"I was visiting Kenya with friends in 2009, and one day, while we were on a safari, we came across an orphaned, injured baby elephant. Rescuers from the trust were notified, and so I saw firsthand the devoted work that these people do -- to save and rehabilitate these beautiful creatures -- and it deeply affected me. Honestly, I have days where I dream about them and can't sleep thinking about it … but I am glad I know what's going on so that I can try to help."
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
What's the one thing you'd like people to know about the elephants or that might surprise people?
"That because of poachers killing them for their ivory tusks, these beloved creatures are at risk of becoming extinct. Yes, extinct. I'm not sure people realize that they are truly at risk, and of how bad the situation has become in many parts of Africa. Elephants have no natural predator, except for humans -- so if they do become extinct we will have no one to blame but ourselves. The black market ivory ring has gotten so bad. An elephant is butchered every 15 minutes, which leaves many baby elephants left alone to die."
You're also a global ambassador for Oxfam. Do you ever feel torn between an animal cause and also such an important human one?
"Actually, the work is all very related, I think. Combating extreme poverty is at the root of Oxfam, and if poverty didn't exist, much of the poaching could dwindle. After all, many of the poachers -- the ones who are out there hunting the elephants -- are poor people with limited choices but to engage in this practice. We need to protect everyone who is at risk, and who can't feed their families so that they are safer and happier."
Has your work abroad slowed down since adopting your daughter, Gemma, more than 2 years ago?
"Only somewhat; I still go back at least once a year -- I was in Kenya last May. I haven't brought her with me just yet. But soon, she'll be right alongside me."