Olivia Bouler, an 11-year-old girl from New York, raises thousands of dollars in donations with her drawings of birds endangered by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
There are very few heart-warming stories to come out of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but here's something to lift the spirits.
An 11-year-old girl called Olivia Bouler, from Islip, New York, has helped to raise thousands of dollars for various conservation charities by offering to donate dozens of her exquisite bird drawings to anyone pledging money. She says her inspiration came after bursting into tears when watching a news report about the slick's advance towards the gulf coast shoreline where she holidays each year with her family.
A Facebook page called Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations has attracted more than 800 fans and the president of the National Audubon Society, one of the US's largest conservation charities, has personally written to Olivia to thank her for her kind gesture. This is the letter she first wrote to the society offering her artistic services:
Dear Audubon Society,
As you are all aware of, the oil spill in the Gulf is devastating. My mom has already donated a lot of money to help, but I have an idea that may also help. I am a decent drawer, and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and the profits to your organization. My mom is in touch with an art gallery where I live. She is going to sell them here. I also am hoping to go to Cornell in the future. I want to become an ornithologist. I know a few species of birds. I also acknowledge that this is breeding time for plovers, terns etc. I will do all in my strength to earn money. All I need is your OK. Here is a picture of a northern cardinal as a sample.
Thank you for your time.
11 years and willing to help.
The Audubon Society immediately contacted her parents and asked if it could buy one of the drawings to hang in its Manhattan headquarters. Charity officials then discussed how best to use Olivia's bird paintings as a fund-raising tool and it was decided, with her permission, that her watercolours of birds would be used to raise money for several groups, including the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the Weeks Bay Foundation and the Sierra Club.
Anyone who makes a donation to these groups is being asked to email Olivia's mother (email@example.com) and Olivia will then draw a bird with pencil, paint it, and post it to the donor. One imagines that Olivia has already become overwhelmed with requests and a full-blown auction is the next logical step, followed, of course, by talk of book and movie deals.
One of the first recipients of Olivia's artworks was her grandmother who lives in Monroeville, Alabama, which lies about 100km inland from the Gulf shoreline. On Mother's Day, Olivia called Jane Bouler and asked if she would buy one of her paintings.
"When I found out the scope of what this one child was attempting to do - I still can barely talk about it without a tremor in my voice," Jane Bouler told Al.com, a local news website. "This child is doing what we all should be doing and she genuinely wants to help the birds."
The story has echoes of the Children's Eternal Rainforest. In 1987, a class of Swedish school children, upon hearing about the destruction of rainforests around the world, decided to bake and sell cakes to raise money to buy a small tract of land near Monteverde in Costa Rica. The story quickly went viral – it featured on Blue Peter in the UK – and within a few months thousands of children around the world had collectively raised enough money to secure thousands of acres in perpetuity. The fund-raising continues to this day and, to date, children from 44 countries have secured 54,000 acres, thereby creating Costa Rica's largest private rainforest preserve.
Fingers crossed, Olivia's brilliant, inspirational efforts go on to have a similar impact. After all, it's not every day that an 11-year-old schoolgirl, armed only with an ebony pencil and a watercolour brush, gets to utterly outshine the pitiful efforts of a multinational corporation such as BP.