Children in the Wilderness held a Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) Camp at Gomoti Tented Camp in April. Sixteen children and four teachers from four different schools in the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) region attended this three-night, four-day camp. A team of Eco-Mentors from around Maun – all of whom have volunteered at annual Children in the Wilderness (CITW) camps before – helped to run the YES Camp programme, which was coordinated and organised by the CITW Botswana Team. Two Wilderness Safaris guides also joined the team.
The first day of camp proved to be an exciting one, with the Muffet family from Australia visiting Gomoti. The family were on their annual safari with Wilderness, and have always been big supporters of CITW. They were intrigued to learn how our programme works, and a proud YES Camper, Pono, gave a speech on CITW Eco-Clubs and camps, and her experience with the programme. The family gifted the children with rugby balls, and made a generous donation to the CITW programme. We had just enough time to play a few games with the Muffet family, before joyfully singing them off to the airstrip and back on their trip.
After a few ‘getting to know you’ games, the children were split into teams. Children took part in all their activities in these teams, and it was wonderful to see children from different schools interacting with each other and their Eco-Mentors. Each team had to choose an animal, design a poster and develop a war cry that would represent them for their time at camp. The competition was fierce, with each team singing their war cry louder than the next!
The focus of activities for day one was on teambuilding. Teams participated in The Human Knot and Pass the Rope activities, both of which encourage team work and communication. Children also played traditional games which also had elements of teambuilding – skipping games and Three in a Row.
The second day of camp started off with a beautiful game drive and lesson on animal tracks. The children all hopped on the game drive vehicle with their bags, which were handmade by the Habu Adult Eco-Club, and were eager to tick off birds, trees and animals on their species checklists. The experienced guides got stuck into the camp, and participated in all the activities with the children. This made for wonderful game drives where the children felt comfortable enough to ask questions. The guides were enthusiastic and pointed out interesting sightings, referring the children to their checklists to help them identify what they had spotted. The children all diligently took extra notes in their checklists to prepare for the final night’s quiz.
Back at camp, the guides took the children on walks around camp in order to identify trees. The uses and importance of trees was also discussed. Children then had a lesson on snakes. The idea was to expose children to the importance of snakes in the ecosystem, and to teach them how to identify snakes.
The afternoon session included active traditional games, as well as a game of charades. Children were encouraged to think out of the box, and to use what they’d learnt through the day to help them act out animals and certain concepts covered through the day. Children also put together dramas on anti-poaching. It was clear that children understood the negative implications of poaching, as all groups mentioned why people might poach, and what might happen to certain species if poaching is not addressed.
Day three started with another magnificent game drive. The children were again eager to learn, and the guides went out of their way to teach the children as much as they could about the area as well as conservation ideas.
The afternoon session focused on exposing children to different careers, and getting them to start thinking about life after school. Children spend time with the Gomoti Camp staff, learning about camp management, the duties of a guide, housekeeping and working in a camp kitchen. Eco-Mentors from different fields then talked to children about their careers. This included a teacher, a photographer, member of the ministry of education addressing PR, and an environmental educator sharing their stories of how they got where they are.
Children then needed to figure out the correct order of steps on the decision making ladder. This higlighted to children that they should start thinking about volunteering in their field of interest, and working hard in school now to be able to fulfill their dreams.
The final evening at camp included the always hotly contested quiz, a traditional Kgotla (boma dinner) and much singing and dancing. As a final good bye, there was a presentation of photographs from the few days at camp.
After an inspiring and rewarding few days at camp, the children flew back to Seronga over the gorgeous Okavango Delta, with indigenous trees in hand to plant at their homes.