In 1991, a group of 12 local teenagers met with Dr. Jane Goodall on her back porch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They were eager to discuss a range of problems they knew about from first-hand experience that caused them deep concern.
Their discussion covered topics such as pollution in the city, deforestation in the mountains, the welfare of domestic animals and the future of wild animals, including Dr. Jane's threatened chimpanzees.
These motivated young people wanted to learn more, they were willing to take action and they hoped that their peers would join with them to help make a difference. Dr. Jane was impressed by their compassion, their energy and their desire to develop a grassroots style solution to problems. Although Dr. Jane was involved in their meetings, the project was carried out totally by the teens. This first-ever Roots & Shoots project was local—educating villagers about more humane treatment of chickens at home and in the region's markets. It was a small program, but encompassed all the hallmarks of what makes Roots & Shoots so special even today: youth-driven projects fueled by knowledge, compassion and action.
Today, the Roots & Shoots network has blossomed into tens of thousands of members in nearly 100 countries, all working on local and global community service projects. Dr. Jane's unique, flexible model for youth engagement, aided by resources and guidance provided by Roots & Shoots leaders and staff, sets the Roots & Shoots program apart from the rest.