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Happy New Year Havasi Wilderness fans! 2018 was an incredible year for our foundation and for students across Ventura and Los Angeles County. In addition to the wonder we experienced last year, we were also touched by the devastating loss from multiple wildfires, the emotional recovery that remains, and several inspirational achievements in space.  We are just one week into 2019 and already this year has hinted at more exciting opportunities to report on wilderness news and to help the next generation better understand their surroundings. Before we jump ahead to all that 2019 has in store for us, let’s take a look at some of what we accomplished in 2018!

Last year HWF sponsored wilderness education with Topanga Canyon and Malibu Lagoon RCD and the Hungarian children’s school, wrote a number of compelling wildlife blogs, and attended fascinating Lunch and Learns at the California Science Center.  Thanks to our remarkable community of support, HWF has had a pretty stupendous 2018 and we’re taking this positive energy into the new year.

Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains

Since 2010, the Havasi Wilderness Foundation has been helping to fund the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains’ outdoor education programs. With this funding, students from Los Angeles County are able to visit Topanga State Park or Malibu Lagoon and explore the wildlife in those chaparral and wetland environments. In 2018, HWF toured 13 schools that benefit from the HWF-funded educational wilderness field trips and presented medals of achievement to over 1,000 students. Next week, if there is not a teacher’s strike, we are gearing up to join the students that are scheduled to visit the Malibu Lagoon and help tell their story.

Kelly Kazmirchuk, the Education Program Coordinator for the Santa Monica Mountains chapter of RCD, has expressed that 2019 is going to be a year packed with educational wilderness opportunities for program beneficiaries and we cannot wait to share what we learn along the way. Also, in 2019 our website will feature downloadable activity sheets to help visitors and students across the country learn more about the chaparral and wetlands, so be sure to watch for these and try them out!

Brentwood Elementary Students share their experience with RCD in May 2018. Photo Credit: Alex Havasi

A Trip to Hungary and Then to the Hungarian Children’s School

HWF Founder and Director, Alex Havasi, spent the majority of his life in his native Hungary where he cultivated a love for wild spaces and the animals that inhabit them. After visiting Hungary last July, HWF founders were enthused to share their experience of the wilderness conscious country with us.  Just an hour outside of Budapest’s city center, the small town of Veresegyház, Hungary is home to Medveotthon (Hungarian for “bear home”), an animal sanctuary that brings guests face-to-face with one of the continent’s largest mammals, the Eurasian Brown Bear.  On their visit, Marilyn and Alex fed bears globs of honey which clung to large wooden spoons that could be stuck through metal fencing. These up-close bear encounters aren’t the only thing that shows off Hungary’s compassion for animals. The government has also sanctioned the building of public nests on top of their telephone poles so that local and migrating birds can easily find shelter.

This past October, HWF met with the 54 students at the Grace Hungarian Reformed Church in Reseda whose educational programs assist the American children of Hungarian heritage to retain their roots.  During their visit, Alex and Marilyn gave a presentation on bird migration from Africa to Hungary, showed photos of the telephone nests, and spoke to the kids about their upcoming wilderness trips that have been sponsored by HWF. Teacher, Krisztina Kecskei, explained that this year, students will collect “Havasi points” during their spring break challenge by completing wildlife activities and will be able to submit photos of wild spaces for the HWF photography contest. We look forward to reporting back on the student’s experiences before summer 2019!

Wilderness Exploration

Whether covering the whale migrations as seen from the Channel Islands, the flooded streets of Venice, Italy, or the crystal clear waters of the Yucatan’s cenotes, 2018 was a well-traveled year for members of the HWF team.  For members of our team, travel has become a much-appreciated privilege that provides experiential learning about cultural and wildlife norms that are different from our own.  2019 is already shaping up to be a year of travel that will allow us to share voices and photos from around the globe. We’ve just returned from Yosemite, CA where people and wildlife are feeling the full effect of the government shut down, and are excited to share these perspectives with you in our very next blog.

Limestone and stalactites in Tulum’s Cenote. Photo credit: Lola West

California Science Center Programming

In 2018, the California Science Center (CSC) hosted some pretty spectacular Lunch and Learns— covering topics from Panda conservation in the mountains of Sichuan, China to Climate change in the Alaskan tundra. Every chance we get to sit and listen to the experts that visit the CSC offers us insight into some of the many wonders of our natural world. This coming year is no exception. In March 2019, the Science Center will debut their newest exhibit— Dogs! A Science Tail— and give visitors a chance to explore the scientific bond between humans and canines while walking through interactive exhibits that reveal dogs’ amazing ability to smell, hear, and navigate the world. Stay tuned for a detailed review of the exhibit and insider information coming to you this Spring!

Whether you’re a long-time follower of the Havasi Wilderness Foundation or you’ve just joined us, we thank you for supporting the work we do. With your help, we can continue to increase environmental awareness across the globe and encourage compassion for animals and the natural world. HWF hopes to keep doing this important work, but the reality is that we cannot do it alone. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to fund the future of wilderness education. If you cannot afford a donation, that’s okay— take a walk outside, investigate the world around you, and share with others the importance of caring for our planet.

Blessings to you for a happy, healthy, and adventurous 2019!

Marilyn Fordney and Alex Havasi at Machu Picchu

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