Breckenridge 14-year-old founds nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation
Fourteen-year-old Devon Galpin is out to prove that you don’t have to be an adult to fight for what you believe in — activism has no minimum age. The Summit Middle School student, with the help of her mother Shannon Galpin, has launched a nonprofit with several ambitious projects bringing attention to the planet’s rapidly disappearing wildlife.
Devon is a Breckenridge native, and her passion for wildlife began at the age of 4 when she took an interest in the rare and elusive snow leopards that stalk the Central Asian steppes. In the few years since then, Devon has become a co-founder of Endangered Activism, a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation through research, art, activism and media.
“It was created as a mother-daughter collaboration to encourage youth activism, specifically with endangered species conservation and climate change,” Devon said.
Endangered Activism will be premiering a feature documentary next year that follows the team as they learned about wildlife conservation around the world. During what would have been her seventh-grade year at the middle school, Devon was home-schooled as she produced the documentary.
The film shows the team going on research trips to places as far-flung as Namibia, Patagonia and Borneo. Devon conducted dozens of interviews with conservation experts, scientists, activists, wildlife officials and locals to understand the approach other nations and cultures are taking to protect their own endangered wildlife.
With the documentary, Devon plans to bring the lessons and knowledge she gleaned from her work back home to Colorado. Devon is also creating a graphic novel, which has endangered animals as characters telling the stories of their lives and threats, to pair with the film as a means to draw in the people she thinks are most important for the fight against mass extinction — other kids.
“One of the things I’ve always felt is that kids didn’t seem to have a voice very often,” Devon said. “I wanted kids to be listened to, to have a voice, so they can make a difference.”
Devon has also collaborated with Mexican artist Diana Garcia to create a touring street art exhibit titled “What We Lose.” The exhibit, which features large pastel drawings of endangered animals telling their stories, has been displayed in Paris, Oxford and in Denver as part of the city’s “Crush Walls” street art exhibition in 2018.
While Devon is in firm creative control of the project, her mother has certainly provided her own spark and mettle to drive Endangered Activism forward. Shannon Galpin is already a world-renowned explorer and activist who was named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2013, and worked in Afghanistan for a decade promoting women’s rights.
Shannon was also the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, and helped form the first Afghan Women’s National Cycling Team. Shannon has overseen other projects with her nonprofit Mountain2Mountain, such as working in Afghan women’s prisons and partnering to build a school for the deaf.
Despite her own numerous accomplishments, Shannon insists that Endangered Activism is Devon’s work of love, and she has been focused on helping her daughter nurture and strengthen her own activist spirit.
“The problems I see around wildlife conservation are not any different from the problem around human rights issues, which is apathy,” Shannon said in a clip from one of the short films that will be released before the documentary. “Devon started it from an angle of, ‘I want to be engaged, but I’m only 11. I want to have a voice, and I want to make a difference.’ I don’t think she’s the only one.”
Shannon said she hopes Endangered Activism not only raises awareness of wildlife issues among children, but also encourages and empowers other mothers and daughters to team up and work toward solving global problems.
“One focus of this documentary was to present mother-daughter storytelling and representation of women as explorers,” Shannon said. “I am a member of The Explorers Club, but when I was growing up, women weren’t in The Explorers Club. I think it’s important to have depictions of women exploring and traveling in visual storytelling; to show that this is something mothers and daughters can do together.”
Shannon hopes that the documentary and the journey she and Devon took spark a new conversation about how mother-daughter relationships can form, and how their adventures are just as worth telling as father-son narratives.
“I see it as a different way of parenting,” Shannon said. “Kind of like road trips on summer vacation, it’s an immersive education and another way of interacting with children.”
You can follow Endangered Activism’s work at EndangeredActivism.org.
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