Children in the Wilderness Annual Eco-Camps Back in Full Swing

Children in the Wilderness

Now in its twenty-second year, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) has proudly hosted more than 270 children, teachers, and Eco-Mentors at its annual 2023/24 Eco-Camps over the past few months. These four-day environmental leadership camps host the most deserving CITW Eco-Club members from its partner primary schools across all Wilderness’ areas of operation in Africa.

“As our flagship programme for the Educate pillar of our Impact strategy, these Eco-Camps form an annual focus for our regional CITW teams. We either close our camps, or partner properties, for the duration of the camps, during which a tremendous amount of fun and learning takes place, instilling an unshakeable ethos for conservation and the environment into the children”, noted Vince Shacks, Wilderness Group Impact Manager.

“When we apply our Impact strategy’s Theory of Change as a tool for measuring the success of the holistic CITW programme, we are exceedingly proud of Wilderness’ positive influence in our communities”, he added. “In addition to our 2,378 Eco-Club members, and 567 children on the scholarship programme, we have dozens of food security eco-gardens in our Botswana, Namibian and Rwandan schools”.

The 2023/24 Eco-Camps took place in such diverse settings as southern Namibia’s Hardap Region, 100km south of Sossusvlei, Botswana’s legendary Chobe area, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park area, both sides of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe and Zambia, as well as Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Highlights included Miss Teen Namibia joining the children on their Namibian camp, the Rwandan campers marching in a conservation parade all the way from Wilderness Bisate to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the Botswana campers enjoying their first thrilling light aircraft flights to Kasane International Airport, and the Zambezi children all becoming certified Pangolin Africa “guardians”. All the camps covered biodiversity-themed topics and included teambuilding activities, eco-quizzes and many highly entertaining educational games.

Noted CITW Group Co-ordinator Lindy Nieuwenhuizen, “On arrival, the children are understandably shy and uncertain, but after just a few days, they leave confident and inspired to follow their most daring dreams. What’s more, being set in all Wilderness’ areas of operation means we are ideally placed to create not just pathways out of poverty by providing them with life-skills and knowledge, but a secure future for the wilderness itself”.

In addition to the Eco-Clubs and scholarship programme, CITW runs a Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) Programme for children who show conservation and leadership potential on the camps and in Eco-Clubs. The YES curriculum focuses on career guidance, leadership, teambuilding, communication and further environmental education.

“Perhaps we are proudest of the scores of successful graduates of the programme who have gone on to forge meaningful careers as field rangers, tourist guides, pilots, and chefs”, added Lindy. In addition to pursuing tourism-industry vocations, other graduates are now qualified as journalists and teachers as well.

“Indeed, my journey with Wilderness has changed my life, and now I am in a position to give back by sharing and introducing some of Earth’s ultimate, untamed places to my guests”, confirmed Wilderness DumaTau guide and former CITW Botswana camper Segopotso (See) Oja.