Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Malawi runs environmental, life skills and educational camps for rural Malawian children and youths who are members of the programme. Every year Central African Wilderness Safaris closes its lodges to paying guests for a period of two weeks in order to host camps for these members.
Camps for primary school children (aged between 11 and 13) are known as Eco-Club camps, while those for the youths, who are in Secondary school or studying for a tertiary qualification, are known as YES (Youth Environmental Stewardship) camps. The participants are those regular members of CITW programmes. Currently there are over 600 Eco-Club members and over 160 YES Club members in Malawi.
This year’s annual camps were held at Chintheche Inn on Lake Malawi, and comprised:
- Eco-Club Camp
- 48 campers (28 girls and 20 boys) aged between 11 and 13, from Mgodi, Chihame and Chintheche primary schools
- 6 mentors (6 Primary School/Eco-Club teachers), three CAWS field guides, 6 University graduates who were CITW YES members
- YES Camp
- 48 campers (28 girls and 20 boys) from Chihame and Bandawe YES clubs
- 10 young professionals as facilitators
YES Camp 2018
This YES camp took place from 30th November to 6th December. Two groups each with 24 youths were hosted, with each camp lasting four days.
The participants were introduced to a number of topics, including:
- Land degradation
- Forest degradation
- Life skills
- Youth and leadership
During the camp, tasks were allocated to the youth in groups, including using Google for research, visiting field research areas and conducting interviews with people considered to have information. The youth had to search for information on their own, come up with written essays on their research and present their findings to the rest of the camp participants. Each group, according to their assigned topics, then presented their findings to the rest of the campers. The audience was invited to vet the findings of their colleagues in order to learn more, as well as correct some of the content if it was not sufficiently clear.
The research and presentation approach helped the youth to focus on searching for their information; discovering facts; teaching themselves; sharing information and being challenged to think about doing something about some of the environmental issues which they discovered in their research. They enjoyed researching the environmental issues and discussing the causes, and ways of mitigating the negative effects.
The outcomes of this YES camp included:
- 48 members of the YES programme attended the 2018 annual camp.
- Two further research projects were developed out of four topics the youth covered during their camp, namely…
o To conduct further research into land degradation caused by the soil mining and brick moulding in the Traditional Authorities of Malengamzoma, Chintheche and Nkhata Bay, by the Chisambo Mining Project.
o To conduct further research into the air and soil pollution caused by Dwangwa Illovo Sugar Company.
- The YES programme strategy for 2019 was discussed and achievable environmental projects were drafted and adopted.
- The youth had excellent practice on basic research techniques, writing reports and presentation skills.
- At the end of the YES camp, six YES members were selected, and underwent orientation to join a team of camp mentors for the Eco-Camps which followed at the end of these YES camps.
Eco-Club Camp 2018
This Eco-Club camp took place from 8th to 14th December. There were two groups of 24 campers each, with each group hosted for a week.
The courses included the following learnings for the children:
- Arts and crafts, and Tippy Tap making
- Lake Malawi and its basic ecosystem
- Obstacle course and leadership values
- Eco-tourism and careers in the industry
- Web of life/food web
- What makes a bird a bird
The flow-learning technique was used during the camp. The teachers and the guides loved it very much, as it was easy for them to make quick assessments about whether the children were learning anything from the planned sessions.
The main steps in the flow learning process include:
- Warm ups through energisers/relevant, short fun games.
- Introduction of a learning topic, followed by theoretical explanation.
- Practical learning, which also encouraged all of the five senses to absorb the information.
- A debriefing session summarising the lessons learned.
The main outcomes of this Eco-Club camp included:
- The children learned about Tippy Taps and thereafter, on their own, built two Tippy Taps, which were used during the entire Eco-Club camp period.
- At the end of four days, the children learned up to five leadership values and how those values could help them when leading and facing challenges/sorting out day-to-day obstacles in life.
- Children met and discussed with five different young professionals from the tourism industry, and learned about the economic value of the industry.
- Children discovered some behaviour, features and adaptions in birds. For example, some have amazing wingspans of up to 2.4 metres long; some have the capability to stand on one leg for over 6 hours; some sleep with their eyes open; feathers are an incredible feat of nature, plus many more.
- The children won the camp closing quiz, in which they competed against their own parents.
- The children studied Lake Malawi: in addition to learning about its history, they listed over 50 living species which depend on the lake, and developed possible food webs among those species.
The closing quiz was based on the topics which the children learned about during the camp. This is an exceptional way to assess the children in front of their parents. It is also a way of empowering the children with the knowledge gained during the camp – and is all the more affirming by doing it in front of their mentors and parents.
The annual camp, which comprised YES and Eco-Club campers, started on the 28th November, and ended on 14th December 2018. The curriculum for the YES camp was extracted from a structured YES Camp manual, and the content for the Eco-Club camp was derived from the mentors’ manual. The objectives of the annual camps were met, and a total of 96 campers and 16 mentors participated. CAWS Chintheche Inn hosted the camp, with much appreciated background support and professional hospitality.
The Traditional Authority leader, Mr Malanda graced the camp with a visit. He delivered a message to the youth about stewardship, and praised and encouraged mentors for the good job they were doing in educating the children.
Special thanks also go to our sponsors, including Children in the Wilderness, Central African Wilderness Safaris, Aqua Pure, IWAM and the Ministry of Education. Their financial and in-kind support made the 2018 CITW annual camp a possibility, and a great success.
Those Eco-Club teachers who came to camp for the first time expressed their satisfaction at all the information available, and the new skills they learned, which they were going to use during their weekly Eco-Club sessions.
Mary Mnindo spoke on behalf of all the Eco-Teachers during the camp closing ceremonies. “I am one of the teachers who has really struggled to organise weekly Eco-Club sessions at our local school. But now I have learnt a lot of skills, and have gathered important information about organising Eco-Club sessions, and handling the children in the Eco-Club setting.” Mgodi Eco-Club, Chintheche Zone
Maria Chirwa is a former camper. She joined CITW in 2005 and went through the Eco-Club Programme in primary school. When she went to secondary school her mother could not afford to pay for her school fees, and CITW, with sponsorship from the Rosemary Pencil Foundation, supported Maria with school fees for four years. At this time she became a member of the YES programme. After completing secondary school, she enrolled for teachers’ training, eventually taking a teaching job, through the Ministry of Education, as a primary school teacher. Later on, she enrolled with Mzuzu University for a degree in languages. She is currently a secondary school teacher in Mzuzu, a city in the north of Malawi. Maria volunteered for the 2018 CITW camps, and was appointed Deputy Camp Director, deputising Andrew Viyano, who had a similar schooling experience to Maria. He is now a university graduate with a bachelors’ degree in journalism. Andrew took the role of Camp Director; the two were great leaders.
Traditional Authorities Leader, Mr Malanda, graced the camps for the closing ceremony, giving a talk on the role of children and youth in conservation of the environment for future generations. He promised the campers his total support for whatever good plans they had, or would develop, for the conservation of the environment and wildlife, using his jurisdiction as a TA leader. Two local community leaders accompanied Mr Malanda.