By Rachel Shaw, honorary member of the Rotary Club of West Bay, Laguna, Philippines.
Six years ago, I visited the Philippines as part of a Group Study Exchange team from Rotary District 1270 (Lincolnshire, England).The opportunity to visit one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots as a professional wildlife conservationist became for me the start of a new writing and illustrating adventure.
Glimpsing just a little of the amazing diversity of animals sparked my imagination.The animals became characters in my mind and I started to write their stories. Three of those stories have just been published in the Philippines.
The animals featured in ‘Danao the Parrot,’ ‘Mayumi the Forest Pig,’ and ‘Pipisin the Pangolin’ are all endemic to the Philippines; they are found nowhere else in the world. The books are a celebration of the rich diversity of wildlife in the country with a strong educational element and conservation messages about the endangered animals. Two of the picture books were illustrated by Filipino artists Jonathan Ranola and Ingrid Tan, while the third I illustrated myself.
Witnessing the work of Rotary in the Philippines, particularly after Typhoon Ketsana hit just months after my exchange visit, left a deep impression on me. Since the exchange I have raised funds for Rotary projects and disaster relief including for ShelterBox. In writing the books, I discovered that I have something more that I can give: stories about the unique and special animals, and, my enthusiasm and passion for wildlife. I hope the children’s books will prove to be a lasting and tangible contribution to a country that has given me so much.
I have strong memories from my exchange visit of going to schools adopted by their local Rotary clubs. These are the children I thought about while writing the stories. I would love to work with Rotary clubs to give the picture books to schools and children who can’t afford the luxury of buying books.