Please share your stories with us.
This is a story about a dear friend of mine named Sopi who lived in the small village of Masihulan, on Seram Island in Eastern Indonesia. The village is quite small - about 400 people and they live a very simple life. Up until 2005 there was no electricity, no running water and very little food. To support his family Sopi worked as a trapper providing birds to the illegal trade. He made very little money at this but he needed to feed his children.
We met him in 2003 when we were developing an eco-tourism program to combat trapping and to hire the local trappers as guides in the forest. Then local people embraced this idea and Sopi became one of our lead guides. He was proud of his new job to protect the birds and animals of the forest.
A year later we were camping deep in the forest one night and he admitted to me that not long before that his son got very, very sick and they had no money for medicine or food. He said he went into his garden and saw a cockatoo. He took it and sold it. He was crying as he spoke to me, he said "I know it was wrong, but when I looked into my wifes' eyes I knew I had to do it. I have not done it since."
We forgave him and sent him to Bali for training to be the first local man to work at our avian rehabilitation facility on the island. When Sopi arrived at the wild animal rescue center he stopped in front of a cage and began to weep. The birds in the cage were the very same birds he trapped. He recognized that they should be free - just as he was.
He came back a changed man. Sopi worked as our lead guide and caretaker at the facility. He began to have many serious health problems over the next few years and he spent time in the hospital - he had developed a rare form of cancer.
But he was always asking about the birds. In 2006 we were at the facility to do a first release of some of the very same parrots that he had trapped back into the wild. He was on his deathbed in the village with his family around him, waiting to hear about the birds going back to the forest. As soon as the birds left one of the men went running into the village to tell Sopi. When Sopi heard he smiled, and said "the birds are free again and so am I." And he passed at that moment.
His compassion for his family, his friends and the animals was abundant.