Wilderness is thrilled to announce that the 4Cs Hero of 2013 is Symon Chibaka of Malawi. Symon has not only embraced all that he has been required to do in the various roles he has filled for Wilderness Safaris, but has settled into one for which he has a real affinity and ability and has made it his, achieving great results. Symon has independently made adjustments to the Children in the Wilderness programme within Malawi that are now being adopted in other countries as standard operating practices for CITW. The Eco-Clubs are a case in point, as is his strong integration of all 4Cs into his curriculum and activities. He is an excellent example to others across the Company.
The 4Cs Hero Awards this year were characterised by strong contenders with strong motivating stories and outstanding determination, commitment and achievements by all the individuals. A difficult vote by our judging panel of sustainability coordinators (Derek de la Harpe, Kimberley Barker, Sue Snyman and Brett Wallington) was eventually won by Symon.
SYMON CHIBAKA – MALAWI
Symon has been with Wilderness Safaris Malawi for years, initially as a guide, then as a programme coordinator for Children in the Wilderness (CITW) and then from 2009 as its Programme Director. We believe he has been instrumental in driving the Malawi CITW Programme to adapt and to extend itself well beyond its initial brief of running successful camp programmes.
It was Symon who right from the outset saw that while a meaningful follow-up programme could keep past campers engaged and involved, what was also crucial was the idea of environmental clubs to take place before and after the Camp Programmes. He therefore designed and put in place Eco-Club programmes, which are being used as templates in other countries, as well as helping to shape the whole future of the programme across the Group – as was evidenced by the most recent get-together in Hwange.
Active since 2003, CITW Malawi has seen growth in the programme and the introduction of numerous successful community development projects year on year. The Eco-Club programme is extensive and reaches more than 650 children in remote, rural areas of Malawi. As part of this, children are engaged in tree nursery projects looking at reforestation in a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in southern Africa. In 2011, CITW Malawi became involved in the Chintheche Inn Reforestation Project, the children subsequently taking part in the process of tubing, seeding, distributing and planting. In 2012, project director Master Banda and the children propagated over 28 000 trees of a variety of different species, which were in turn distributed to over 15 local community clubs and schools. CITW Eco-Club members at Nanthomba School, adjacent to Liwonde National Park followed suite, raising 30 000 seedlings of different tree and fruit species. The seedlings were distributed to local village conservation clubs, schools and churches in the surrounding communities.
Through CITW Malawi, Symon has also run a scholarship programme for disadvantaged children for seven years, with sponsorship from well-wishers and supporters. So far, the programme has helped 144 needy children to access higher education, something that they would have not been able to do without a scholarship. Currently 81 children are being sponsored in various secondary schools. From among those who have finished their secondary schooling, four have found jobs, while two others are studying at Teachers’ Training Colleges. The importance of formal education in terms of securing future employment cannot be overemphasised.
Finally, via the Eco-Clubs, CITW and Symon have been involved in fence patrols around Liwonde National Park in order to assist in mitigating human-wildlife conflict. A photography and electronic media course last year provided children with important new skills and increased their confidence. In partnership with the Malawi CITW projects, H.E.L.P. Malawi (www.helpchildren.org), an NGO based at Mvuu Camp, supports and administers numerous projects in the villages adjacent to Liwonde National Park, including Nanthomba School, Nandumbo Clinic, Entrepreneurial Projects, Scholarship programmes, etc.
Through his constant energy, commitment to the principles of the 4Cs in all their permutations – but particularly with regards to the children – and his ability to see beyond the present, Symon has materially changed the lives of hundreds of children for the good, and through them, their communities and their impact on Malawi’s natural heritage. It is for all this that he is deservedly this year’s 4Cs Hero.
Background to the 4Cs Hero Award
Wilderness is defined by the “4Cs” – Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture. But the 4Cs are only as good as people in the company make them. And so the 4Cs Hero Award recognises and rewards the achievements of the unsung heroes of Wilderness. And in fact, the heroes we’ve nominated come from all over our family, from the back of house to the offices, but each one is involved in the day-to-day implementation of our 4Cs philosophies and thus embodies some or all the aspects of the 4Cs.