A visit to the beach when Romario Valentine was six years old changed his life. His mother took him with her to join a beach clean up, sparking his interest in all things related to the environment.
Valentine is currently aged eight, and is already an environmental champion in his hometown of Umhlanga in Durban.
Now, with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions forcing many businesses to close, Valentine is once again stepping up.
This time, he’s marking his ninth birthday on July 26 to help support his favourite bird sanctuary — Umgeni River Bird Park— by raising much-needed funds.
Valentine had wanted his birthday party to be held at the bird park. However, social gatherings that are not funerals or religious gatherings of no more than 50 people are still prohibited in South Africa — which had one of strictest COVID-19 lockdowns globally between March and May.
“I couldn't go to the bird park for my birthday this year because of the lockdown. I asked my mother to help me raise money for the conservation programme instead of getting birthday presents. I do not want them to become extinct,” Valentine told News24.
On Valentine's fundraising campaign page, on backabuddy.co.za, a statement adds: “It costs millions to keep the bird park open, so it is vital for them to receive tourists and other funding avenues. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the park has been temporarily closed."
He has already surpassed his goals of raising R15,000. At the moment, donations given to the campaign amount to R18,000.
The funds raised will go towards the bird park’s “Inspire to Converse” programme that is aimed at teaching children about birds and nature conservation.
“[Valentine] likes to visit the bird park. It is a great opportunity for children to be up close with magnificent birds and feed them, too. His visits to the bird park inspired him to develop a love for birds, which resulted in him painting a hoopoe and a golden pheasant,” the statement on his website continues.
Established in 1984, Umgeni River Bird Park is home to more than 200 spieces of birds, some of them endangered.
Finding ways for children and young people from all communities to access, enjoy, and learn about nature is a really important step as we work towards achieving the UN's Global Goals — including Goal 15 for protecting life on land. You can join us by taking action here to help protect the environment and grow sustainable communities.