Janet Wilkinson, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Programme Co-ordinator, is back in the office after running a very successful Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) camp at RETURNAfrica ’s Pafuri Trails Camp in the Makuleke Concession of Kruger National Park. Janet hosted both the boys' and girls’ camps assisted by Bongani Baloyi, CITW Regional Programme Coordinator, on the boys’ camp. We caught up with Janet and Bongani to find out more about the lessons and highlights of each camp.
The Girls – Janet Wilkinson:
(01 April - 04 April 2016)
“The camp curriculum for this year’s YES camp was set at a higher learning level than on previous camps. Eight boys and eight girls participated in the two camps. Children were invited to submit application essays titled, “What I can do to improve the environment around my village?” Children were then selected to take part in the camp based on their application essay. We covered a wide range of topics during the camp that included leadership and values, diversity, biodiversity and ‘my natural heritage, invasive and alien species, sustainability, ‘our solar system’, orienteering, decision making and ‘my future’, study tips and presentations, ‘appreciation and giving back in my community’.
Game drives are always a highlight. The bittersweet highlight of the girls’ camp was seeing a live snared lion. This generated much discussion about poaching.
Despite the heat of the day, the boys enjoyed the Datura plant removal along a section of the Pafuri Airstrip. The girls got to pick up litter along the tar road in the Makuleke Concession of Kruger National Park. They each made their own anti-litter placards to wear during the litter pick-up and displayed them every time any vehicle went past, from Park staff to tourists who use the Park road as a thoroughfare to Mozambique. Many of the tourists and lodge guests stopped to take photos of the girls and compliment them on their efforts and placards.
“A big thank you to RETURNAfrica for the use of Pafuri Trails Camp – the ideal venue for these CITW YES camps.“ – Janet Wilkinson
Some quotes from the children’s feedback forms: On ‘What difference has CITW made in your life?’
- It has taught me about my environment and it has made me aware of the environmental problems we face – Tracey (17)
- Teaches me how to respect each other and do not hate each other – Hlulani (15)
- It teach me how can I do to make my community become clean – Wesly (16)
- They made me to know history of our community and nature conservation – Request (15)
- It made me to see that I can win – Thorsten (14)
- To live well at home or anywhere. Do not cut tree at home or anywhere and respect someone, respect our environment and don’t put pumper (Pampers) in river – Mixo (15)
- It made me to know and discover myself. It made me know how to plan for my future and it has given me the fierce to care for my environment – Destiny (15)
- It gave knowledge and experience about many challenges that I could face in life and how I could overcome them – Thabo (18)
The Boys – Bongani Baloyi:
Day 1 to Day 4, (Tuesday 29 March – 01 April 2016)
The boys were picked from Makuleke Village by Mphata Tours and were accompanied by Bongani Baloyi and Rhulani Ngwenyama of CITW.
Upon arrival at the camp, the boys were warmly welcomed by ‘Mama’ Janet Wilkinson (as she is affectionately known by her children) and her team.
All sessions were interactive, objective and fun and the children participated actively with great enthusiasm.
The lessons and the activities were carefully selected and addressed issues affecting young people such as how to tell the time, how to show appreciation, respect for oneself, others, and the environment, invasive alien species, introduction to night skies, the solar system, etc.
Before each activity, leaders sat together and rigorously practiced the activities prior to their execution. This worked very well and demonstrated to learners what they have been taught in theory. Also, the level of material used, as well as the topics covered, was suitable and appropriate for young adults. Thanks to the concerted efforts and teaching approaches employed by Lindy Nieuwenhuizen, Bongani Baloyi, Enos Mngomezulu and Sarah Nurse (our camp Guide and Mentor) under the shrewd direction of passionate Mama Janet.
The one-on-one sessions with the learners regarding their future plans and the steps they need to take to achieve their personal goals was exceptional in that they got the children thinking hard about the things they needed to do to reach their dreams.
Also, the game drive were great and children learned and appreciated everything including birds and trees which is uncommon amongst young people who often think that nature is only about the Big Five.
At the end of each day everyone had to share their highlights and what they were thankful for. This also worked well for the camp and there was a lot of appreciation for nature and people in the camp including Edna and Major – our gracious chefs – as well as Calson and Desmond for their roles in the camp.
Overall, the camp was a huge success and could be used as a benchmark for YES camps or Eco-Clubs throughout the region. There is sufficient evidence that our programme is positively impacting on the lives of the children we work with as expressed by the children in our camp feedback forms. – Bongani Baloyi