Continuing to develop, as well as contributing and helping to create an educated nation by delivering Environmental Education, Wilderness Safaris last week closed their doors to the fully paying guests for a period of a week and hosted 16 underprivileged children from Kelekele Primary school from Gumare, allowing them sole use of Jacana Camp.
This programme is part of The Children in the Wilderness Botswana, locally known as Bana ba Naga, which is now in its eighth successful year of operation. Initially set up by Wilderness Safaris in 2001, with the assistance and support of actor Paul Newman and his charitable association known as ‘The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps’, the programme has grown from strength to strength. Over 800 children have been hosted on this programme since 2001.
According to Cathy Kays, one of the owners of Jacana, too many children in Botswana have their childhoods disrupted and interrupted by life-threatening conditions such as illness, poverty and the HIV/AIDS. Therefore she said the aim of the program is to take a generation of these vulnerable children and help them to become resilient and to deal with the challenges they face at home.
“We realized that they can benefit from exposure to a safe wilderness environment where nature becomes the teacher and the healer,” she stated. Kays said they use environmental education, therapeutic recreation, fun and instilling a sense of family and community to achieve this.
Kays highlighted that Children in the Wilderness instills a sense of hope and teaches these children some of the life skills required to achieve their greatest potential. Hence they are able to increase their involvement in the conservation of their natural and cultural heritage, and to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS and reduce their vulnerability, she said.
Further, Kays revealed that, after attending this programme, children are able to share their new-found enthusiasm and ideas with their families and communities. She said they also start to understand and appreciate the unique diversity of natural environments as well as understanding and appreciating the opportunities in rural communities, in particular conservation and eco-tourism opportunities. “The children are also inspired to become guides, field rangers, conservationists and ecologists, which is very good,” she stated.
She said that Children in the Wilderness Botswana has designed its proposed outcomes and curriculum to be in line with what the country aims to achieve through its Vision 2016. She said this programme, as an environmental education and social welfare programme for needy Batswana children, contributes in more than one way to the country achieving these goals. “However, our biggest contribution is in helping to create an educated nation,” she stated.
In his remarks, the Minster of Education, Jacob Nkate, who is the patron of this programme, urged Batswana to take tourism seriously and avoid looking at wildlife as something that is not good for them. As an example, he cited the case in which Batswana who were given beautiful camps that were previously run by white people, failed to maintain those camps, hence they ended up looking like old buildings. He stressed that tourism is not for white people as most people think. With this programme, the Minister said Wilderness Safaris are trying to break this barrier. “We want these children to be different from their parents and to be able to look at these things with different eyes,” he said.
He appealed to Batswana to partner with foreigners, and to avoid the mentality that foreigners are deceiving them. “The partnerships will help destroy animosity between Batswana and foreigners seen especially in this sector,” he concluded.