Children of the Wilderness

An appeal to help Africa's rural children

Africa's rural children are largely underprivileged; some of them have never even seen the wildlife on their own doorsteps. Wilderness Safaris has created a remarkable programme in southern Africa called Children in the Wilderness (CITW) which aims to change the lives of these children. This programme has been running successfully for four years and has already exposed many young people to their wildlife heritage as well as its potential to create value and livelihoods for their communities.

This is what the programme is all about:

  • Each year we aim to host about 1 000 rural children on the 'Children in the Wilderness' programme in our safari camps in Botswana, Namibia and Malawi for a week at a time, free of charge. We close down one of our camps to guests during that time and open them to underprivileged children instead.

  • In addition we are in the process of developing a year-round 'Children in the Wilderness Camp' in the Mkambati Nature Reserve, which is situated in South Africa, midway between Durban and East London on the Indian Ocean, which will be able to host 10 000 children-in-camp-nights per annum. That's 30 children per week, for 52 weeks a year!

  • Too often these young people have inadequate education, especially when they are in classrooms with little or no facilities and often with 100 children per class. The aim of 'Children in the Wilderness' programme is to offer these students a unique experience that provides them with life skills that they may not get elsewhere.

  • This programme motivates and inspires the students to (a) finish their schooling and not to drop out as is often the norm; and (b) give them extraordinary environmental experiences that inspire them to care about their wildlife heritage - and even motivate them to become botanists, biologists, field scientists, field rangers or conservationists. To help African parks become sustainable, we must have people running our parks who have real passion for wildlife. This programme has the potential to achieve this!

  • In addition, Mkambati will be able to host terminally ill children at different times during the year and we are building a small, well-supplied hospital that will have the capability to look after them.

  • The initial construction of the Mkambati 'Children in the Wilderness' camp is a joint venture between ourselves, the province, the community neighbouring the reserve and actor Paul Newman's 'Hole in the Wall' operation. Hosting terminally ill children is the latter's speciality and Paul Newman will be a very important part of this operation.