Santa Rita student's fundraiser continues quest to save elephants

Courtesy of Shaye Chirotarrab
Uma Chirotarrab and friends fundraise for elephants last year on Main Street. Uma will be in the same spot today.

For the third year in a row, Uma Chirotarrab won’t be spending the day before Thanksgiving shopping or preparing for a family feast. Instead, she’ll be at her usual post for the day: on Main Street collecting funds for the Tusk Foundation, which protects elephants in Africa.

“I’ve always loved elephants,” said Uma, a sixth-grader at Santa Rita School. “So when I found out they were endangered, I really wanted to help.”

Uma started by asking for money to donate to the Tusk Foundation as birthday gifts, but the Los Altos resident soon realized that she could raise only so much. She had to think bigger if she wanted to do more. Two years ago, Uma set up on Main Street the day before Thanksgiving to solicit donations from passersby, armed with a smile, homemade cookies and facts about elephants.

Uma’s mom, Shaye Chirotarrab, helped her search for the right charity.

“We wanted to find one that we knew would be reputable and that was really functioning in a global capacity,” Shaye said.

In addition to fundraising, Uma aims to educate Los Altos residents.

“In 20 years, if we don’t make a change, they’re going to be extinct,” she said vehemently. “When you tell people those kinds of things, it urges them to come and help.”

So is this the beginning of her career as a conservationist?

“I’ll always want to help out and still do this,” said Uma, not quite ready to settle on a career path.

This year, Uma’s cause is especially urgent. Last week, the Trump administration confirmed that it had lifted the previous administration’s ban on importing elephant trophies.

Uma is scheduled to be on Main Street, in front of Sethi, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today.

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