As part of our 2010 “World of Thanks” donation, Zegrahm sponsored a camp for Zambia’s Children in the Wilderness program.
Well it is hard to believe but the camp is over! The children left this morning, singing their sweet ways out of Kalamu Lagoon Lodge. It was rather sad to see them go. After arriving as shy, soft-spoken tortoises hiding in their shells, their spirits gradually caught on fire during the course of the program and their now joyous, playful company shall be missed! There is no possible way we could have had more fun, with memory banks at full capacity. Although I shall miss this special time, I am glad to be having some rest after such an activity-packed week.
To recap the remainder of the program: Day 3 was ‘CONSERVATION DAY’ and our morning game drive focused on collecting a prescribed list of various plants and parts thereof in order to learn about their medicinal uses as well as their important roles in the local ecology. It was amazing to discover how much the children already knew, their lives in the bush having taught them at early ages what was edible, poisonous, good for libido, effective at repelling mosquitoes, or chasing away evil spirits. Later that day the kids made artistic mobiles out of all the seeds, pods, fruits, and leaves they had collected. The mid-morning game of animal charades had everyone in stitches as children masterfully impersonated porcupines, tortoises, charging elephants, drinking giraffes, and pronking impala. To follow, a ‘rubbish treasure hunt’ was carried out as (purposefully planted) discarded bottles, plastics, rubber, and metal were gathered. What was of particular value was learning how long these materials took to degrade. After lunch one of the guides delivered a pertinent workshop on environmental issues and how local communities can help in preserving the fauna and flora. The children learned about the problems with poaching and burning trees to make coal. They were taught the tourism-value of protecting the wilderness and how this trickled down to their communities in the form of schools and work opportunities. To end the day, a water balloon fight broke out, followed by a riotous game of soccer, and after dinner, campfire stories with marshmallow roasting, which appeared to be the first time the children had ever encountered these sweet, sticky treats! They giggled contagiously when their marshmallows kept catching on fire! So much fun to watch.
Days 4 and 5 went by so quickly as the safari guides helped the children with animal and bird identification while assisting them in learning how to use binoculars. Workshops on tourism, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS delivered excellent advice and information. By now the kids were answering questions and giving great input into these sessions. Games relating to these topics were played followed by more soccer (very popular!). After dinner, traditional dancing and singing around the fire made the hippos grunt and snort in seeming annoyance at having their noisy nocturnal feeding forays disturbed by such raucous celebration. The final evening had the children delivering poems, songs, and theater skits highlighting issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.
I can honestly say I was amazed and humbled by the success of the program and the high quality of the coordinators, team leaders, teachers, and, of course, the children. Every person involved showed nothing but enthusiasm, energy, joy, passion, concern, and a wealth of knowledge. Such a practical, fun-loving grass-roots approach to safe-guarding the future of Africa’s wilderness areas and its wonderful people.