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Children Environmentalists

Published 24 November 2010 under Travelogue • Comments: 2
Children Environmentalists

 Children Environmentalists.

The Klaserie Game Reserve should be applauded for its proactive approach to conservation education. This Private Game Reserve was formed back in 1969 when adjacent land owners then farming cattle and game, removed their fences to allow free game movement over a much larger area, and agreed on and wrote a constitution for a private game reserve. Almost all the properties had absentee landowners and the remote camps on these large “farms” were generally staffed by a local Tsonga husband and wife team that took care of the camp, pumps, fences and waterholes and were servants when the owners were in camp. The kids of these families grew up in incredible surroundings but of course they didn’t know that. They  generally spent their days running around the fenced compound semi- naked watching the procession of game moving down to waterholes and were lulled to sleep by distant lion calls. At school-going age they left the Klaserie bush and went to stay with family and attend school. The sad truth is they had no appreciation for the isolated and sometimes, frightening life their parents lived and no wish to go back to the farm during the school holidays. In their ignorance, all snakes were seen as venomous, elephants charged unprovoked and predators were a threat to their lives. It is often said that fear is just lack of understanding. Very few kids had ever been on a game drive and had the privilege of watching lion cubs frolic or elephants splash and play in a water hole.  To add to this misperception, the landowners were issued a permit for the pot and traditionally shot antelope while at the farm, so that consequently wildlife was perceived as food – better still; meat an infrequent indulgence for a lowly camp hand.

In 2004 Sandy Wilkes who lives and works in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve decided to begin a programme that could infuse an appreciation and environmental awareness into these bush kids. Her plan was to hold holiday workshops where local volunteer “trainers” would take groups of kids out into the bush and share the wonders of nature with them and so slowly change their young minds about the environment. But more than that; she set about involving them- they planted indigenous seeds and sold the young trees they grew, they designed, decorated and sent Christmas cards to their donors, learnt about erosion and how to combat it and so gained skills and grew to value the environment.
Today, Children’s Eco Training (CET) is a multi pronged charity organisation focusing on hands-on environmental education. The far sighted founder Sandy has passed the mission on to Zani Kunz who has successfully kept up the energy. It has expanded to incorporate a portion of the youth from the local town of Acornhoek and surrounds. Acornhoek was,  until fairly recently;  a sleepy rural village with a good hospital in the bush, now it finds it is poised on the edge on the “Greater Kruger Park” with a classic “people and parks” problem and grappling with a burgeoning population, unemployment and poverty. Children’s Eco Training now has a Support-a-School programme; educating both teachers and scholars about the environment as well as improving the environment of the school itself with gardening and volunteer renovations. Together with MAD (Make a Difference), Children’s Eco Training provides bursaries to local talented kids from under- privileged circumstances so that they may receive a high-quality education and continue to be ever mindful of the environment. Southern Cross School – a school for the planet – based on a wildlife estate in Hoedspruit in the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere is the school that the beneficiaries attend and contributes substantially to fees and support for the CET learners.
CET also has a far reaching and effectual Reach- Out program that engages visitors from all over the world. The program provides school uniforms for many proud scholars, a wheel chair for a disabled learner and runs a busy volunteer schedule, assisting at schools during holidays.
In 2006 when Children’s Eco Training was just gaining momentum, Sandy Wilkes the founder was presented with a Kudu Merit Award for Environmental Education by SAN Parks. Now in 2010 Children’s Eco Training reaches countless children in different ways and on varying levels. CET has yet again been recognised by Natioanl Parks, this time with a full Kudu Award. Environmental awareness is no longer a foreign concept, nor is biodiversity an issue for the privileged. We have shaped a committed and enthusiastic group of children from the bush are now the messengers of sustainable living.



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