I took to the internet to find a wealth of information on the design, convenience and comfort it affords.

The Håg Movement are a market leading Scandinavian company in the design of seating created for office environments. Håg work to make those lengthy conferences and monotonous meetings a more pleasurable experience both physically and mentally through the design of the chair.

SF1

Interestingly, the inspiration behind Håg was taken from horse riders; the stirrups ‘enabled the upper body to be more active when sitting’. Håg identified that as a species. We are made for action, sitting still does not come naturally and therefore when seated we should continue to place movement at the top of our to-do list.

Luckily, a chair has been brought into the market that inspires movement without us even having to think about it. Dynamic ergonomy placed at the forefront of the construction allows the chair to respond to your every move. The Conventio Wing will react to every slight alteration in the way you sit, supplying you with comfort and support as you work.

However, to test this, I took on the challenge to try it out in my lessons where my energy levels tend to drop; just before lunch time and at the end of the day. I wanted to compare how alert I felt with and without the chair at these times, where my stomach embarrassingly grumbles very loudly and when I am just itching to get home and tuck myself up in bed.

The idea that something as simple as a seat could enhance my learning experience was something I did not find very likely; I’m not the type to switch off in lessons or become distracted easily but I found my attention to detail and motivation rocketed. Of course, we have to consider the fact that I knew the supposed function of the chair and this may have created a placebo effect on the way I felt myself working but placebo effect or no placebo effect, I felt myself working to my full potential.

I did not only benefit from the mental impacts of the chair, I also felt physical comfort and a great amount of support from it. I’ve always struggled with back pains throughout the day as a result of being hunched over a desk for 5+ hours whilst working. The dynamic nature of the design meant my lower back received a huge amount of comfort as I altered my seating position. I no longer felt a stabbing sensation half way through the hour and could fully focus on my work with no distraction.

This new, creative idea has brought another dimension to the way I study and has taught me to appreciate that in order to learn effectively, movement is key.

 

World of Sales

By Kirstie Moffat and Ella Major (both Upper Sixth)

On Tuesday 17th November, a group of Upper and Lower Sixth students, attended a Lunchbox Lecture lead by James Tapp, sales director at NICE Systems; enlightening us in his particular role leading strategic sales team.

Their corporate aim is to ultimately help improve businesses performance, increase operational efficiency, prevent financial crime, ensure compliance, and to enhance safety and security. NICE Systems branch out to over 25,000 customers, including more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies, such as Virgin Media, City of New York Police Department and Barclays.

Our personal interests in Business and Marketing enticed us to listen to what James had to say about his career and particularly the nature of the roles in an internationally recognised business.

He spoke about the range of members of his team with different qualifications, from degrees in Classics to Geology as well as many with Business. We couldn’t quite believe that someone with a Classics degree would be suited to a job in such a different sector.

However, it was clear from what James said that it’s not necessarily the subject you study to degree level that determines the job you will end up in; sometimes it’s the transferable attributes such as interpersonal skills that can be applied to a job that employees are searching for.

James demystified the industry, as prior to the lecture we were unsure about what enterprise sales really were. He made evident the vast competition in the industry with many similar firms rivalling for the sales of the same companies. This shows the importance of customer satisfaction and persistence, as losing a pitch could in fact cost the company thousands of pounds.

Having the opportunity to talk to a professional who has developed a wide set of skills through various roles, from sales to more managerial roles, will certainly help us when we go on to study Business Management and Marketing and International Business next year at university.

Students Get A Headstart

EDT (The Engineering Development Trust) delivers over 30,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experiences each year, for young people aged 11-21 across the UK.

EDT’s Headstart and Inspire courses Years 11-Upper Sixth students with the chance to sample higher education life – by both experiencing STEM courses at a university setting.

Ciara Blackham (Upper Sixth) and Emilia Corvesor (Lower Sixth) reflect on their recent Headstart and Inspire adventures here.

Ciara Blackham, Broadbased Engineering, Oxford University

My Headstart course was held at Oxford, and it gave me great a feel for the university, which I’ve now decided to apply at.

On the course we built robots, delivered a presentation and went on trips to Formula 1 racing, a nuclear fusion plant and Sharp Electronics.

It was great to try different types of engineering like biomedical, make bridges and test their strength and learn programming skills.

In addition, we had lots of talks on university experience and engineering career possibilities, spoke to students at Oxford University studying various degrees and there were small design task competitions.

We also met new people and made lots of friends and had free time in the evening to go into town.

I recommend the Headstart course to everyone. I wasn’t interested in studying engineering but I still loved my experience. I met so many new people and really got a feel for Oxford and what university life is like.

I also learnt a lot of valuable skills such as presenting and computer programming. So whether you definitely want to do engineering at university, are unsure about what course to study or want to know what life at university is like, I highly recommend Headstart.

Emilia Corvesor, Queen Mary University of London, Science

I chose a course specifically in Science as this is an area that has always interested me.

Over the three days, we engaged in different experiments and practicals and were also assigned group projects to research and prepare presentations on, ready for competition time on the last day.

Most importantly for me, we were able to meet and talk to different students currently at the university, which was very beneficial as I was in the middle of deciding my A Level choices.

Overall, the Inspire course allowed me to mix with like-minded girls and have a very enjoyable three days.

‘Engage and celebrate the youth!’

By Kate Long, Upper Sixth

Home to principal European Union institutions including the Council of the European Union, European Commission and European Parliament, Brussels is a central hub for international politics. For two days in half term, it was also home to me.

My purpose for visiting Brussels was to explore the European Parliament and its response to humanitarian issues such as the current refugee crisis. This was made possible by the Mary Greaves Hamilton Legacy prize fund.

With a 6am start and a two hour train journey, I arrived in Brussels ready for a day immersing myself in the world of European politics. After the old-world style of Brussels with its gabled houses and cobbled stones, reaching the contemporary architecture of the Parliament zone physically signalled the move into modern integrated Europe.

The centrepiece of the Parliament buildings is an outside Agora based on the Greek marketplace – although being a cold wet October morning, there was no hustle and bustle! Around the Agora are the words and pictures of the European Year of Development campaign – a very inspiring visual welcome.

I started at the Parliamentarium – a state of the art visitor centre – to gain a foundation for my knowledge on European integration. After going through the airport style security and receiving an audio-guide (which was of course available in all 24 official languages of the EU – I boringly rejected Finnish and Greek in favour of English!) I began exploring the two-story exhibition space. The tour started with 3D models of the three locations of the European Parliament – Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg. Slides and old photos led me through Europe’s long and often troubled modern history and the beginnings of the European community, with audio quotes from the EU’s early visionaries such as Robert Schuman.

Next, a tunnel of voices immersed me in the multilingual heritage of the EU, and moveable information pods rolled me across a map of Europe and allowed me to explore the European Parliament’s broad reach across all its 28 member states, including the space station in French Guiana and the Department of Justice and Equality in Dublin.

A 360-degree digital surround screen took me into the heart of European Parliament action. Sitting in seats in a semi-circle, it felt like I was participating in the debate. There across multi mega-screens I learnt about the members of parliament, and how the legislative process works in practice. To be honest, for me the process of arriving at consensus seemed extremely laborious, and bureaucratic, with endless to-ing and fro-ing between the various political alliances, arguing over words and phrases.

The Parliamentarium ended with the fun opportunity to write a personal message or wish to the Parliament which then appeared on the screens with your name and in your language. It felt very empowering to see “Engage and celebrate the youth! – Kate, England” scrolling round the room in very large letters.

I hen headed over into the actual Parliament building where I particularly liked the sculpture called Confluence symbolising the intertwining of different strands from different origins coming together for a common goal reflecting the integration the European Parliament provides.

Then on to the Hemicycle where the MEPS sit to debate EU law. One aspect which particularly intrigued (and surprised me) was that the MEPs are not grouped by country but by political affiliations. Thus my own MEP  sits (and votes)with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group, alongside fellow left leaning politicians from France, Malta and Czech Republic, and not next to his fellow Brit from the Tory party. This for me was a powerful symbol of commitment to the de-emphasing of national loyalty in favour of an overriding common purpose for Europe.

I then made the short walk (in the rain!) to the Brussels offices of World Vision International, the world’s largest aid and development charity focused on children. Here I interviewed two Advocacy Policy Officers, Alexandra and Ludo, on the role of charities in Advocacy within the European Union. Their passion and energy for their work meant we covered a vast array of topics, including the effectiveness of the parliament’s party system – they too recognised the slowness of the process but felt this ensured real consensus – the effect of the migrant crisis on the reputation of the EU, methods of advocacy, and whether the concept of integration is compatible with the current European identity. What was interesting here was how important agendas can be influenced by lobby groups, especially given the wide range of topics MEPs have to have a view on.  It was also great to gain insights into working in the NGO field as a career.

After all that talking and thinking, I explored (still in the rain!)  the rest of the city, including the Grand Palace, the city’s famous market square which dates back to the Middle Ages, and its spectacular Gothic and Baroque buildings and quant guildhalls. Waffles, chocolate and the famous Belgian frites rounded off a genuinely fascinating.