April 2013 – At an exciting and highly productive workshop held at Davison’s Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Regional Directors, Camp Coordinators and other educators from all seven countries in which CITW operates came together to trade expertise and take the educational and environmental aims of the organisation to yet another level.
The workshop began with action, and useful action at that: a CITW camp programme was run for the children of Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe staff. For three days, 12 children between 8 and 13 enjoyed all the classic components of a CITW camp: game drives, team building, life skill activities, environmental education and more. Every country contributed to the curriculum – from Zambia’s “my name is Joe” energisers to Botswana and Namibia’s crocodile crossing team builder. In this way every region was able to see other methods in practice; between sessions, everywhere one looked different nationalities were comparing notes and learning from one another.
Once the kids left, satisfied with lion sightings, songs and new friendships alike, the 25 adults got down to serious discussions on various aspects of CITW, but with a specific focus on the broadening of its pre- and post-camp reach. Originally, CITW comprised yearly camps with follow-up programmes that took place afterwards for the participants. Over the years however, each country has added to this according to its needs, such as nutrition schemes, mentor training and scholarships. The idea of CITW EcoClubs, begun in Malawi in 2006, came to full fruition at this workshop with Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana presenting their different methods and curricula to the group. Everything from environmental projects to sizes of classes, training of teachers to budgets needed was discussed with verve and vigour by all present, and a plan of action decided on. As a result, CITW EcoClubs are now officially part of the CITW yearly programme in all seven countries of operation, beginning generally from Grade 5 onwards. In this way, EcoClub members will be the pool from which the camp programme participants will be taken, and in turn, ex-campers will be able to inspire their fellow members during EcoClub sessions afterwards.
It was emphasised that EcoClubs will serve as support for environmental clubs that may exist already in schools – and where these do not, teachers and parents are consulted every step of the way so that CITW is a collaborative process within the communities that neighbour the wild areas in which Wilderness Safaris has its camps. EcoClubs thus function as one of the first steps of a child on his or her path to become a leader in helping to save the planet.
The passion for the children and the wildlife of their countries, the refusal to give in to the obstacles before them, the connective, enthusiastic discussions between everyone, the keen faces, the in-jokes, formal and informal chats, the laughter – all of this combined to create a few days of explosive bursts of energy that bodes well for the future of such a vibrant and innovative programme.
The workshop ended with a trip to the nearby schools of Ziga and Ngamo where school upliftment, teacher training and nutrition schemes are taking place under the auspices of CITW Zimbabwe.
For further information about Children in the Wilderness, please visit www.childreninthewilderness.com