Elke van Gils spent a whole week baking for her friends, family and acquaintances. Apple pie for 10 euro and Hedgehog slice 6 euro – extra donations are ‘more than welcome’. The master student earned almost 800 euro for her thesis research in Gabon.
‘I am doing two masters. Two years ago, when I went to Madagascar for Biology, I had applied for grants, but right before my departure I still did not know if I would receive them. I then started baking and in three weeks I collected 1000 euro.’
Now Elke is ready to leave to Gabon for her thesis research on bush meat trade, with which she wants to complete her master in forest and nature conservation. ‘The local population is often blamed for the decline of threatened species, because they hunt them. But sometimes they do not have an alternative, while there are also commercial hunters who sell the meat in the city, where bush meat is becoming a more popular luxury product.’
Elke also shared this story in a message that she told her friends and acquaintances, which she ended with a call to order cakes. The request worked: the orders started rolling in and many people payed more than strictly necessary. ‘They know that I have wanted to go to Africa since I was a child. Now they could lend a hand. And because I worked in the catering sector in Weert, there were also many people that ordered multiple cakes at once for their store.’
Elke hopes to leave in March, as soon as everything regarding the visa and permits is arranged. She has already found a purpose for her cake money. ‘I will pay the flight ticket from my own savings, but I will also need to hire an interpreter and a guide, buy research material and compensate the locals if they cooperate in interviews and group sessions. And I need to pay for board and lodging.