This is why your children need to know about Isabel and Melati Wijsen: These girls understand that making change requires more than passion and commitment. Creating change requires perseverance and grit - a lesson that they learned through their 8 years of eco-activism and shared with millions of viewers on a TED talk.
So who are Melati and Isabel Wijsen?
The half-Dutch half-Indonesian sisters were only 10 and 12 years old when they first started their project: Bye Bye Plastic Bags, a youth-driven NGO that empowers people to say NO to plastic bags. But of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2013, Melati and Isabel decided that they wanted to be change-makers so they chose a cause near and dear to their hearts - plastic pollution on their home island of Bali, Indonesia. I won’t dive into the details of the project because that’s all available on google. What I do want to mention is this:
- It took 2 years of campaigning before they were able to gain enough to convince the Governor of Bali to commit to reducing plastic use on the island.
- It took 5 years of beach cleanups, activism campaigns and collaborations with other activists before the Balinese government announced a law banning single-use plastic.
- 7 years later, the sisters make it onto the 2020 Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia at age 17 and 19.
As adults, we can get a bit weary about what's possible. We've seen enough projects to know that this kind of timeline... for these kinds of milestones - it’s ambitious, especially for a pair of teenage sisters who still need to keep up at school.
But for our children, taking on the world's problems is an exciting adventure surrounded by the allure of what's possible! It’s for this exact reason that they won’t shy away from championing the change that we need.
So what does this mean?
Despite all their impressive achievements, even Isabel and Melati recognize that sometimes it can get hard to walk your talk and that they couldn't have done it without the support of their friends and family. With passion and commitment, and your support, the kids will develop grit and perseverance.
To help you spark a conversation with your kids about grit and perseverance, here are some guiding questions:
(It's a good idea to take turns with your child in answering these questions to really cement the idea that grit and perseverance isn't just a one-time thing but an ongoing effort!)
- Which of your friends have you known for 2 years? 5 years? 7 years?
- Was it easy to be friends with them for that long?
- Can you remember what you were doing 2 years ago? 5 years ago? 7 years ago?
- How much have you grown since then? Are you taller? Did your school grades improve?
- Is there a skill you've been working on that you've gotten better at?
- How much did you practise to make progress?
- What were some challenges to making progress that you faced? And how did you tackle them?
These questions should guide them into realising how much can happen in 2 or 5 or 7 years! It's also a great moment to complete an appraisal of all of their growth and achievement and to revisit a few items they may have forgotten about!
And for those of us with teenagers, here's some perspective on the amount of time it took for Isabel and Melati to reach their milestones!
* This timeframe is based on a 4 years pre-med program followed by 4 years in medical school.