30 disadvantaged high school students from the Imbali settlement outside of Pietermaritzburg have the opportunity of a lifetime. As a reward for excellent performance Nikela is sponsoring the Meholokazulu’s environmental club on a field trip to experience Shannon’s free flying raptors this Saturday (10/30/10).
Shannon’s raptors at the
African Bird of Prey Sanctuary are a sight to see for 30 poor students.
“A short while ago we had a bus donated to us,” Boyd says almost in passing. Russ and I look at each other as I feel that tingling that comes when I know things are miraculously lining up. Boyd is a scientist with Ezemvelo, the KZN board over wildlife, biodiversity and tourism. Russ was referred to Boyd by a fella at Church.
A few days earlier at the Bird of Prey Sanctuary we’d been listening to Shannon talk about the need to reach more of the rural, lower income kids with her flight shows. They are the ones caught up in old myths that jeopardize the raptors. For example: Sniffing the powered brains of a vulture makes you clairvoyant and able to predict winning lotto numbers and such! Shannon sees how children’s hearts are touched as they witness a Kite catch food in mid air or even more so when the Goshawk seeks out pieces of food strategically placed near their feet. So what is Shannon’s first obstacle: Access to the kids in the settlements. Finding those teachers and officials that are interested in environmental/wildlife education.
On Sunday I’m sitting together with a group of women. A few take a minute to share a moment of success. “Passed my exam!” A women behind me states boldly. After a gently nudge from her neighbor a modestly dressed woman says, “My students placed 3rd in Sweden.” I really take notice! I need to talk to this woman, she must be a marvelous teacher.
Thoko, a teacher of 17 years has taken her best science students past local, even regional level, on to National competition three times, and this last time two of them went to Sweden and took third place internationally. Yes, I’m impressed. A huge accomplishment for a low income school. Thoko is thrilled about what we’re doing and wants to help. We set a time to meet with her at the school.
In a small cubby hole next to the library we chat with Thoko and her colleague Nomti. They tell us about their curriculum restraints which led to the creation of an environmental club to provide more in depth learning for those interested. They’d love to take field trips. Most of these children have never been far outside Imbali (the settlement where they live). Both Thoko and Nomti’s eyes twinkle like kids at the thought of experiencing something like Shannon’s raptor flight show. They too have not seen much of any wildlife themselves. So what’s the biggest obstacle? Transportation. How in the world do they get 30 learners the few kilometers down the N3 to the Sanctuary? If there are school buses there’s no budget and parents don’t have cars.
Now you can understand why Boyd telling us about the bus was so spine tingling. All we need to do is get these three parties talking and set a date. Oh yes, and to top it all my photographer friend from the Netherlands will be in the country to capture it for us.
Now the stories not over yet?! After getting things all set up the bus falls through! Now what? Well, Thoko, ever the resourceful woman jumps into action to organize two kombis, there’s no way she’s going to let this opportunity slip through her fingers!
I can just see these kids sitting mesmerized in those bleachers listening to Shannon tell her stories and watching the raptors do their magic. I can see those kids going back to their community armed with truth and knowledge about raptors and how they can make a difference by their actions and words, and with ideas for careers in conservation and tourism giving them hope for the future.
You too can take part in this wonderful aligning of the stars to provide these teachers and students with a once in a life time experience.