Children in the Wilderness (CITW), in partnership with professional soccer player, Gordon Gilbert, brought Soccer in the Wilderness to Maun, Botswana in early April 2014. The inspirational programme combines the fun of sport with education, in order to raise environmental awareness in local communities in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Learning life skills whilst enjoying the game of soccer at the Maun Sports Complex Botswana’s Soccer in the Wilderness clinic was conducted at the Maun Sports Complex, and was attended by 90 children from various schools around Maun who participate in CITW’s Eco-Club programme.
Mary Hastag, CITW coordinator for Botswana, reveals that “It was an amazing experience for the children as well as the community of Maun. They learnt a lot from Gordon about commitment; whatever one wants to do in life is possible as long as one commits himself to it and sets personal goals in order to achieve it. CITW has committed to educating the young ones about environmental issues and conservation – receiving this message through sport is something that the children really enjoyed.” Gordon has played professionally for Kaizer Chiefs, Mpumalanga Black Aces and Moroka Swallows, to name a few, and is a wildlife enthusiast committed to making a difference. “He is extremely passionate about making a positive impact to conservation by teaching and inspiring local communities through the game of soccer and is very much aligned to our core philosophy to empower children through education”, said Sue Snyman, CITW Programme Director. The inaugural Soccer in the Wilderness clinics took place in Zambia and Zimbabwe in November 2013.
At the clinics in each of the three countries, Gordon and the CITW teams raised awareness about various conservation issues, motivating and inspiring the children who attended to get actively involved in the conservation of the wilderness areas they live next to. The importance of setting goals and having the discipline and dedication to achieve them was also discussed to encourage the children to broaden their horizons and to aim high.
“We were blown away by the support from our CITW Eco-Club champions who are true ambassadors for conservation in their communities. The clinics played a huge role in building unity and morale, as well as bringing the communities together. Healthy lifestyles through sport equal healthy minds and improved social welfare. We are thrilled to be driving such an inspirational programme with Gordon’s support”, Sue added. According to Gordon, his personal goal is to see wildlife and heritage conserved and protected whilst adding value to communities. “I feel extremely proud and excited to be associated with a company like Wilderness Safaris and CITW who share the same vision.”