Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Change is the Only Constant

7 November 2017

Categories: Kenya News, Education News, Homepage News

By Phoebe Odhiang – Education Programme Officer, Born Free Kenya – phoebe[at]bornfree.or.ke

Our founders had a vision, to keep wildlife in the wild. One of the ways they intended to achieve this was to “work with local communities who live alongside wildlife to promote tolerance and co-existence. And to bring about decisions that have a positive lasting impact on animal welfare and wildlife conservation by raising the profile and importance of these issues with policymakers, the wider public and other stakeholders, through education and advocacy.”

Our Global Friends programme in Kenya has brought us great successes and pride over the last 20 years or so, and our four partner schools refer to us as friends. Our relationships have grown and while the animals led us there our human nature has greatly influenced our work, driving us to adapt to the communities and build lasting partnerships. As we strive to live up to our vision, to Virginia and Bill’s vision, we aim to leave behind a generation that will see things the way we do. Not because we provided them with infrastructure but because we set an example they wanted to emulate.

Before we had our own office in Kenya, we already had a presence and had brought about changes to the lives of the children at Ngonzini Primary School, located in the coastal area of southern Kenyan. Being in a remote rural part of the country and next to the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, the community there has first-hand experience of conflict with wildlife, especially elephants.

Helping the school to build essential classrooms and supporting a scholarship programme have allowed children to remain in school and over the years this relationship has provided books for the library and most recently a school computer lab has given the children a means to learn about their environment and the wider world. The conflict still continues but the hostility has lessened.

Ol Moti Primary School in Amboseli just outside Amboseli National Park has been a partner for 15 years. As with so many other communities their biggest challenge is conflict over resources, most significantly with the elephants, lions and other predators. When we started the children were not attending school both because of cultural issues and the high risk of encounters with elephants and other wild animals on their journey from home. We have provided classrooms, dormitories, a kitchen, books and solar lighting thus increasing enrolment and elevated the school by providing the most basic requirements. In addition, in order to help mitigate this significant conflict, our Predator Proof Boma project is working with local communities in the area and we have provided water for the elephants away from the school compound.

Lenkisem is at the direct opposite side of the park to Ol Moti and in a more densely populated area. Different problems but the same solution. We started off working with the primary school, but due to our success at Ol Moti we wanted to enable children in the area to stay in school and ensure that they continued to higher education, which was not previously available. Thus Lenkisem Secondary was born. Again we have worked with them to ensure they have more than the basics for secondary education. A science lab, teacher’s houses, classrooms and water tanks have all improved the school environment.

The newest kid on the block is situated where it all started.  Our heritage, Meru National Park, where our icon Elsa is buried. In African culture the last born child in a family is special, pampered and favoured and we have a special name for them, kitinda mimba, meaning the one who closes the womb in Swahili. Even when they have their own last borns we still refer to them as such. Kanjoo School is just two years old with us though over 30 years in existence. The birth of the Kanjoo Secondary School and the young Born Free Forest tell it all.

However, just as in life, organisations sometimes lose the focus of what drove their passion and fed their will. It is time to look back at the essence of who we are and what drives us. It is time to look back and ask ourselves “Have we been true to ourselves? Have we done enough?

We have captured the attention of the children but unintentionally we have created an isolated island of converts, neglecting the hinterland. The problem of conflict, intolerance and fear towards wildlife stems from several factors, the most basic of which is competition for resources and the lack of knowledge of the value and the rights of wildlife as part of the whole. Moving forward we will build on our successes and seek to close this gap. We want to reach out and connect with all the stakeholders - partners, policy makers, communities, urban and rural, all social economic classes. It is time to reflect, reconnect and to share the passion that so strongly drives us and all that we do.

A vision is a guiding light and through education we hope to continuously and relentlessly tailor our message for our different audiences, step by step, a little at a time, towards the ultimate goal - keep wildlife in the wild.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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