Children in the Wilderness (CITW) has as its overall goal to facilitate sustainable conservation through leadership development of rural children in Africa. This is achieved in a variety of ways, from running three- to five-day camps at Wilderness Safaris camps, to running Eco-Clubs and Follow-up Programmes at schools, within the rural communities that live on the edges of the wild areas of Africa.
The camp programme run at Wilderness Safaris camps combines leadership skills, environmental education and recreation – all in a unique and safe wilderness environment, where nature is both teacher and healer. The programme aims at increasing the children’s understanding and appreciation of the diversity of natural environments, as well as to encourage them by demonstrating the opportunities that exist for them. Finally, the programme is designed to increase self-esteem, teach new skills and impart knowledge to our children.
Back at their villages, the children are faced with many challenges. The Eco-Clubs and Follow-up Programmes make use of curricula suited to the specific country or community, delivered in a fun and engaging manner. In this way, Children in the Wilderness introduces children to their wildlife heritage, builds and strengthens their capabilities to cope with life’s challenges and educates them with the life skills necessary to actualise their greatest potential.
Via these programmes, Children in the Wilderness also 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.
To achieve these goals, Children in the Wilderness has also begun a number of other initiatives to assist children and their teachers and parents within their own milieu, such as school nutrition schemes, village upliftment and scholarships.
In August 2001, Paul Newman and his family travelled to Africa on a two-week safari with Wilderness Safaris. During this trip, it was suggested that the respective visions of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps and Wilderness Safaris could be combined and blended to create a sustainable and effective African programme. In December of the same year the first Children in the Wilderness programme was launched.
The creation of Children in the Wilderness was an organic evolution of the vision of Wilderness Safaris, which has always been that we need to face the challenge of Africa’s wildlife areas being under severe pressure – indeed, the areas in which Wilderness Safaris operates are some of the planet’s more sensitive and fragile environmental hotspots. Therefore, by focusing on children, Children in the Wilderness believes that a programme of this calibre can impact significantly on the local communities in the hope of securing the future of these fragile areas.
Since running its first camp in Botswana, Children in the Wilderness has expanded its operations to seven of the countries in which Wilderness Safaris operates: Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. With the right sponsorship, the programme has the potential to grow and make a huge contribution to the sustainability of Africa’s people and parks.