The youth of today is the future of our planet. They have the creativity, passion, and drive to create solutions for the protection of our natural resources. One young individual who is paving the way in the battle against plastic pollution is Jessica Schilz, an inspiring 12-year-old girl from Cape Town.
Whilst Jessica’s obsession with tennis was put on hold, she signed up for her school’s leadership programme, which involved raising awareness and funding for a cause or NPO linked to a chosen theme.
“I was going to host a session for Grade R children to have their spines checked so they can possibly avoid an operation like mine. With Covid-19 lockdown that was no longer possible, so I turned my attention to my local environment, my happy place and how I could give back without having to host an event and put others at risk by being in a small space,” says Jessica.
After COVID-19 changed the outcomes of the leadership programme, Jessica chose the theme Marine and Terrestrial Pollution. She opted to see how far she could walk in one month and had people sponsor her in raising plastic pollution awareness.
Jessica managed 316km in the month of August! She donated the funds she raised to the Sustainable Seas Trust.
“I chose the Sustainable Seas Trust as my beneficiary as we can’t keep taking plastic to the dumps and cleaning up litter. We need to educate the next generation. Education is the key to changing the way we behave. Children take the message home to their family and one lesson reaches many ears,” says Jessica.
“Every time I go to the beach or for a walk in the suburbs, I see more and more litter. It is everywhere. Almost all of it is plastic. It does not really degrade and lies there day after day as I walk past. I felt I needed to clean the environment I visit so that everyone who walks there can enjoy it in its natural state. There is nothing worse than walking over one cigarette butt after another on the beach.”
“The world is spending billions cleaning up litter. The numbers are staggering, and the impacts are beyond those I can really understand. If we all did our bit and disposed of our litter in the right way, the world litter crisis would not be of the epic proportions we currently see.”
Along with being a champion in raising awareness in plastic pollution, Jessica has also been recovering well since her operation in February. “My recovery has been amazing. Initially I thought I might never play sport again but 9 months after my operation I played in the school tennis champs. I can run again and most importantly I can swim in the ocean and feel the waves wash over me. Like everything I have learnt so far, if you really want to do something, you can.”
Jessica, we are so honoured to have been selected as your Trust. We extend our heartfelt thanks to you. You are an amazing young woman, and a role model for the youth of today. As our Founder and CEO Dr Tony Ribbink says, “Africa has some of the most exquisite, biodiverse and marine rich coastlines in the world and the youth have the power, energy and unique ideas to conserve these resources for a sustainable future.” Keep being the inspirational wonder that you are, Jessica.