As teachers and caretakers at DAKTARI our volunteers are vital to the success of our programs and really make an impact on the communities. The volunteers will teach the local children, care for the animals and reach out to the community.
Teaching the Children
Since 2006, DAKTARI has welcomed eight children every week to come to DAKTARI for a five-day stay to learn about the environment. We pick up the Grade 8 students on Monday morning and they stay in dorms at the camp. During their stay, they participate in our teaching program. The goal? To provide a close and engaging learning experience that motivates students to care for their environment, while teaching them important life skills.
The DAKTARI teaching program is dynamic and changes as we find new lessons and activities that the kids enjoy. Although the main frame of the program has stayed the same, we are always looking to improve. The program is completely taught by volunteers and they get a detailed teaching program before they arrive so that they can learn the material.
What makes our Teaching Program different?
The children get to spend a full week at our camp with our volunteers and get to have fun, as well as learn a lot! Because we only take eight children each week, they benefit from one-on-one attention and participate in every lesson. Though our focus is on environmental education, we also spend time teaching the children life skills and addressing social problems like alcohol and drug addiction or safe sex. The teaching program is very hands-on. The children get to see the animals up-close at our wildlife orphanage and interact with the animals every day. The lessons are interactive and practical and the children leave here with a passion for learning.
Working with the Animals in the Wildlife Orphanage
The animals at DAKTARI are the cornerstone for the education program. Sadly, many of them are not able to be released but we are able to give them a second life at DAKTARI where they make a big impact. Most of the children that come to DAKTARI have never seen one of the Big 5 – Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Elephant, and Buffalo – or any of the local wildlife. Due to poaching and the killing of animals because they destroy crops, the wildlife has been relocated to private and national reserves for their protection. Entrance into these reserves is expensive so the local communities cannot enter.
This is where DAKTARI comes in. We teach the children that their local wildlife should not be inherently feared or hated. We teach them that animals should be protected and respected. We teach them that the local wildlife creates jobs through tourism and animal care. Each day you will help with the different chores that need to be done to keep our animals happy and healthy such as cleaning each enclosure and feeding them.
Many of the animals that come to DAKTARI are injured or require special care (especially the babies!). That means that you may be tasked with providing medicine, first aid, or additional feeding to animals at the camp, day or night. If we have any new arrivals or animal releases, you will also have the opportunity to renovate or build new animal enclosures with our staff!
Animals as ambassadors
Having a safe place to rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals has always been part of the vision of DAKTARI. It has also grown into an integral part of the education of the local children. The animals in the orphanage are integrated into the teaching program with the children. There are lessons about poaching, animal facts, and learning how to identify animals by their tracks. The children complete a scavenger hunt around the camp based on the different animals and facts about them.
Each morning and each afternoon, the children assist volunteers and staff in cleaning enclosures and feeding the animals. The children also interact with our more friendly residents during their free time. By actively taking part in the animal care and by learning so much about animals during their stay, the children are inspired to protect the wildlife. It would be impossible to achieve our mission without the animals in our care.
Some of the children enjoyed their DAKTARI experience so much that together they organised a small after school club to share their inspiration and love for conservation. We are proud to have mentored their club which has now developed into our DAKTARI Outreach Program. The ECO CLUB takes around 30 students at a time for 6 weeks. These voluntary clubs are very popular and the kids are celebrated with a big ceremony at the end of each cycle!
By working every week with children in their villages, we extend DAKTARI’s impact to a wider population, and empower the children to be role models in their community. Children from any grade can join and many will attend eco-club for several years.
Community Improvement Projects
With the help of the children in the ECO CLUB, DAKTARI has initiated and sponsored several community projects, such as community clean-up projects, reusing rubbish to build a dustbin, and planting trees at the creche and school. We aim to not only improve the aesthetics of the community, but the instil a sense of pride and responsibility for their community into the children. That way, they will take better care of it in the future.
Wildlife Crime Campaigns
During the weeks when DAKTARI is not able to bring children to the camp due to exams or school breaks, we go to schools we normally can't work with to do Outreach Campaigning. This consists of 3 mornings or afternoons where we teach Grade 7 kids about the environment, recycling and more important subjects. We are not able to welcome all of these children to our camp, but by doing our Outreach Campaigning we can at least bring them a little more knowledge on the environment and its importance.