CITW Walking Trail - One for the girls

Sep 2, 2013 |  Conservation & Wildlife
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The five girls arrived with Leonard from Mphata Tours, very shy and some fairly intimidated by being in the bush. Gogos Sarah & Maria joined us as Elders from the Makuleke village. Vuxeni, Patricia, Cynthia, Molly & Delight soon started to relax thanks to Derek’s jokes and the staff singing and dancing when welcoming them into camp.

After John’s opening prayer and the safety talk, the girls had to answer some tough questions. “What is Chief Makuleke’s real name?”, “South Africa’s National bird?”, “What animal is on the R10 note” in order to receive their CITW bags and shirts. 

After a great lunch of hotdogs and lots of tomato sauce, the girls each selected an animal for their research project. Dan and Godfrey took them on their first afternoon game drive. Derek joined them as the un-official joker and photographer.

After dinner we sat around the fire while Crispen and Godfrey told stories about opportunities and leadership values. Great examples were used as well by the gogos who eagerly participated as well.

After lights out, I could still hear the girls chatting in their tents and going through the leadership values “be kind, be aware, be ….”

The next morning we started at 06h30 with some energizers lead by Derek, followed by a  photography class after breakfast. We did some practice photos in the trails camp where most of the girls posed with the land cruiser. Dan, Godfrey and the gogos took the girls to Deku. Here they learned first-hand from Gogo Maria about living at Deku and the history behind the name and the baobab.  They all returned to camp for a hot shower, some lunch and quiet time (not that there was much “quiet time”…as I could hear giggles and chats about the game drive).

After quiet time we made twig frames for their photos and the Gogos taught us all how to make beaded necklaces and bracelets. It is not as easy as it looks!

I joined the girls for the afternoon game drive and we went to Reedbuck vlei. Throughout the previous couple of days we talked about photographic safaris vs hunting safaris. We also covered the impact on the environment from poachers, littering, vehicles etc. At Reedbuck vlei there were off road tracks that the girls, gogos, guides and I rehabilitated by dragging branches over the tracks. We returned to camp via the Luvuvhu bridge where Dan (at this stage already a hero) did a star talk. Scorpio, the Southern Cross and Leo constellations were the highlights that most of the girls “what was the most exciting thing I learned today” chat ted about around the fire later that night. The girls were so excited about the day that around 23h00 I had to ask for some quiet due to all the chatter from their tents. Gogo Sarah mentioned the next day that she never knew about direction (north, south east and west).

The following day after the girls returned from their  morning game drive, all prearranged plans for the rest of the day were changed when two snakes decided to bring their fight into camp (and as Molly mentioned “no fighting, it is a camp rule”). With a snake under the gogos’ tent and another above one of the girls’ tents, there was quite a bit of excitement. Two elephant bulls also came to visit us. Godfrey & Dan did a great job on keeping the girls calm and still, telling them about elephants. Each girl presented their project on a chosen animal and left for the afternoon game drive in high spirits. Highlights around the fire this evening included the elephants, opportunities, and the traditional use of zebra hooves. During dinner the girls expressed more interest in the stars so we decided to go out to the airstrip… found Scorpio, Leo, two leopards  and heard a lion. What a day!

On the last morning, the lions woke us up early). After Derek’s dancing energizers we had breakfast, followed by the Market (an additional activity expanding more on commerce and monetory values. Crispen ran a tough market where the girls spent their CITW currency that they received from “selling” their photographs. He insisted that each girl must tell him what the change should be for each item. The girls “bought” a small manicure set and mammal book.

The trail ended with the final ceremony of handing out certificates, necklaces, photos and Super Leader badges.  

Game viewing was unbelievable …eland, zebra, impala, nyala, warthog, elephant, leopard,  baboon, vervet monkey, a genet…just to name a few. Leopard were heard calling every night and we had buffalo around camp.

From my side …

The small, intimate groups of children, where individual attention can be given to each child is definitely the way forward to mentor and guide our leaders of tomorrow. The flexibility of the small group also allowed us to adjust the program according to the children’s interest. Having a smaller group we could also discuss topics like leadership values, correct table manners, teenage pregnancy, give positive criticism while doing oral presentations and which subjects to take in Grade 10 to be able to achieve their dreams. The market idea was a bigger success with the girls compared to the boys as the girls had a better understanding of money and values in general. The elders in the groups were a great idea and both the boys and girls learned more about their own culture. Having spent such precious time with the children is an extremely humbling experience. The children were enthusiastic and wanted to talk about their dreams. They asked lots of questions and they wanted to know the answers. They wanted to laugh and to dance. And mostly they were like sponges …eager to absorb every bit of information. 

It was a privilege to host these children…thank you for MY opportunity.  

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By Janet Wilkinson

Janet is the Coordinator for Children in the Wilderness South Africa, running camp programmes at Pafuri Camp and Rocktail Beach Camp, followed by Eco Clubs at various rural villages.

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