Children in the Wilderness

On Location: Zambia's Children in the Wilderness - Part I

Zegrahm Contributor|June 2, 2011|Blog Post

As part of our 2010 “World of Thanks” donation, Zegrahm sponsored a camp for Zambia’s Children in the Wilderness program.

It’s all happening here on the banks of the Luangwa River! We’ve come to remote eastern Zambia to join in with this year's Children in the Wilderness (CITW) program, hosted by Wilderness Safaris at Kalamu Lodge. Now in its 10th season, this inspirational conservation-cum-social upliftment project aims to safeguard the future of Africa’s wilderness by ensuring that surrounding local communities develop a sense of pride in their natural resources and derive direct benefit from them.

For the 18 young school kids selected as participants, this translates into five nights and six days of fun workshops in the bush, with educational and conservation topics such as career guidance, life skills, HIV awareness and, of course, wildlife preservation, all conveyed in an informal, hands-on way.

The kids arrived at camp today and have already played several games, drawn their group animal pictures (we have the Elephants, Rabbits, Crocodiles, Snakes, Fish Eagles and the Doves) and enjoyed some volleyball on the banks of the Luangwa River, with yawning, grunting hippos as the spectators. This evening, after a tasty meal, we all gathered around the camp fire under an incredible blanket of stars. The kids were all invited to share their fears of being in the bush by writing them down on pieces of paper, which were then burned in the fire. Elephants, lions and snakes appeared to be their greatest fears, whilst our only fear is that we don’t have enough time with these fantastic kids in this amazing place!

Day 2, and the CITW camp is in full swing. This morning saw us embarking on our first game drive through the park. Kids piled onto the Land Cruisers and we set out to explore the dense bush along the Luamfwa Lagoon, turning up herds of impala and its slightly heavier, floodplain-loving cousin, the puku, as well as hippos, crocodiles and the park’s most famous mammalian denizen, the attractive “Thornicroft’s” giraffe. Thornicroft’s giraffes are found only in the Luangwa Valley, and were the original reason for the park’s proclamation, but are uncommon and this sighting was the first for many of the children. With their routine becoming more familiar, the kids seemed to relax, laughing amongst themselves and asking frequent questions of the driver-guides and their so-called “tent leaders.”

Before lunch, the children’s artistic creativity was once again called upon in the making of animal masks, with elephants and antelope featuring prominently and one small boy masking himself as a “Mzungu” (or white man)! The afternoon’s activities involved a mini-lecture by one of the guides about the history of South Luangwa National Park, followed by a “Silly Olympics” that included egg-and-spoon and sack races, along with a more unusual “put your tail in the bottle” game that had us all in fits of laughter. Ending the afternoon was the children’s first exposure to career guidance, as they were given tours of the workshop, kitchen, and library, with talks about what it takes to become a mechanic, chef, and wildlife guide.

As I type this, the kids are transfixed by a viewing of The Lion King, complete with bags of popcorn provided by the chef!

Roll on Day 3...

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