Recently, eight students from Otjiwarongo Secondary School, a local school in Otjiwarongo, contributed to Cheetah Conservation Fund’s mission through engaging in community work. Completing 30 hours of community work at a local organization is one of the requirements students need to pass the coursework for the school’s Entrepreneurship class. We divided their hours at CCF into four days (May 15 – May 17) and the group of young adults (aged 18 to 19) was so enthusiastic, energetic, inquisitive and hard-working, that they ended up putting in an extra two hours overall! This is the first time that students from this secondary school have chosen to do their community work at CCF. Some of the students had never previously been to visit our centre, or even heard about CCF.
We were very excited to receive an email about this group of students, and responded immediately letting the students know we would appreciate their volunteerism. Some of their tasks during their four days with us included: cleaning cheetah and dog pens, cleaning livestock kraals, performing office tasks including lots of data-entry, preparing meat for our resident cheetahs, brushing and walking our livestock guarding dogs (LGD). The students performed their assigned tasks with ease and infused the work with a sense of fun and exuberance. They made the most mundane daily task seem like it was the most interesting job on the planet. It was remarkable to see our work through their eyes.
Another requirement for their class was that the community work they performed needed to have an educational component. CCF staff took the opportunity to help them understand the importance of CCF’s mission in helping ensure the survival of the cheetah in the wild. We showed them how every task they performed for their internship had contributed to our mission.
Most of the students mentioned having heard about the cheetah in primary school, or from reading about them in the newspaper. However, they did not know cheetah was endangered, and how humans and human activity was the major contributing cause of the decline of the cheetah. We helped them understand that the future of the cheetah’s survival is in the hands of young people who will become future farmers, conservationists, and policy makers. We took the group around the Centre explaining the different tasks and projects CCF staff carry out to contribute to our mission, and how every task is important no matter how small it may seem.
The students had an opportunity to watch the Cheetah Run, one of our enrichment activities for the resident cheetahs living at CCF. We also took the students out into the reserve where they conducted a mock game count. This gave them an opportunity to see wild cheetahs in action, and some of the wildlife they saw at the reserve they had never seen before.
When the students arrived on the first day, we asked them to write down how they felt about the cheetah in the wild, and to name one fact about the cheetah. Most of them knew the cheetah was the fastest land animal. At the end of their community work we asked them the same questions and these were some of their responses:
“Cheetahs are not aggressive animals”.
“I feel positive about cheetahs in the wild because they play an important role in the natural environment”.
“Humans and cheetahs can co-exist, people just need to be educated about the cheetah.”
“The survival of the cheetah is important for future generations to see and experience.”
The students then gave short presentations about their experiences at CCF. They outlined what they learned, and how they will help share this knowledge with others. I was most interested to see how much they had learned is just a few days. Since the students are in their last year of high school, we also talked to them about what career fields interested them most. One of the students wants to be a geneticist, and another a livestock farmer. The majority mentioned wanting to come back and learn more about the cheetah through internship and volunteerism.
We are very thankful that the students chose to come to CCF. It was a pleasure working them and we are so grateful for all their efforts. We look forward to seeing them back at CCF in the near future.