By Katie Baines

When The American Club president, Living in Singapore magazine columnist and long-time friend of AAS, Richard Hartung, got in touch with us about his involvement with the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore as a Global Board Member, and that she was going to be visiting the island, we were only too glad to be able to offer our support.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s work spans over 60 years, from her beginnings in research into chimpanzees as part of paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey’s work on the origins of humankind in Tanzania, to conservation and activism. At the age of 85, she now travels more than 300 days a year, addressing audiences around the world about threats to chimps, their habitat and other environmental crises.

A highlight of her three-day visit was the Action for Conservation Gala, hosted by The Grand Copthorne Hotel, which was attended by AAS’s general manager, Christi Novomesky and daughter, Tesa.

The ballroom was vibrant and bustling as two hundred and ninety guests awaited Dr. Jane’s arrival. Her 40-minute speech included what drove her to save her salary as a waitress to buy her ticket to Tanzania at 26 years of age, both her hopes and fears for the future of the planet, her sadness at its current state and what has been left for world’s children to address, but also of what we can do to put change in motion.

On being asked during the Q&A session about slowing down in the twilight of her years, her response was that she felt the opposite had to be true; that, in fact, she needed to accelerate her pace of work since her remaining years to be able to continue are coming to a close.

As guests dined on a three-course sustainable vegetarian meal, there was much excitement over the live and silent auctions. Prizes ranged from family trips in the Bornean jungle to guided walks to catch a glimpse of Singapore’s own Raffles banded langur with primatologist, Andie Ang, with all proceeds going to Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.

While it wasn’t part of the agenda, I had the opportunity to attend a private screening of National Geographic’s Women Of Impact: Changing The World and panel discussion at the Art Science Museum with Dr. Jane and fellow National Geographic Explorers, including conservation journalist, Laurel Chor, marine biologist, Intan Suci Nurhati, and also Andie Ang, celebrating all the women who fearlessly push boundaries and inspire the next generation of changemakers.

The documentary narrates the stories of over 40 women across a wide spectrum of disciplines, backgrounds and generations. Many of the women interviewed are among the first women in their field, and they discuss the difficulty of blazing that trail. The panel discussion continued with the theme, with each woman sharing their own experience of being female pioneers and closing with Dr. Jane’s words of empowerment: “Together we can, together we will.”

What an honor it was to be among an audience before such as wonderful woman.