I have been the Born Free/Shamwari Education Manager since April 2008. I have always had an affinity for wildlife and children and it was only during my practical year of my studies in 2004 at Namaqua National Park that I discovered a career that combines both these passions. I was actively involved in their Social Ecology department and it was there that I fell in love with environmental education and decided to pursue a career in it. Little did I know that only one year after completing my studies I would get the job that I had always hoped for!
So what is it that I actually do?
I manage our education program which consists of a variety of projects. I manage our Born Free education centre where we have school groups come for field trips to see our Big Cat Sanctuary for rescued lions and leopards and a game drive on Shamwari. The point of this outing is to raise awareness about the suffering of so many beautiful wild animals being kept in horrendous captive conditions. We start the day with a tour of the centre and show them our rescued cats. Afterwards they go on a game drive and this is to expose them to the unique beauty of the Eastern Cape and to show them what these captive animals are deprived of. We offer this program to all schools of all backgrounds and all grades from 1 to 12. On average we have about 200 -300 children visit us a month. The majority of the children visiting us come from really impoverished homes and they would never otherwise get an opportunity to experience a game drive on a big 5 game reserve.
Eco-Schools is an international program that enables and encourages schools to take responsibility of their environment, community and school. Basically it’s about schools being agents of change. They pupils strive to live more sustainably at school and support their communities. We started this program with the schools in the neighbouring communities of Paterson and Alicedale in 2009 and in 2013 most of them will reach International Flag status which is the highest level schools can aspire to!
We started our own Eco-Schools Node in 2009 called the Born Free-Shamwari Node. We support the schools with registration fees and funding of their projects. I personally act as the node co-ordinator of the project. The work these schools have done over the past 5 years is just too much to mention. But here are some of the major projects.
Today all four schools have an organic vegetable garden that supplements the school kitchen where learners get free meals every school day. All the schools collaborate at an annual litter clean up of the town and on that day collect an average of 1500 black bags of rubbish! We also all come together to celebrate International Rhino Day with a parade where learners bring their awareness posters and vuvuzelas.
All the schools are focussed on saving water and have put various water saving measures in place. Although the schools are situated in extremely impoverished areas (95% unemployment rate) they still stretch their hand out to those in extreme poverty giving what they can. One of the Grade 4 classes in the primary school raised money to paint and fix up the house of one their class mates who was sleeping on the floor in an unfurnished, window and doorless house! The local high school has a team of learners who go to a very run down crèche on Fridays and maintain and clean it for free! Working with these schools has been very rewarding and it is a project that has been very successful.
We do not only focus on school groups but we also service the local communities at large. Our approach to poverty is skills development and I am responsible for running these projects. Over the past couple of years we had ranger training programs where the theory part of FGASA Level 1 was taught to unemployed people. In 2013 we will divert our focus to woman and we hope to start sewing and small business management classes for unemployed woman. We are also hoping to give gardening workshops to community members to give them the necessary skills to grow their own food effectively and in an environmentally friendly way. We also support local crèches with toys, equipment and various other goods.
If anyone would like to know more about our programmes or visit us they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 042-203 1119.
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