A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary on the French television about DAKTARI Bush School.
I had been thinking for a while to do something different during my holidays, and this year was the year!
I have had the chance to spend 3 weeks at DAKTARI and take part in the Alternative Teaching Program, as we welcomed older students from the nearby community.
Very fast I was asked to lead a class and, although I did not have a teaching experience, the fact that I am in my mid-forties (with a bit more work and life experience than the other volunteers) was an advantage as I could share my own experiences.
Throughout the week, we helped the students writing a CV, creating a cover letter, practicing job interviews. We talked about the job opportunities in the tourism industry as, surprisingly, they actually don’t know much about them, as most of the students are not in contact with the tourists visiting South Africa. The visit to the nearby Big Five reserve was one of the highlights of my stay. Not only did we have the chance to see a leopard on our way, the students had the opportunity to talk to some of the managers of the reserve who explained their daily tasks and how they got there. It was very motivating! We visited the workshop, the kitchen, housekeeping and we also talked to the camp manager.
Back at DAKTARI, we worked with the students on their presentation and debating skills. We had a lot of fun during the debate on ‘Girls are better students than boys’, where the boys had to defend the statement and the girls had to disagree! The other debate we had fun with was on ‘Marriage to more than one person should be legal’. During the practice, the students came with strong opinions to express their agreement or disagreement.
The rest of the week, we stuck to the normal teaching program. We talked about Plastics and the environment, and I even learned a few things! This is why I love being part of a community with volunteers coming from all horizons, having different backgrounds and coming from all over the world. You learn so much!
We tried to illustrate as much as possible the class, using for example the video of the Harley Davidson that was washed away by the tsunami in Japan and found more than a year later on a beach in Canada, to explain how far plastic or rubbish can travel in the ocean.
Also we made drawings to explain the different cycles (breathing, water, life) and the consequences if something went wrong. If the local community doesn’t take care of the animals and the environment, tourists will no longer go to South Africa, reducing job opportunities in their area but it might also impact my job in Belgium as I work in the airline industry. We live in a world where everything is connected.
I must confess, it has not always been easy. First, at the beginning of the week, the students were shy but after playing a game at the end of the first evening or playing football in the early morning, they opened up. Also taking care of the animals brought us together.
Secondly, some of the problems the community is facing are tough. During the social talks, we talked about difficult topics related to respect, culture and traditions (like forced marriage, rape and poaching).
I thought it was important to show the video of Lady Gaga ‘Til it happens to you’. This song is directed to victims of rape - but when you hear the lyrics, it can be addressed to anybody who has been emotionally or physically abused or has suffered any kind of pain whether it is harassment, bullying, depression, drugs, alcohol, losing someone, failing at something, being humiliated, being betrayed... We debated amongst the volunteers about whether we should show or not the video as the content is pretty violent and we decided to show it. To be honest, I was actually unsettled (and not the only one) by the reaction of some of the students who thought the video was ‘cool’. It was not the reaction we had expected on such a difficult topic. Obviously the message Until it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels’ didn’t get through. Rape is a scourge that is minimized and victims are not recognized as such. There is still a lot to do in this area to make them realize how much damage such an event can have in someone’s life.
Anyway, at the end of a very busy week, it was heart-breaking to see the students go. They had become our friends and I want to know what they will become in the future. Hopefully we will stay in touch.
I only made a small contribution but I hope that for some of the students I made the difference. One of them told me I was ‘inspiring’, another one said I was ‘motivating’. Now I want them to become ambassadors, to teach their community what they have learned at DAKTARI because I believe in education. I also found out, through the comments of the other volunteers that I was good at teaching and they were impressed about all the stuff I knew. I like to keep myself informed because knowledge, just like education, is power.
To finish, I was really happy when DAKTARI gave Patience and Thato a job. They were both very shy at the beginning of the week but they have really grown during the week and increased their self-confidence.
The students just need a little push and that is what DAKTARI and the volunteers are striving to achieve. We want to educate them and create awareness of animal welfare to make sure they act responsible and think long term. Their future is now in their hands!
It was definitely an incredible and unforgettable experience!
Keep on the good work!
The challenge we are facing?
DAKTARI is situated in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The country as a whole, and our province in particular alongside KZN and the Free State, are facing one of the worst droughts seen in the past two decades. The bush is very dry and we have reached a situation where we fear for the wellbeing of the animals that live on the DAKTARI Farm. All three provinces affected have been labeled as being disaster areas due to the severity of the situation. With the baby-season coming we want to be able to provide a little support to prevent malnutrition, dehydration, or even the death of some of these animals, as well as ensuring that the future mothers can provide for their young ones in the heat.
The drought which is currently affecting the area in which DAKTARI is has become more severe than was initially thought. Around this time, we would have experienced scattered rainfall and a progressively greener bush going into the rainy season. Unfortunately the bush is dry and there is fewer and fewer food for the wild animals on our farm. This project aims to counter the potentially devastating effects of the drought by providing a food source for the wild animals without majorly interfering.
What do we want to do?
Within the DAKTARI Farm we have a wide variety of animals. Be it giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, or a host of smaller animals, we believe in providing a little bit of help. We want to be able to provide lucerne and game pellets for the animals in the farm in specific areas where the animals will be able to gain nutrition while not being affected by our presence. This will allow us to counter the effects of the drought by providing a much needed source of food. Therefore, we have budgeted $500 to be able to purchase a sufficient amount of lucerne and game pellets to the animals of the farm. Moreover, if this drought continues and we receive no rain, we have kept in mind an 'excess' to be able to provide this help throughout the summer months of major heat.
Remember our update a few months ago that the ward councilor of The Oaks village visited DAKTARI? Well, we made an agreement with him that his Community Workers Team (CWT) will clean the public places in the village every Monday and Thursday. This has been going on for a while now and we are very happy to drive into a clean market place and unpolluted school areas every time we visit the village. The CWT also takes the full rubbish bags to the rubbish dump on a weekly basis, which is quite a big step for a village without a proper waste management plan. Okay – let’s be honest – there is still a lot of work to do before each household has its own dustbin or even recycling bin and a rubbish truck comes to collect the rubbish. However, good things come in small packages and then we didn’t even talk about our ‘building with rubbish’ project yet!
First things first. Building with rubbish you said? Yes, that’s right and it is purely a win win situation! A while ago, we asked all primary and high school learners in The Oaks to collect empty plastic bottles. They could fill these up with plastic rubbish until the top, resulting in a solid and non-squeezable so-called Ecobrick. In many Asian countries, people already apply these Ecobricks to build sustainable greenhouses and earthquake-proof houses and schools. However, what we are planning to build with these re-usable bricks is a huge dustbin, right on the marketplace of the village – THE spot where a dustbin is needed the most!
The students reacted very positively and it was in the afternoon when we introduced the project, that we already saw several youngsters putting plastic rubbish from the streets into bottles. Besides that this is amazing to see, this project has benefits on many fronts:
· The village will be cleaner as children use plastic litter to put in the bottles.
· Fewer plastics will be burnt at the houses, as also plastics from domestic rubbish are used to fill the bottles.
· The common goal is building the first public dustbin for the village. It will be something to be proud of for the children, as they took part in realizing it.
· We spread the word of the importance of taking care for the environment and that rubbish belongs in the dustbin.
Up until today, we collected 300 bottles from many different children. Some were unbelievably enthuastic: Tebatso, for example, brought 38 bottles in one go! To be able to build a big dustbin, 500 bottles are needed and the expectations are that we will reach this number soon. At that very point, we can start building the first public dustbin for The Oaks, of course in close collaboration with the community members. And the good news is: you can also take part in this project!
Would you like to support DAKTARI’s Outreach Programme and contribute towards the purchase of cement, so that we can start building this Ecobricks dustbin? Check out our GlobalGiving page to make a donation.
On behalf of the local communities and the Outreach team, a heartfelt ‘ke leboga kudu’ (means ‘thank you very much’ in the local language; Sepedi)! YOUR support makes a difference!
At first I want to say thank you to the people who made it possible for me to come to DAKTARI.
When I arrived in DAKTARI I was afraid about everything but with the time I realized that I found a little piece of heaven. I met so many interesting, different, and wonderful people from all over the world and I learnt a lot about animals.
DAKTARI changed my view on the world. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget. In the beginning all the lessons and the stabling were too much for me and I wasn't used to this hot climate. So I struggled. But with the time I grew on the exercises. And in the end I was ready to hold all the lessons by myself.
It was great to see the kids growing. In the beginning they were so shy and didn't know so much about their world but after one week they were open to us and they learnt a lot. I think this project isn't just good for children, it is also good for the volunteers. They can see that different cultures can easily work together for the greater good. And as we saw it on the survey they learn a lot about their environment in this one week. The work with the kids and the animals helps the kids to not only learn about the animals but also, loose their fear of them.
So for me the time was running too quickly and it was a very great time. Overall, it was perfect.
Thank you Michele, Ian, Erika, Ernest, Manu, Toine, Marta, Natalie and Will.
And now I don't want to leave...
We are making an appeal for your support in helping us provide the best aid and care to all the beautiful animals that we have at DAKTARI. To continue making stories like this possible, help us by making a donation on the project linked to on the button below! To increase your impact exponentially, make a monthly donation! It is a gesture that makes a huge difference for us, but especially for the animals!
We have had a very busy winter (summer up north) and here is the Newsletter to tell you all about it! Read about the newest additions to our family as well as the expansion of our Outreach Program and the work that has come with it. From visits to the village, to the start of a new Eco-Club in more local schools, we think that we are moving in the right direction!
We are very excited to share it with you!
We changed the format slightly from what it used to be like, so please let us know what you think!
Check it out below!
It is finally here...
Measuring our Impact in the Village of the Oaks!
Only a few months to go and it will be DAKTARI’s tenth anniversary. 10 years of helping, supporting and inspiring local, underprivileged children. 10 years of taking care of injured and orphaned animals. 10 years of impact in the local communities. Over the past few weeks we worked hard on a questionnaire which will enable us to measure the actual impact we have made and are making in the lives of the people around us.
But let's be honest; impact is a bit of vague term that reflects a very important aspect of the work we do!
Besides measuring impact by asking questions like ‘do you know DAKTARI?’, ‘what does DAKTARI do?’ and ‘do you consider DAKTARI important for your village?’ we would like to seize the opportunity to also educate the local communities about relevant topics such as poaching, rubbish management and tourism. No sooner said than done and this resulted in a 46 question educative questionnaire, ready to be conducted in the village. We have decided to conduct the survey at the village of The Oaks, as DAKTARI carries out a weekly Eco Club. We are already very involved with the community after having done a number of 'big cleans' and establishing a 'Home-Stay' program with two local families for our volunteers to experience life in the village. Moreover, DAKTARI is an active member of the community as we take part in the town assembly, in addition to regular meetings with the village chief and his councillors.
We have wasted no time in starting to carry out these surveys and over the past two days we have been actively working in the village, going door-to-door to speak and listen to the people of The Oaks! It is only a first step in gathering as much data as we can, but it has already been a great experience, and we have already received encouraging feedback. We will be meeting more and more members of our community in the next few weeks and we are very excited to share the outcome of the survey with you!!
In August we welcomed a group of volunteers a little different from what we usually get. The Maurel Family came to visit DAKTARI and over the week they were with us they were nothing short of amazing! Even if the names of the children turned out impossible to say for the children (hence the nicknames in brackets!)! Below you can read the original testimonials from all the members of the family!
Fabrice and Cécile (Dad and Mum)
We lived an unforgettable experience at DAKTARI Bush School ! Our amazing hosts, Ian and Michele, and great volunteers were so kind with us ! Our entire family has been wonderfully well received (welcomed). Parents as children were immediately involved in all activities. To help with the education of great children and to take care for wild animals was an amazing and rewarding experience. We will never forget our hosts, all other volunteers, children and animals of DAKTARI Bush School. Thanks to all of you!
Marianne (Bobo), 14 years old
I spent only one week at DAKTARI, but it was so wonderful that I left in tears. Everything was perfect. We met very nice people who I will never forget. DAKTARI is just like South Africa: a beautiful place, unique in the world. That is why I want to thank all who were there and made this adventure amazing, especially Michele, Ian, Marta, Nathalie, Erica, Ernest, Manu, Toine, and also all the volunteers, Wellington, Thijs, Amy, Jodie, Julie, even Mirabelle and Nikita !
You can be sure that I will come back!
Baptiste (Baba), 12 years old
I had a brilliant time at DAKTARI : to take care of animals, meet other young people, walk in the bush, play cards and participate in daily tasks !
I feared not being authorised to participate in activities. But instead, I was busy all day with some great people and great animals. Thank you all !
Perrine (Bibi), 15 years old
I only spent one week at DAKTARI but if I could had made this experience last longer, I would have gladly done it ! We had a lot of fun with the other volunteers and children. The animals were just as amazing as the people. I really do hope I will come back one day !
Thank you to all of the members of the Maurel Family for being so amazing and sharing their experience with us! Hopefully we will see you again soon!!
A second chance at life!
Chancy came to DAKTARI after being found in a nearby farm from our local community. It is not unusual for baby antelopes to be left hidden in the bush by their mothers for extended periods of time. In order to prevent Chancy getting taken away from his mother, he was monitored for a few days to make sure whether the mother was around and would come back or not. After it became clear that the mother would not return, Chancy was picked up and brought to DAKTARI, as, without a source for nutrition at such a young age, he would have most likely not survived.
After three weeks with us, Chancy is growing bigger and stronger without any complications. He is being fed about every three hours and is even playing and building a friendship with the dogs! In particular with Nikita, who, after growing up with Piggy the Warthog, is used to inter-species friendships! They are playing as often as they can and Chancy has even wondered out from the protection of the antelope enclosure to explore the garden!
Chancy will stay with us at DAKTARI until he is old and strong enough to be released into the wild!
Chancy’s story reflects very well the impact that DAKTARI is aiming to make. On one hand, we want to change the mindset in the community towards valuing and taking care of the animals that they may come across. We do this by raising awareness and providing a safe place to bring abandoned or injured animals if they are found in the bush. Furthermore, these gestures by the community link in with our efforts to grant these animals with a second chance at life. Without this combined effort, we would not be able to give Chancy and many other animals throughout the years another opportunity at growing up or surviving injuries.
You can see how playful and healthy he is in the video below!
If you would like to contribute to the care of Chancy as well as that of all the other animals at DAKTARI, join our fundraising campaign on GlobalGiving and make a difference today!
We are happy to welcome Martin, an adult cheetah, to DAKTARI!
We are very excited to share with you the arrival of the newest member of our animal family!
Martin’s story is one that we are unfortunately too familiar with. He was rescued as a youngster alongside his brother after being kept in very bad conditions where they both heavily suffered. They were saved by the SPCA, yet Martin’s brother was not able to overcome his injuries and did not survive. After a short stay at the SPCA, the young cheetah was moved to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) where he recovered from his injuries.
Lente Roode, owner and founder of HESC, releasing Martin in his new home!
In addition to his recovery, Martin's life at the HESC has seen him actively take part in a number of their projects. He contributed to the cheetah population by playing an important role in their breeding program and successfully fathering three litters. This is not only an significant step towards maintaining and increasing the dwindling population of cheetahs in Africa (only 10,000 left!), but it has also been key in diversifying the gene pool at the HESC Cheetah Project.
As Martin is now old, losing his teeth and will never be able to be released back into the wild. The HESC accepted to donate Martin to DAKTARI where he will now be looked after by Ian and Michèle.
Martin will continue making a difference by providing an essential tool towards our mission of educating young underprivileged children about the environment. Being able to see one of Africa’s big cats in such close proximity provides another unique experience to appreciate the beauty of the local wildlife, be it big or small! Martin has a very spacious enclosure and we are making sure his privacy is respected.
As with many other animals which have come through DAKTARI, Martin is getting a second chance in life in a place where he will be cared for for the rest of his life.
"Martin, we are very honoured to have you at home and will make sure you have a majestic life."
If you would like to contribute to the care of Martin as well as that of all the other animals at DAKTARI, join our fundraising campaign on GlobalGiving!
GlobalGiving Photo Contest 2015
Why is this important for us?
Simply put, it is a great opportunity to win a substantial amount of money towards our project! Moreover, we believe that our community is strong enough to help us achieve it!
What will the money go towards?
The photo selected by GlobalGiving comes from our fundraiser to provide food and care for all the animals at the camp. $1,000 will make a huge difference in allowing us to provide the best food for the animals as well as for continuing with the general maintenance of the animal’s enclosures. We work our hardest to provide the animals at the DAKTARI camp with a second chance at life!
Putting the financial aspect aside, being able to care for these beautiful creatures is a key service for our educational program. The subject of the photo, Nikita and Piggy, are a prime example of how we try to incorporate wildlife into the daily lives of the children who come to visit us at DAKTARI. This constant exposure to animals which they would otherwise not have seen is an important step in ensuring that we make as much of an impact as possible to ensure that the way in which animals are viewed is altered throughout their stay.
Piggy alone has proven to be a success story, as she grew large and strong enough to successfully go back into the wild. The size of our farm was not large enough to release her here, so she was moved to a larger farm with less people where she has now transitioned from her life in captivity to going into the wild!
These two reasons show the impact that we are trying to make. On one hand, Piggy served her purpose by acting as an educational tool for hundreds of children who were able to get a new perspective on wildlife through interacting with her. On the other hand, through nurture and care from a very young age, Piggy was given a second chance at life due to coming to DAKTARI.
Maybe on the surface this picture just shows a cute warthog playing with a puppy, but the story behind it holds the essence of the impact which we strive to make at DAKTARI. I hope that you share this feeling too.
Please VOTE below and SHARE the picture to help us win the competition, continue spreading our message, and making a difference!
DAKTARI Outreach on the Road!
As the students of the high schools were enjoying their well-deserved holidays, that meant no Eco Club for 3 weeks. However, this is not a reason for us to sit back! That is why we decided to visit Mmakadi Crèche in The Oaks village. Accompanied by a lot of volunteers and some rabbits we had a great afternoon with the toddlers. We transformed their faces into beautiful animals, taught them how to pet rabbits and played a throw-the-rubbish-game. In the end, the children took the stage to sing their national anthem and an anti-poaching song. Yep, that’s right, not even 4 years old and they know their anthem… that is what we call dedication! In exchange for these wonderful performances, the volunteers sang our custom-made DAKTARI song using the animal names in Sepedi, the local language! ‘DAKTARI has diphôôfôlô (donkey), E-I-E-I-O…’
One of the volunteers, Gabi (USA), was kind enough to share with us a few words about her experience with these younger children! Read it below!
“I was fortunate enough to have been able to go to the crèche during my stay at DAKTARI. We went to face-paint the children and sing them a song that the outreach manager wrote that included animal names in Sepedi (the local language). It was beautiful to see how culturally enriched the children are at such a young age. They sang the South African National Anthem to us and also danced. They put on skirts made of cloth and danced around a chair while a woman sang and played the drums. The children were shy at first but then they opened up after we started face painting them. After one design on their cheek, they wanted one on the other cheek, then their hand. I drew hearts all over their arms and they loved it. They were of ages 2 and older. They were all so loving and warm. A little girl and I got into a tickle fight for 30 minutes! She and the rest of the children made my heart smile. They all made me forget the concept of time and simply enjoy the moment of being there."
Interested in donating to the Outreach Program? Visit our fundraiser here!
Fresh out the press!
Here is our newsletter for the past three months! With stories about the children and all the things that have been happening at the camp!
And some great stories from the progress we have made with some animals as well as the newest members of our wild family!
I hope you enjoy it as much as we do and it gives you an insight into life here! If this does not satisfy your curiosity about what DAKTARI is all about, come visit us!
Thank you for your support and until next time!!