The Children in the Wilderness (CITW) annual Eco-Camp programme has touched the lives of 11 000 children since it began in 2001. To this day it remains an exciting highlight for Eco-Club children, and one of the best motivations for learning about environmental conservation. Hosted at Wilderness Safaris or partner lodges, a camp is closed to guests for three to four days so learners can experience an educational and authentic safari, usually for the very first time.
“The annual camp programme plays a significant role in helping us bring to life the conservation subjects we teach throughout the year in Eco-Clubs. When the children experience their first game drive and spend time with professional guides, they are able to fall in love with nature and better understand why conserving and caring for our environment is pivotal to the sustainability of the planet”, said CITW Programme Manager, Janet Wilkinson.
In 2018, CITW’ Eco-Camps hosted 500 children, hand-picked from over 2 500 Eco-Club members by their Eco-Mentors. The camps were held in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. CITW also runs the biannual Tri-Nations Camp, tailored for children residing within the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area at the tripoint of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The camp programme acts as a reward for learners who have shown outstanding commitment to their Eco-Clubs during the course of the year. It complements the Eco-Club lessons and is centred on the concept of showing rather than telling, with a range of fun activities, game drives and talks. A critical part of the camp is focused on inviting a wide range of successful community leaders and CITW alumni to deliver inspirational career talks. This makes it easier for the children to believe in the possibility of effecting positive change within their own spheres of influence.
At the camp, each learner receives a Wilderness Safaris backpack with basic toiletries and stationery, which ensures that no child is left feeling out of place during the camp. The T-shirts and caps they receive have also proved to be effective in building team spirit and unity among the learners.
“Hosting annual camps is a consistently awe-inspiring experience for us, and the opportunity to show our learners something new and to spark a sense of wonder in them is always priceless. With these programmes forming the very foundation of CITW, it is important to incentivise our learners and continue providing exciting, conservation-focused activities, as well as a range of life-skills.
“Furthermore, with many of our alumni now working in the industry, we are proud to see what CITW has achieved over the years. We are looking forward to growing our reach to more children, more often, and to use our programme to help address critical issues such as human-wildlife conflict and biodiversity conservation, which ultimately threaten local economies in many African communities”, concluded Janet.