My inspiration for this week’s submission comes from Kings Pool camp, from where I have just returned. Every year, usually in the summer season, Wilderness Safaris in Botswana close off two of their camps to regular guest activities. Instead, we bring in local children from the areas surrounding the wildlife reserves that we operate in.
The kids get to spend a week staying in the camps, and are exposed to the ecotourism industry that is such an important part of Botswana’s economy. The children’s visits are taken very seriously, and there is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into each CITW camp. The program is run and put together by a highly-qualified team. The children get to learn a lot, and in a fun and safe environment.
Environmental education is high on the list of learning topics, as are life skills, and HIV education.
Children are selected for the camps from local schools. Before the children even embark on their adventure, the program head meets with them, as well as their parents and the school authorities, to explain what the program is about. After the camp has taken place, there are follow-up visits, and the children’s progress is monitored. There is also a more advanced, week-long course with a more serious focus on wildlife that takes place for a handful of children who show particular interest on the regular camps.
When the actual camps take place, the kids are hosted by the regular camp staff, as well as a group of well-trained mentors. The kids get to spend a week having fun, going on game drives and walks, and learning a lot. Perhaps one of the most important messages these children can take away from their visit is the importance of wildlife and the environment. They are also exposed to the career opportunities that a healthy and protected ecosystem can support.
Last year I got to spend some time at the CITW camp at Vumbura Plains, where I was leading the kids on guided walks. This year my job was a little different, and I concentrated on taking photographs of the kids having fun and learning in the bush. I can honestly say that spending time with the children and all the adults involved in this program has been inspirational for me.
The program derives financial support from Wilderness Safaris and from private donors. CITW has been running for nine years now in Botswana, and this year hosted 96 children. The program is also run in the other six countries that Wilderness operates in. To learn more about this amazing program go to www.childreninthewilderness.com.
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