At times we fear change, we know what we have and the future is but a dream, maybe not so in the case of FreeMe KZN.
“Wow, now that was a giant surprise!”
Half expecting an old tired replacement for our friend Roz at FreeMe KZN, we are shocked to come face to face with… who I could see as the future Gandhi of modern wildlife conservation.
Every word coming out of Wade Whitehead’s mouth makes total sense. From strategic planning, developing staff, center management, and community outreach. Wade does not only have a vision for FreeMe KZN as a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, but as a hub of learning for other centers. A place for both people and animals to grow! He says, “It’s all about people!” At first this sounds all wrong, backwards even, but the more we listen the more we realize that he might be on to something. Wildlife wins, when people are allowed to grow, by discovering the gems of taking ownership, being accountable, participating with new confidence and most importantly personal commitment coming from within.
Of course at the core an animal is hurt and a species needs to be saved. But how well a community helps is more than just giving a donation or splinting a wing. It is real funding not begging, proper skills for all and not just telling, focused management and not a burnt out few, and people, people, people… Stephen Covey (of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’ fame), here might just be your South African counterpart for nature.
A tour of the center already reflects changes. An old store room has been converted to a high risk triage clinic. The examination rooms are plastered with diagrams and information to assist in assessing injuries. The rehabilitation enclosures are screened off from the office and clinic building. Oh yes, the public is no longer allowed to see the animals and birds in rehab. Wade says, they’ve already cut down the stay of animals by several weeks by keeping human interaction to a minimum.
For the past few months Wade has been restructuring the personnel and is gearing up for a revamped internship program. The goal is to bring in eight of the best students and raise enough funds that will sponsor two local interns. With his focus on people he has a very straight forward way to assure he gets the team players that are best for FreeMe KZN. When he interviews a potential employee, intern or volunteer, his first question is always the same. “How will you add value to FreeMe KZN?” He’s not interested in what they want out of it, at least not at first. He wants people on the team with vision who realize that as they add value they become personally enriched along the way. It’s not about the warm fuzzy cuddling of wildlife, it’s about growing a world class center that makes an impact on the survival of species.
Wade keeps painting an energizing vision…
Only what’s right for the animal, no public viewing, get them back in the wild as quick as reasonable, educating the public to wait 24 hours before bringing in baby animals or birds.
Raise up local talent, prove you can add value, money/job is only the third motivator to keep good people, reach out to the community to educate everywhere.
Self-sustaining, nothing happens in isolation, all part of the whole, collaboration, working as team, add value to community, donors, staff, interns, build an open global scientific database.
All involved towards the end goal… Which focuses around a growing caring wildlife community where all people add value which naturally includes better overall involvement with wildlife.
This was soooo refreshing. And is sooooo needed. A balanced holistic approach to sustainable wildlife programs that are not dependent on government but gets key players, experts and ordinary people like you and me involved.
I come from a life centered on these principle in the world of progressive youth groups, entrepreneurial small business, construction teams, volunteers, and non-profit management. I have seen what works and what sputters.
Well, wildlife conservation is sputtering. Sure the big guys spend lots of dollars and the little guys work their fingers to the bone saving one critter at a time. But what is needed is a ground swell of caring people working together.
I feel Wade has all the ducks in a row. He focuses all facets of the effort towards the proper outcome by involving and growing incredible people… a team focused community in and around FreeMe KZN.
God speed to this most interesting Transformation Manager and FreeMe KZN. We look forward to seeing more growth next time we’re in town.