What if your family vacation created more than just memories? What if it helped influence the course of your child’s life? That is the wonderfully inspiring story of 9-year-old Sophie from Switzerland—one of our favorite young explorers and the next generation of global stewards. Read on to see the very positive results of her family's trip to Galápagos.
Two years ago, Sophie and her family boarded the National Geographic Endeavour II for a 10-day adventure in the Galápagos. They came to the islands knowing Sophie’s great love for wildlife and nature, but they never imagined how much of an impression it would leave on her. During the voyage Sophie took part in National Geographic Global Explorers, our exclusive family program which connects kids and teens with nature through fun and creative activities. Alongside our certified field educators and naturalists, she learned lots about the iconic animals, their different behaviors, and their unique habitats. She also spent time on the bridge with Captain Eduardo Neira and his team learning how to navigate the ship, and even had the chance to help drive it across the equator!
But there was one moment in particular that stood out for Sophie. “When I saw the preserved ‘Lonesome George’ at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), I was very, very sad! He was the last giant tortoise from Pinta Island. I could not believe that all the Pinta giant tortoises are now extinct because of humans,” says Sophie.
“For a seven-year-old kid to see the last animal that has gone extinct, it was pretty life-changing for her,” recalls Sophie’s mom, Malou. “She told me, I want to come back, and when I do I want to be able to help.”
AN ADVOCATE FOR THE ANIMALS Sophie returned home completely inspired by the things she saw and by the naturalists who told her you don't have to be a grown-up to make positive changes for the planet. At first, she started with small fundraising efforts—organizing a garage sale, selling some of her belongings to friends, and asking for donations instead of presents for her 8th birthday. In that first wave she succeeded in raising $500.
Two years later when Sophie found out her family was going back to Galápagos she wanted to step things up even more. With help from her parents, she created a GoFundMe page complete with a heartfelt message that expressed her concerns for the critically endangered species of Galápagos. She encouraged her friends, family, and other donors to help her raise funds for the important scientific work done by CDRS. By the time Sophie left for her trip this past April, she had collected a total of $2,650.
A VERY SPECIAL DELIVERYWhen the team at CDRS heard about Sophie’s tremendous efforts they invited her to deliver her donation in person and get a behind-the-scenes look at some of their work. During her visit to the station, she explored the newly renovated Marine World exhibition at the Van Straelen Interpretation Center, took a tour of the Natural History Collections, saw the new plastics sculpture being created by a national artist, met scientists working in the fly breeding lab, and had a chance to chat with several female researchers and find out how they became scientists. Sophie was also presented with a certificate of donation and learned that her funds would help tag and monitor Galápagos penguins and assess the health of giant tortoises.
Sophie is now more determined than ever to help conserve this fragile environment. She even asked her mom to start a nonprofit association to raise awareness and hopefully inspire other kids to take action and make a difference one little bit at a time—they launched Tunememi on May 17 to commemorate Endangered Species Day. Sophie also wants to continue doing her own fundraising for wildlife and the Charles Darwin Foundation and she dreams of one day becoming a scientist.
“For us, the expedition to the Galápagos was not just a trip to tick off our bucket list,” says Malou. “It was a remarkable experience, one of ‘learning, conserving and respecting our planet’ instead of just ‘seeing’ the wildlife. And we are grateful for the incredibly knowledgeable and supportive naturalists who helped Sophie truly understand and appreciate this unique ecosystem.”
Sharing an expedition with your kids and grandkids is a life-enhancing experience! Watch our National Geographic Global Explorers program in action and learn more about family travel.