12 January 2017
Virginia McKenna, OBE and founder of the Born Free Foundation, explains why nurturing the next generation is so important:
“Our Global Friends programme has always been very important to me. You may wonder why, as Born Free is a ‘wildlife’ charity, I should feel so strongly about communities and children.
My reasoning is that without respect and concern for the wild environment and the wild creatures that live there, the future for all living things becomes increasingly vulnerable.
In the past, little attention has been paid to local communities. Many of these people struggle to survive, as do the wild animals which live around them. It isn’t a ‘them and us’ situation – it is about the whole picture.
I have been fortunate enough to visit one of our newest Global Friends partners, Kanjoo School, three times this year. It was inspiring and very touching. The only secondary classroom had 33 pupils and one text book, but their writing was neat and well laid out, their manners were perfect, their eagerness to learn exemplary.
I was so pleased that Global Friends was able to support the completion of one of the school buildings and thanks to the huge generosity of one of our long-term supporters who came on our Born Free safari in the summer, a second secondary classroom has now been built. Others have now donated towards the purchase of much needed solar panels, more text books, desks, equipment and field conservation trips into the nearby Park. There is still much to do, but it is a wonderful beginning.
The children treated us to a lively performance - poetry reading, dancing, acting and music. Then, with some of them, we planted many indigenous trees to create the start of The Born Free Forest.
Here are the facts - the children have to start their school day at 7am; some walk for kilometres, there is no clean drinking water at the school, and no kitchen - so no midday meal.
There are, obviously, many things we will work to change. But the feelings of inspiration I felt following my visit will never change. It is a privilege to be able to help these wonderful children and their dedicated teachers. It is through them that the wild land and animals of Kenya will be saved. As one little boy said to me, “Why do men want to kill lions?”
One of my dreams is that Global Friends will spread understanding - exchanging thoughts, opening minds to new ideas. That must be a good news story. Giving a helping hand to all who face survival challenges and ensuring that the world’s amazing wild places and animals can continue to exist as nature intended”.