This year’s Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Camp Hwange was a huge success. Twenty-four children, 19 from St Mary’s Primary School and five from Sinamatella Primary School, were in attendance together with two Eco-Mentors, one from each school. On arrival, each child received a pack containing stationery, a t-shirt, and a hat for their stay at camp and were divided into teams. As the theme of the camp was insects, teams were appropriately named Butterfly, Moth, Bees, and Dragonfly. The camp began with some games to break the ice and allow the campers from the two schools to get to know each other better.
The first activity, building of a tippy tap, emphasised to children the importance of hygiene. Tippy taps are hand-washing devices that need only a few sticks, a 5-litre container, string, and a piece of soap. They allow for hands-free, and therefore hygienic hand-washing, as pressing on a stick with one’s foot tilts the container to let water flow out. Tippy taps are also good for water conservation – something crucial in these dry and arid areas.
After learning about the importance of hygiene, campers were taken on a tour of the camp, learning about housekeeping and how to make beds, breadmaking in the kitchen, table setting in the dining room, and checking oil and how to fix a tyre puncture at the mechanic’s station. Helping the chefs and the mechanics were the most popular activities, with the children relishing in the chance to bake bread and learn a little bit about vehicles.
As the day came to a close and the campers had had their dinner, a bonfire was made. Campers were then asked to write their fears on a piece of paper. One of the Wilderness guides acted as the camp witchdoctor – having the ‘power’ to remove any fears. Campers were encouraged to throw their ‘fears’ into the fire, thus removing them for a good nights’ sleep.
The next morning began early with a game drive. Campers used their exercise books and species checklists to tick off the animals they saw. Although having been told to be quiet, seeing so many animals and being on the game viewing vehicle was just too exciting for the campers to keep their voices down.
After the game drive, campers got into their teams for the afternoon activities. These were all based on the theme of insects and were carried out on rotation by team so that every camper could get properly involved with each activity. These included collecting insects out in the bush and then having a discussion with the guide as to which were dangerous, learning about how insects eat, learning the parts of insects, and learning about the importance of insects in the ecosystem. The evening ended with a movie night under the stars watching ‘A Bug’s Life’, which all the campers thoroughly enjoyed.
The final day of the camp included another game drive, where campers could utilise what they had learned the previous day about the animals they saw. A quiz at the end of the day brought together all the activities and learnings over the camp to see who was able to remember the most, with Team Dragonfly winning.
The next morning before leaving, campers took a pledge to look after the environment. Each received a blue bangle as a symbol of their promise, and after thank yous and goodbyes, the campers got back into the vehicles for their journey home.
While children live in such close proximity to these wilderness areas, most never get to go into the national parks to see the widlife and experience what these areas have to offer. Thus, these camps provide children with an amazing opportunity to see the animals that live right on their doorstep. Furthermore, educating students on the importance of the environment motivates them to spread the message to their families and peers – something that will help conserve these areas for future generations.