Wilderness Safaris – School’s Eco-Club makes a difference

Shashe Primary School’s Eco-Club Makes a Difference in Maun – September 2013 – Children in the Wilderness (CITW) launched its first Eco-Club (Environmental Club) at Shashe Primary School in Maun, Botswana in January 2013. A mere nine months later, this innovative programme has not only made a positive impact to the 55 children who are members of the club, but also to the broader community in Maun.

The Eco-Club follows a structured curriculum and takes place once a week during school term. The children learn a range of skills from environmental and conservation lessons, including organic farming and recycling projects, such as making bags from old newspapers and plastic. The children have also planted and nurtured a thriving vegetable garden. The first harvest was given to the Eco-Club members and the next one will be used for the whole school. The teachers will have to buy the produce and the money raised will be used to assist the Eco-Club with further projects.

“The reason for this Eco-Club’s success is the unwavering devotion from the children and their keen interest to learn more about their environment and how to care for it. It’s an opportunity for like-minded children to meet, learn, discuss and expand their knowledge of environmental issues”, said Mary Hastag, CITW Coordinator for Botswana.

CITW is now operating over 40 Eco-Clubs throughout southern Africa and is able to reach more children in the communities on a regular basis through this programme. Children participating on the CITW camps, held annually at a Wilderness Safaris camp, are usually selected from the Eco-Clubs. Environmental projects and tasks are earmarked and organised in cooperation with the community members and teachers. The children are encouraged to participate in the planning process and come up with their own ideas in order for them to take ownership of their clubs and projects.

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Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is an environmental and life skills educational programme that focuses on the next generation of rural decision makers, developing environmental leaders who are inspired to care for their natural heritage so that they become the custodians of these areas in the future. By exposing the children to their wildlife heritage, CITW aims to create a network of learning sanctuaries that uplifts, conserves and cares for our children and our planet.
The programme makes use of camp programmes, run at Wilderness Safaris lodges, as well as Eco-Clubs, run at schools in areas that neighbour the wild areas in which Wilderness Safaris operates.
CITW aims to develop leadership values amongst the participants, so as to create leaders who are inspired to care for their legacy and can show others the way.
CITW was initiated after a visit by the actor Paul Newman to Botswana in 2001. His organisation, the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, is dedicated to offering educational and recreational camps for children with life-threatening conditions in America and Europe. Inspired and assisted by this organisation, the programme began in Botswana in December 2001 and has since been successfully implemented in the other southern African countries where Wilderness Safaris operates: Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Seychelles. They will be expanding their programme to the Congo and Kenya in 2014.

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