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Eco Warrior Award 2020

- Bernadette Joeman -

Me giving briefing to children on  birdi

Since 2017 we have recognised hundreds of individuals who go the extra mile for the environment in various ways through a platform called the Eco Champion Awards. This initiative rewards those who have been contributing to their communities with commitment and passion for the environment. 


The award recipients were chosen based on their leadership skills to influence and change their communities’ views on sustainability. They have played a significant role in guiding change for sustainable practices and have become a great inspiration to many other young leaders. This year we introduced a new category called Eco Warrior Award, which celebrates powerful allies to the environment with their primary aspiration to educate and empower.

One of the two recipients is Madam Bernadette D Joeman from Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), Sabah Forestry Department. She is actively involved in environmental conservation work in Sabah, especially in the pillars of capacity building, community outreach, and environmental education. The on-going main work is the environmental education programmes for visiting students to RDC since 1997. In community outreach, she organises the Sepilok Junior Rangers Programme targeted at children from age 9 to 17 in the Sepilok area and the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Awareness Programme targeting communities living near forest reserves in Sabah. For capacity building, she is also actively engaged with educators and young adults through the Environmental Education Race (EERace), an environmental education course designed for teachers, and the Student Internship Programmes in RDC, which targets students from a wide range of local universities.

Talking about 3R with students at a  Roa

The single powerful inspiration behind all these initiatives is the opportunity to make a difference in how the targeted audience perceives the environment in their life. She believes that every little thing that can affect the lives that they touch is the opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted away.

Along the eco-journey, Madam Bernadette has faced a few challenges, and two particularly stood out. Once, they met manpower shortage during events management like the EERace as the team needed to run the RDC at the same time. On another occasion, they encountered payment issues to certain local service providers in different events. In the local area, oftentimes, only cash is used in terms of payment, especially in rural areas. As a government department, the team does not have cash in hand, and every payment has to be done according to the Government’s Technical Impracticability (TI).

Training communities in composting  duri

To overcome the challenges, she would shuffle in staff from the Sabah Environmental Education Network (SEEN) members to help out in the EERace. They also trained most RDC staff, such as the receptionists, maintenance staff, and other non-education staff, in organising the EERace and other EE activities. On the financial side, the team has engaged with a licensed third party to facilitate payment to adhere to government TI while ensuring that the community involved is paid in the shortest time.

A few important notes that Madam Bernadette has learned along the eco-journey and foresee to carry over into the future is that there will always be challenges in any endeavor and environmental conservation work is no exception. As an environmental educator, it is essential to believe in the pursuit and perform the best in given resources at any time. Perseverance is crucial.

To share a few words with the young blood, Madam Bernadette emphasises that environmental conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Some people are naturally inclined towards the conservation of nature. However, there are also many who need the push to ignite the awareness before they decide to act on it, against it, or simply ignore it. This is where environmental educators may come in as a game-changer. It is easier to mold children than adults. This is why many programmes targeted children, students, and youth from different age groups to amplify the impact. However, this does not mean that the adult group is being discriminated against in the pillars of environmental education. This is also where the EERace targeted existing educators came into the agenda. It is essential for trained environmental educators to know their audience group and design the best teaching framework based on their needs and criteria. 

To end, Madam Bernadette emphasizes that eco-educators need to immerse themselves in the moment of every work to enjoy the interaction with the audience. That is where the true inspiration to protect the environment sparks and spreads across to the next soul.

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