Jen Duffy: Roots & Shoots Master Jedi

Written By: Tatiana Hayek, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Our Champions

As manager of our Roots & Shoots youth program, Jen Duffy has witnessed many stand-out moments, times she saw firsthand the transformative power of working with young people and watching them flourish by taking action for local change.

The time, for instance, when Indigenous youth used rap music and animation to raise awareness about water issues and to encourage people to work together for a better world. Or the time Jen visited the streams that students rehabilitated by removing debris and hatching native walleye. Or meeting a four-year-old who held a bake sale and raised $200 to help protect chimpanzees.

For Jen, this is the most rewarding part Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, a global program that supports young people in leading projects to make their communities more sustainable.

Jen has been fascinated by the natural world since an early age. Holding degrees in zoology and paleontology, she has an especial fondness for dinosaurs, but her love of nature extends far beyond fossils.  From playing soccer with Peruvian children to discussing the night sky with Cree students, Jen says that the connections she’s made with young people in different countries and cultures has bolstered her belief in living in harmony with nature and confirmed her commitment to incorporating Indigenous knowledge in all her outreach.

Every June, Jen visits Roots & Shoots schools as they celebrate what they’ve learned and the difference they’ve made. She remembers a particularly touching moment during last year’s visit when one group wrote a song about bees set to the tune of John Lennon’s song, Imagine.

Whether projects address climate change or bird habitat or growing bee-friendly gardens, Jen believes Roots & Shoots is all about the experience and confidence that youth gain by seeing that their voices are valued and learning how to use those voices to lead action.

As one of Jen’s greatest life mentors, Jane Goodall’s example has helped guide Jen throughout her journey. Regardless of where she is or what she’s doing, every new venture Jen undertakes has one unifying goal: inspire people to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the world around them. In the words of Dr. Jane, “A powerful force is unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.”

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Photo Credit: Daniel Crump, Jen Duffy, Ophir Sarusi