“There is nothing like a Dame” … but there can be! Lessons from the work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick.

Taken out of context, this catchy line from South Pacific could well be applied to Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who celebrates her 80th birthday today. Dame Daphne was born of British ancestry in Kenya in 1934, and has spent her life caring for orphans of wild animal species from black rhinos to zebras, and warthogs to elephants, before releasing them back into the wild. She has developed an expertise about wild animal husbandry and conservation that is priceless, and she has spoken out strongly against the practice of poaching, which is increasingly widespread in parts of Africa, as the demand for rhino horn in traditional medicines has grown. ‘Bite your fingernails!”, she is reputed to have said in exasperation, “It is exactly the same stuff!”

People like Dame Daphne Sheldrick have made – and continue to make – a difference in the world through their hard work, dedication and commitment to a cause. Her path has not always been an easy one, as you can imagine, and she has learned through trial and error as much as through her successes. However, she has made a demonstrable contribution to animal conservation, which has been extensively recognised by the Queen, the UN, the Kenyan Government and the University of Glasgow, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in June 2000. Her hard work has made a difference to the lives of countless species.

Hard work almost invariably pays off. I say time and again to my students – and children – that anything that is worth anything in life demands hard work, and this is a fact to be embraced and enjoyed. Hard work brings satisfaction and fulfilment, in whichever sphere; when it is focused on a meaningful subject which matters not just for the individual but for others too, then the satisfaction and fulfilment is multiplied.

We all have choices in life; choosing to work hard and to seek to make a difference is a worthy choice to make, and one which we should all encourage in ourselves and in others. Dame or no Dame, we can – and should – work hard to help make this world a better, more harmonious, more respectful place.



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