Hand Up Congo: Send Your Old Cellphones, Honor Gregoire!

Children have a way of connecting with animals more than people sometimes, and it’s not often that I have an opportunity to help out both in one media-based nugget to unite the interconnectedness of all.

Gregoire, known to many as the ‘star’ of the Animal Planet film, Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe, and a National Geographic cover boy in 1995, was also the senior statesman for the Jane Goodall Institute’s many kids’ programs including Roots and Shoots and chimpanzee protection from the bushmeat trade.

This beloved media outreach ambassador peacefully died in his sleep among his eucalyptus leaves leaving a legacy of hope to people far BEYOND the Congo…

Many of you know I’m an absolute animal nut, and have found all creatures great and small to be a life passion, so it’s no surprise that kids and animals blur into parallel life lessons in my work at times. Gregoire’s recovery from adversity, stubborn survival despite neglect, civil war and amazing challenges embodies the same resilience I’ve seen in kids…

He lived a ‘happily ever after last half’ of his long life and media became the conduit for outreach so there seems to be a corollary here that I can’t ignore: My dear friend Betsy Brill, CEO/Dir. of Hand Up Congo is in need of used cellphones, which Phone Fund has offered to ship for free (details & Gregoire video after the jump)

So I say why not combine the two media moments in a tribute to engage kids in primate to primate solidarity to bridge the gap in a ‘twofer’ life lesson of kids’ helping animals and kids helping kids!

It won’t cost you a cent.

You use media to pay it forward! The interconnection between living things is priceless as kids learn how to be agents of change themselves.

It somehow seems fitting that Gregoire could help kids promote sustainable livelihoods in Africa, even after he’s passed away…so I love this idea of celebrating his life rather than mourning his death.

After all, this chimp was a ‘party animal.’

Every year Gregoire’s birthday was honored by JGI and his curiosity came through in each celebration, as one of the sanctuary managers wrote about his special day in 2004:

“It was a joyful occasion and we laughed a lot, particularly when Jane gave Gregoire his surprise — a box full of fruits that he opened with great enthusiasm but with all the care of the wisest and oldest chimp in Africa.”

“First, he looked at the blue wrapping topped with pink bougainvillea flowers.

Then, very slowly he made a tiny little hole to look through.

When he saw the hidden oranges, he started screaming in joy and grabbed one that he held and showed to the crowd, full of happiness and pride. Then he approached all his friends, proudly showing the treasure, which he kept aside for later.”

So celebrate Gregoire’s media life by donating your used media tools to Hand Up Congo…and know that BOTH worthy organizations could use a ‘hand up, not a hand out’ if you feel so inclined.

This is a FREEBIE way to make a difference in the Congo AND pay tribute to Gregoire…

Enjoy the poignant video of Gregoire below and DO

remind kids when their focus turns to animals so instinctively, there are humans of grace and gentle dignity that could use some of that compassion as well!

Hand Up Congo: Cost-free ways to give a hand UP to Lotumbe

Collect old cell phones
Collect outdated cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras and laptops and ship them — FREE — to the Phone Fund, which will give HandUp Congo cash in return!

* Pack them up securely
* Weigh them
* Email Phone Fund (be sure HandUp Congo is in the subject line) with the box weight. A bathroom scale works just fine for weighing.

* Include your name and mailing address.

* You will receive an email linking you to your FedEx shipping labels online.
* Print out your labels and affix them to your box(es).
* Ship at your convenience and at Phone Fund’s expense!

Don’t forget to note in the box that the items are for HandUp Congo…

Here’s the compelling video of Gregoire…

You’ll be celebrating Gregoire’s resilient life and his media magic by discarding your media into the HandUp Congo crew’s hands…

I can imagine him grinning and hollering already!! 🙂

In Memoriam: Gregoire, 1942-2008 from The Jane Goodall Institute on Vimeo.

“The illegal commercial bushmeat trade is one of the leading threats to wild chimpanzees.  For every orphan chimpanzee that authorities confiscate from the underground market and turn over to a sanctuary like Tchimpounga, we estimate there are at least 10 adults and adolescents killed. Despite this tragic backdrop, life at the sanctuaries — where orphans are given loving care, room to roam, and time to heal — is anything but bleak.”

“As news of Gregoire’s death circulated yesterday, messages of condolence and sympathy made their way to Jane and JGI from around the world”…

Here are a couple of other JGI ways kids can connect with the cause:

Write Jane a message of condolence
Visit the Gregoire photo gallery
Make a gift to JGI in honor of Gregoire



  1. The perfect way to acknowledge Gregoire…probably far more people cared FOR Gregoire than the other primitive George Bush!

  2. This was a lovely e-mail from Jane Goodall’s group today,

    “Dear Friends, I wanted to write to thank all of you for your expressions of support and condolence after Gregoire’s passing.

    We received hundreds of very kind and heartfelt messages. Each letter meant so much to me, and to all of us at JGI. It’s wonderful to see how many hearts Gregoire touched.

    Obviously it would be best if I could write my thanks to each of you personally. Unfortunately that isn’t possible. Please accept this e-communication, then, as an expression of my gratitude and an acknowledgment of the ways in which Gregoire’s story resonates with our desire for a compassionate world.

    I find that people who care deeply for animals often find creative, life-changing ways to express compassion to human and nonhuman beings alike. The determination of so many to make a better world sustains me during my almost nonstop travels to promote our work.

    Please know that your steadfast support and good wishes are critical to JGI. You help us build a future in which chimpanzees are thriving in the wild and you help us move orphaned chimpanzees from a bleak and painful existence to one filled with much light and love, just as Gregoire’s life changed for the better in his latter years.

    Sincerely, Jane Goodall”

  3. Cool!! thank

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