March 2018 – Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is proud to announce the success story of a former Eco-Club star, Thabo Maluleke, who recently began a new chapter in his life at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) located in Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa.
Thabo on his first CITW Camp in 2011;in action during his internship with SANParks in 2016 and on duty at HESC 2018
Thabo Maluleke comes from the Makuleke community in South Africa’s Limpopo province and has been passionate about wildlife and conservation since his first CITW Eco-Club lesson at Boxahuku Primary School in 2011. He has dreamed of becoming a veterinary doctor ever since.
Through the help of CITW, Thabo started his journey at HESC in the beginning of 2018 where he was appointed as a General Assistant under the Canine Unit. A typical day for Thabo starts early with feeding his charges, thereafter he helps with the kennels and walks the dogs that are ‘off duty’. Thabo completed his Grade 12 in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Pass. While working at HESC, CITW plans to continue helping Thabo in furthering his education training, thus enabling him to excel at his job.
“Our vision at CITW is to inspire and encourage children from rural areas to care for the environment so that they can become the custodians of the surrounding conservation areas. Thabo has been passionate about conservation for as long as we have known him. We are excited to witness our students become the responsible, environmentally-caring adults that we want them to ultimately become after they have completed our programmes. In the long run, Thabo’s success will inspire many from his village and change many lives”, said Janet Wilkinson, CITW Programme Manager.
Thabo’s dedication and commitment to environmental conservation from the outset in 2011, also led him to be chosen to take part in the annual CITW Camp at Pafuri, Kruger National Park. His evident interest got him invited to participate in the Save the Elephants initiative at Pafuri with Dr Michelle Henley, Programme Manager of Save the Elephants at the time, where he got an opportunity to learn all about elephant tracking using sophisticated equipment. When Thabo got to N’wanati High School he and his friends took it upon themselves to create an Eco-Club called ‘SuperKids to Save the Environment’, later joining the CITW Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) programme.
Thabo’s passion for the environment and wildlife only grew stronger with time as he participated in more programmes that exposed him to the world of environmental and wildlife conservation. In 2016 he spent two weeks with the South African National Parks (SANParks) Veterinary Wildlife Services in Kruger National Park. Describing his experience Thabo said, “One of my highlights was working in the lab, wearing a lab coat and gloves; this made me feel like my dreams had come true. My biggest highlight was working with the veterinary wildlife team; the experience that I have gained from them has made a very big difference in my life”.
“Through the help of various partner organisations we have managed to award over 400 primary, secondary and tertiary scholarships to deserving students like Thabo. We try our best to remain in contact with our former programme members, offering guidance and assistance within our capacity. We are only too happy to help them realise their dreams”, concluded Janet.
Click here to watch a short video on CITW and here to read more about CITW’s scholarship programme.