I had the pure joy of spending my 74th birthday in Botswana. Of course, my husband Scott and I always Pack for a Purpose when we travel. This time was no exception.
We were staying at Wilderness Tubu Tree and wanted to collect school supplies for their amazing Children in the Wilderness program described below. With the generosity of our friends and our truly philanthropic dentist Dr. Brent Meekins, we were able to collect over $1300 to purchase school supplies in Botswana!
Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is an environmental and life skills education program focusing on the next generation of rural decision makers. It is the grass roots initiative of Wilderness and one of the few programs aimed at bridging the divide that exists between communities and wildlife.
The program hosts rural children living alongside Africa’s Parks and Reserves, teaching them the importance of conservation and inspiring them to care for their natural heritage so they become custodians of these areas in the future. CITW helps build and strengthen these children’s capabilities to cope with life’s challenges and develops their life skills to realize their greatest potential.
The program is hosted through Eco-Clubs in the local schools and rewards their dedication and commitment with participation in annual CITW camps at Wilderness camps. The local teachers receive ongoing training for the CITW Eco-Club curriculum which complements the national environmental education syllabus.
The program is run by Moalosi Lebekwe, Stakeholder Manager for Wilderness Botswana. We contacted Mo and were able to send $1,300 so supplies could be purchased in Botswana.
It is always a local decision whether a school visit is possible, but much to our delight, in this instance it was. Mo told us about Tubu Primary School in Tubu village, a short distance from where we were staying. It’s also a CITW partner-school, and one he believed would benefit immensely from the supplies we donated. He arranged to meet us at the school with his team and the supplies, so the morning of my birthday we set off.
We were the first tourists to ever visit the village and were asked to meet with the Kgosi, or village chief, before going to the school. This was an honor. We then met the Kgosi and other dignitaries in a Kgotla, a respected Tswana traditional public assembly or community council where community members, elders, and the village leaders (Dikgosi) come together to discuss important issues, resolve disputes, and make collective decisions.
After the Kgotla, we left for Tubu Primary School – just a short distance away – and were welcomed by 167 singing children and their teachers. What an exciting surprise. Faculty members then led us to an official welcoming ceremony, and the children took their seats under a tree.
The head of school and several teachers spoke, and we were asked to say a few words, as well. We handed the supplies to the head of school, and then one of the students read a lovely thank you letter he had written. We were also presented with a beautiful certificate of appreciation.
Next, we set off to a third-grade class to read the children a book since we brought two as donations to their library. While children are taught English language at an early age, they are normally very shy to express themselves. So, Mo translated from English to Setswana while Delta, our incredible guide, acted as our official page-turner.
Then we were off to an upper grade math class to teach them on that game which focuses on integers of three. When I asked a teacher to call up her two best math students, they were both girls – on a personal note, I was delighted. After playing the game, we discussed the strategy and wrote down the way to win on the chalk board.
The children, at this point, were all eating lunch outside and enjoying some fresh air.
We want to give a huge thank-you and shout out to the CITW team for their support and commitment to the children of Botswana.