DAKTARI volunteer, Meret Hartmann, was with us for 5 weeks in August of this year. When she got home, she got to work! Meret wrote a wonderful article in the Swiss magazine, Willisauer Bote. She shared the article and the English translation with us...
Another World at the End of the Worldby Meret Hartmann
Pfaffnau / South Africa
Meret Hartmann volunteered in the South African Bush for five weeks. She talks about her work as a teacher, zookeeper, intermediator and playmate for a monkey at Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage.
It is an indescribable feeling of nervous eagerness I get when boarding a plane to a new travel adventure. This summer, my wanderlust brought me to South Africa, a country of two different faces. They are easily distinguished on the way from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit; from the vibrant city with six-lane highways to the rocky provincial streets bordering the famous Kruger National Park.
Final Destination: Bush
A small shuttle bus brought me from sleepless Johannesburg, where neither woman nor man dare to walk alone at night, into a world that belongs to wild animals. Surrounded by a vast expanse of dry trees lies Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage; my destination.
Our family of 4 has returned from our volunteer time at Daktari... and we miss you and all the animals!
We still laugh about finding blind Eeyore outside of the camp, miss Thor your monkey stealing our food and Boy, the bird taking a liking to Alex (15) and attacking him nonstop from behind....
Our goal of exposing our French-American teenage sons (17, 15) to the "real" South African bush with its children and animals, was exceeded on all levels: it allowed a complete disconnect with our fast-paced school and work lives. In fact, one week was too short, one month would have been even better!
The community feeling at Daktari, the insights learned from caring for wild or injured animals are powerful. The opportunity to teach local children and then accompany them to the "back stage" of a Safari Lodge (hotel)" showed us how lucky we were not to only see one side, the "touristy South Africa". Accompanying your Outreach Manager to the local schools and exchanging with the Young Eco-Club members who proudly showed the trees they had proactively planted at their school, confirms that your concept "Education drives Environmental protection!" works.
We all returned, vocal proponents of this type of humanitarian vacation! What we gave in terms of our time and energy to teach teenagers in English, was returned 1000 times to us with the insights we gained from the local staff, the Children, the animals and the staff.
A few friends had travelled abroad and it looked like a lot of fun, and I was always incredibly jealous seeing their pictures when they got back! As it was my first time travelling solo, I decided that a volunteering project would be the best way to get out there, whilst not being completely alone.
I had looked at a lot of programs on many different websites. In the end, I chose the project at Daktari Bush School in South Africa as it involved teaching local children whilst also looking after animals - I was sure it would keep me busy! As a primary school teacher, I love working with children and thought that this would be a brilliant opportunity to not only make a difference for these children, but improve my own teaching in a situation completely different to the one I am used to in England.
I was a little nervous when I first arrived as this was my first time travelling solo, but I soon realised I had no reason to be! Ian was there at the airport to greet myself and another volunteer, and he immediately made us feel welcome. He even stopped the car a few times on the way back to show us the giraffes and other animals! Arriving at Daktari, the warm welcome continued and it seemed like Ian and Michele had created a proper little Daktari family. After settling in, we were invited to join the other volunteers on an overnight safari, organised by Greg, which was such a fantastic experience and allowed me to bond with the other volunteers before the children arrived, and get a real taste of Africa.
At the start of both weeks, the children were so shy and quiet, but it was fantastic to see them growing in confidence and knowledge as the week progressed. By the time Thursday rolled around, we were all toasting marshmallows on the bonfire, with the children teaching us different songs, chants and dances.
The teaching programme at Daktari covered so many areas in such a short space of time, but it managed to do it in a way that kept the children engaged and motivated. As volunteers, we were encouraged to improve the lessons, so we worked on the existing knowledge hunt lesson to create a challenging scavenger hunt. The children got incredibly competitive running around the camp looking for the clues, and it was great to see them helping the other children in their team.
I was also given the opportunity to visit a local crèche as part of Daktari’s outreach programme and teach a lesson to the 3-4 year olds. It was a real eye opener, and such a contrast from my school back in England.
I think the thing that makes Daktari unique is the combination of working with children and animals. I was drawn to this project as very few others give this opportunity. As a volunteer, you have a real impact on the children by teaching them about job opportunities, tourism, their environment, how to look after the animals and social issues such as substance abuse. After a long week of teaching, you then have the chance to cuddle up to the meerkats at the camp, go on a Big 5 safari in the nearby Kruger park or go bungee jumping off of Blyde river canyon. It was just such a fantastic project!
All in all, I have had such a fantastic experience at Daktari, and my only regret was that it didn’t last longer! It’s incredible what Ian and Michele have achieved at Daktari in 10 years, and it’s clear the impact it has on the children, animals, local communities, and the volunteers who visit. I cannot recommend it enough, and I hope very much to visit again in the not too distant future!
My summer at DAKTARI primarily consisted of teaching local children and working with orphaned African wildlife. Working with local children proved to be the largest interaction while working at DAKTARI as students would come for five days a week and we would work with them from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. We would teach the students different subjects related to the environment and eco-tourism with some lessons touching on making South Africa a better place, safe sex, respect, and substance abuse.
The schedule for working with the children was very similar to that of an educational summer camp, and also involved the children and volunteers with the care taking of animals kept within enclosures around DAKTARI's camp. Taking care of the animals consisted of cleaning their enclosures and feeding and watering them every day.
At times, volunteers created projects to enhance the animal enclosures and would work on those projects when students were not at DAKTARI.
There were also opportunities for volunteers to go on excursions during the weekends, where every Saturday volunteers could go into town or go on other excursions such as hot air balloon tours, trips to Kruger National Park and to different wildlife centers around Hoedspruit.
I had a wonderful time and would recommend looking into DAKTARI as a possible volunteering opportunity. Be prepared to work, as it can be a demanding and tiring job at times. While I worked at DAKTARI some issues arose between volunteers and managerial staff where views did not align at times, and jokes could be off-color, but the long term volunteers were great to discuss these issues with. DAKTARI gave me a wonderful, life changing experience and really opened my eyes to the world outside of the United States. I could have never predicted what the experience was like and the African bush was truly breath-taking.
I greatly enjoyed working with the local children, they were very fun to teach and to play games around the camp with. I enjoyed working with all of the other volunteers and I am so glad that I met all of the long term volunteers, all of which are wonderful people and great company around a dinner table. I hope DAKTARI continues to touch the lives of the locals and to make a difference in how the environment is perceived in Africa.
It's not what you might be thinking...
Thankfully, the Black Mambas that visited DAKTARI last week are not snakes, but anti-poachers and the "Bushbabies" are kids in their conservation education program.
The Black Mambas are a group of anti-poachers that have been trained in Hoedspruit. All of them come from a disadvantaged community. Since 2013, they have destroyed more than 10 poacher camps and 3 bushmeat kitchens. Snaring and poisoning has been reduced by 76% in the areas they patrol. Amazing work! The Bushbaby program is fairly similar to DAKTARI's program. It works well with the existing curriculum that the children receive at school and it provides extra teaching in environmental topics. As an added bonus, it's always a lot of fun for the kids who get to go on field trips and interact with animals!
It was great being able to welcome both groups for a tour of DAKTARI and answer their great questions about our wildlife orphanage. We hope to have another inspiring group come to visit us again soon!
DAKTARI is so thankful for all of the support we received during the June 15, 2016 Bonus Day on GlobalGiving UK. We received more than £15,000 in donations, matching, and prizes thanks to our amazing donors!
We were so thrilled to also be awarded the top prize for the most funds raised on that day on GlobalGiving UK and for having the most donors on that day as well – prizes totaling £1,300.
These funds will be used towards DAKTARI’s teaching program. The children coming to stay with us will have delicious meals, new school supplies, and warm beds to fall into after an exciting day at DAKTARI.
DAKTARI would not be here without your continued support throughout the past 10 years. THANK YOU!
1. Our baby nyala hoping to get a yummy banana peel
2. Teeny tiny bunnies taking a quick nap
The past two months have been very busy! Animal releases, new staff, community work, and work placements - our team has been very busy! From now on, we'll be updating you once per month to keep up with all of the news from DAKTARI.
Want more details about what DAKTARI has been up to? Read the newsletter below:
DAKTARI works hard to make sure the animals that come to us can have the best life possible. Sometimes, that means we need to keep them at the farm, but other times, we can release them back into the wild. See who was released in April!
The first newsletter of the year !
We had a great end to 2015, but the start to 2016 has been just as good... if not better! We have a lot of news concerning the start of the year for both the children and the animals! New additions, great experiences and a lot more to share with you, so let's get to it!
Most of the animals we welcome at DAKTARI come either due to injury or because they were injured and will not likely survive in the wild. Out of the animals which we welcomed these past few months, Carlito the Bushbaby, two of the jackals and the three mongoose were all found alone as babies!
|I had just retired and decided to travel to South Africa to begin my new life of "giving back." When my husband and I (both in our early sixties) arrived at Daktari our first activity was after dinner -- the baby dassies needed their evening bottles. I fed the furry little creature, then she crawled onto my neck and went to sleep. Believe me -- it was more relaxing than any spa treatment I have ever experienced. So began our wonderful 2 week adventure at Daktari. We feed and cuddled the dassies every morning and evening, met the cheetah, held brand new baby mice, petted the jackal and laughed with Eeyore the donkey. We also worked hard stabling and feeding the animals. That was the animal orphanage part of Daktari. The Bush School part was just as rewarding. Who knew my husband could command such attention in the classroom - the kids really listened to him. We had the opportunity to talk about politeness, respect, the environment and the economic and humanitarian importance of protecting the animals in South Africa. I loved every minute. Everything was wonderful -- from my first email inquiry until the day we left. We plan to go back. Animals and kids in the African bush. What could be better than that?|
Say hello to the new member of our Office Team!
In January we welcomed Patience to DAKTARI! She was one of the local alumni who went through our alternative teaching program for post-matric students. We are very happy to have her with us and look forward to all the great things which she will do with us! Below you can read a little bit more about her... from her!
My name is Patience Ananda Moripa and I'm twenty years old. I currently work as an Environmental Monitor (EM) at DAKTARI.
I first came here as a student with other young adults who were invited to DAKTARI because we had finished high school and passed Matric, and were going to follow a career guidance program (alternative teaching program). At DAKTARI we were told that there was a position as Environmental Monitor (EM) open, and that we should write a convincing letter of motivation to apply for the job. With luck, I was the one who was chosen! As an EM I teach children with the help of the international volunteers and I also assist the Animal and Outreach Managers and the outreach manager with anything they may need. This experience has taught me to be patient and confident in myself and to able to work with people from all over the world.
This is an great opportunity to gain experience as I wish to build my future and study become and business woman in the future.
So far it has been such a great experience and I love being able to share it with all the volunteers who come from around the world.
Maybe see you soon!
The last Newsletter of 2015... and what a year it has been!
The end of 2015 brought new animals, work in the village and a lot of educational fun for the children! From visits to the village, to the establishment of the new Eco-Club program the local creches, planting trees as well as taking the kids on game drives and to Moholoholo, this final months of the year have been super packed with an incredible time! Thank you for being a part of it through your support and your interest in what we do! We are looking forward to 2016 and to share it with you!
Read the last newsletter of the year below! And share it to spread the word about DAKTARI!What an end to 2015! - DAKTARI Newsletter