Monday, March 4, 2013

My Duties at Thanda Part 3

In my last two posts about my duties at Thanda, I wrote about the photography and conservation work that volunteers do at Thanda. We spend most of our time on those duties, but we also get to be part of the community outreach. African Impact is involved in many educational projects, and volunteers help out in those programs too.

Some days we visit the local crèches and help out with the lesson plans. The kids at the crèches are from newborn to 4 years. It is so much fun being around them. The lesson plans help them prepare for school. We help them learn English words including ABC’s, days of the week, names of animals and so on. We have fun with them during play time. They love hugs and cuddles and even blowing bubbles!

Volunteers also work with two schools in the local rural communities around Thanda. The first school is Mafa School about 25 minutes away from the game reserve. From this school we collect the sixth graders and drive them to our education centre at Ulwazi. With volunteer help, the children learn about the special wildlife on Thanda and the importance of conservation. These outings are rounded off by lunch and a drive home often accompanied by singing.

The second school is Mdletshe, where our work is also supported by the Happy Africa Foundation. The school has three classrooms and, depending on the number of volunteers, we prepare lessons for one or two groups. These are elementary age kids, so they love crafts and coloring.

Last but not least, volunteers are expected to take care of small duties at the lodge. One week I was equipment manager, so I had to make sure all equipment was accounted for and nothing went missing or get lost on our expeditions. Another week, I was the environmentalist, so I had to make sure water was properly recycled and the electricity was not being overused. I also had to see to it that the lodge was organized and clean – no trash or dirty dishes! I’m looking forward to other assignments such as gardener for watering the garden and reporter for posting news on our Facebook page.

Since I came here as a photographer, I try to take photographs of everything that happens – animals, conservation work, community projects, and people. You never really know what kind of photography the Thanda team will need as they try to tell the story of all the important work that’s going on here. They may want to spotlight a particular project or praise the accomplishments of a particular volunteer. For me, photography ties everything together.

So now you know what it means to be a volunteer at Thanda. Every day is different. Every day is full. Every day seems meaningful.

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