Teens driven to make a world of difference

Jannah Fahiz, left, and Joanna Chalker… “After a couple of weeks of putting all our ideas together, we created an exhibition like no other,” says Joanna. Photo by Danielle Nohra

WHILE most school leavers were heading to university or travelling, Canberra teenagers Jannah Fahiz and Joanna Chalker were “aiming big” by organising The Earth Festival, a vegan-focused festival where funds will go to the rehabilitation of local wombats.

The now-19-year-olds are counting down the weeks until their year-long project comes to life on March 25 at Exhibition Park.

The idea came from a documentary called “Cowspiracy”. Jannah watched it last year with her mother and when it finished she had a new rage inside that needed to be let out, she says.

Since then, Jannah has put this anger into The Earth Festival.

“I’ve always wanted to organise a festival, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. My thoughts went straight to Jo Chalker,” Jannah says.

Joanna left school early to begin an events diploma and Jannah says a reunion was the crazy thing the event needed.

Although the two girls were sometimes seen as too young to create their own festival, they weren’t without experience.

Skills from Joanna’s current course combined with Jannah’s experience running local concerts and events for Woden Youth Centre were enough to attract stall holders and sponsors from around the nation.

“When Jannah first contacted me to meet up to talk about all her crazy vegan ideas I thought I would give it a chance,” Joanna says.

“We sat down for a couple of hours as she shared what she had envisioned the festival to be like.

“I elaborated on her ideas and brought in new ones. After a couple of weeks of putting all our ideas together, we created an exhibition like no other.”

Joanna says the event’s purpose is for people to become aware of themselves, others, animals and the environment.

“The goal isn’t for people to come to the event and become vegan. It’s about learning about it and then taking that information away and researching it,” she says.

“The lack of awareness in the community about how we are harming the environment and each other is disheartening.

“Many animals and humans suffer from the lifestyle choices most of us have.

“By making simple changes to our lifestyles such as food choices, water usage, waste management and solar power, and being passionate on our values, we will be able to help shape the future of this earth.”

One thing in particular that the organisers are hoping to change is the treatment of wombats in Australia.

Their aim is to raise $20,000 for the Sleepy Burrows charity in Gundaroo, a self-funded wombat sanctuary that rehabilitates injured and orphaned wombats.

“We think raising money for Sleepy Burrows is very important because wombats are slowly becoming extinct due to carelessness and change of environment,” Jannah says.

“As they are a native animal, there should be more awareness about them and their abilities.”

Joanna and Jannah don’t want common wombats, local to the ACT and NSW to become endangered in a similar way that northern hairy wombats in Queensland have.

Joanna says, overall, The Earth Festival will have all aspects of veganism; what you can put on your face, candles and more.

“There will also be activities, workshops and stalls,” she says.

Information at theearthfestival.org

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