Wildlife conservation experts do amazing work, however, some ordinary people make a big difference in their small world too.
“You have to talk to Sam,”
Alex at 20-something just finished kayaking around Lake Malawi (350 miles long, 50 miles wide)! It took him five and a half weeks! He is raising funds to build a school in a local village north of Senga Bay.
I catch up with Sam going through supplies with one of her workers.
Definitely from the hippy era. Sam … The owner of Cool Runnings in Senga Bay, Malawi sports an array of earrings on her left ear, a nose jewel, as-sundry bracelets and a small anklet. Despite her ‘make love not war’ appearance Sam is anything but laid back.
Born in Africa she’s been operating her backpackers for fourteen years. But there is so much more to Sam.
Human wildlife conflict
“Tourists don’t want to buy a monkey,” Sam tells the locals looking for any way to make a buck. We need the monkeys to do their job right here. She takes every opportunity to discourage cutting down trees to make charcoal, to pick up rubbish and overall to live sustainably. As one of the only white property owners in the area she is very involved with the locals. On the day we leave Cool Runnings she has three people loaded in the back of her bakkie (small truck) taking them to hospital.
Most of her guests at the back packers are volunteers. Not the paying kind. They get involved in numerous projects in the community, mostly organized by Sam. We saw her chatting with a group of three women and a couple of young men. “Sometimes I have to tell them to stop hiding.” When I look at her quizzically she explains. At times young and old alike are escaping from their real world. Once they’ve found themselves she encourages them to take what they’ve learned and go home.
Police post for community
Sam overseas nine groups of what we know as neighborhood watch teams. Since starting this program of community policing domestic violence has been reduced by 40%! Petty crimes have also decreased. This is good and keeps the local business owners supporting the policing. While we are there they get approval for some property to erect a small building as a real police post. Sam is elated. Mostly because what was once her project has just shifted to become a truly community effort.
And that sums up Sam… She is about doing what’s best for all stakeholders.
Now, before you even begin to think her road is smooth sailing, it isn’t. Levies and taxes keep rising. Power outages are daily. The water supply is shrinking. Africa is unpredictable. So why does she stay?
“I know the sh_t I’ve got!” She says with a sly grin. “There’s sh_t everywhere, it’s just different.” How right she is!
The world would be a better place if there were more people like Sam, involved in their own small part of the planet.