A lady recently told me that she couldn’t get her head around the purpose of greed – “We enter the world with nothing and that’s what we leave with,” she said.
Dr. Francine Neago, I was about to find out, had devoted her entire existence to protecting endangered animals, and when she spoke of not understanding the meaning of greed, she meant it.
86-year-old Francine, originally from France, has resided deep in the jungle in Sumatra, Indonesia for the last 16 years. Her reason for being there is phenomenal; she is attempting to prevent some of the last standing orangutans in the world from becoming extinct due to human greed.
A Vanishing Species
The palm oil industry has brought major devastation to the planet; an area equivalent to the size of 300 football pitches of rainforest is destroyed every hour to make way for production of palm oil. The extensive deforestation is resulting in the impending wipe-out of orangutans. In fact, it is estimated that orangutans will die out completely in the next five to ten years if something doesn’t change quickly.
Appalled by the greed and unjust, Francine has been doing everything within her power to save the vanishing species; as long as she stays in the jungle, the orangutans are safe. So at the age of 86, instead of enjoying her retirement, Francine is standing stern until she knows the orangutans are out of danger, which is unfortunately unlikely to happen during her lifetime.
I hadn’t planned on running into Francine, in fact it was a total chance meeting – we ended up stranded at the same bus station in Malaysia when her and I got talking. I was on a pit stop in Malaysia on my way to another country and Francine was carrying out her routine visa run from the neighboring country of Indonesia.
I was instantly struck by the fact that I was talking to an 86-year-old woman who had done more for the world in the last year than most people do in a lifetime. I was speaking to someone who didn’t have a selfish bone in her body, and someone who refused to give up till the bitter end, no matter how disheartening the circumstances.
Making a Difference Despite the Odds
The conditions in which Francine lives are a far cry from how she was brought up in her native home of Paris. There is no jungle to be found in France, nor are there Orangutans that need protecting, but Francine isn’t swayed by her heritage, norms, or society’s expectations – Francine is driven by an innate need to make a difference to the world before her time is up.
Obtaining her visa is one of society’s rules that Francine could really do without but as the law requires, she has no choice, which means every two months without fail, she makes the tiresome round trip from Sumatra, Indonesia through to Penang, Malaysia and back, totalling over 1,200 kilometres.
I felt extremely fortunate to meet Francine during her latest visa run. A lady who has done so much to help create a better world, Francine’s kindness sent me into a whirlwind of self-reflection. While I’ve never considered myself greedy, compared to Francine I suddenly didn’t seem so selfless.
After meeting Francine, I asked myself, “Am I leaving a lasting impact on the world, am I doing enough to counteract the greed and corruption that is found everywhere, and am I selfless enough?” Of course the answer was no to all of the questions; not many people do as much for the planet as Francine but it made me realise that we can all do more.
Sometimes we need reminding that money, possessions and social status are merely desires that add no real positive impact. And Francine’s right, we can’t take them with us; we enter the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. To strive for more money and material items would be to live a life in vain.
Soul Analyse will be working with Francine to help raise awareness about the wonderful work she does – Francine and the orangutans need our assistance more than ever – visit this website to find out how you can help save the orangutan species and contribute to Francine’s project.