SA Mint - Nocturnal Hunters Collection - The Leopard Coin 2014

Environmental Education Camp connects 2800 children with nature

By now, you have no doubt heard that SA Mint has undertaken to donate all proceeds from the sale of the Leopard Gold Coin 001/600 to the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT). But what you may not know is how this donation has the power to transform the lives of hundreds of children that have never experienced the healing power of nature.

To learn more about the valuable work being done by the Cape Leopard Trust’s Education and Outreach Programme, we sat down with CLT’s Education Co-ordinator, Elizabeth Martins.

As the daughter of a Botanist that later studied Archaeology and Anthropology, Elizabeth has always loved the natural world. But her career took a different path when she became a Waldorf Teacher and spent four years applying the hallmarks of educating through the heart, head and hands. The Waldorf method not only focuses on cognitive development but also encourages creativity, artistic expression and spiritual wellbeing that are reinforced by outdoor activities like gardening and spending time in nature. On a somewhat fortuitous solo walk through the Cederberg Mountains, Elizabeth met her future husband, Dr Quinton Martins, and together their combined skills of conservation research and education have allowed CLT to flourish.

CLT soon found their conservation success hinged on gaining the support and cooperation of surrounding communities to understand the human-wildlife conflicts and the many threats facing the Cape Mountain Leopard. Educational Presentations to farmers, school groups and communities have since become an important educational tool that has been integrated into their work. But CLT also wanted to share the incredible landscape of the Cederberg with people and let them experience the magic, solitude, rich biodiversity and natural heritage of where this unique and majestic Leopard thrives, and this is how their Wilderness Camp came into being.

Built in 2009 on CapeNature land, the Camp is intentionally designed to offer an entirely rustic and authentic outdoor experience. Tok Tokkie, as it is affectionately named, is entirely off the grid, with no electricity and definitely no cell phone reception. Instead it is a place where a group of up to 35 people can gather around a campfire to share stories, watch the stars, listen to the sounds of nature and discover themselves.

A variety of learning activities and adventures that cover themes like Leopard research, Astronomy, Survival and navigation skills, Animal Tracking, Geology and fossil hunting introduce children between the ages of 10 and 18 to the rich, tactile learning environment of the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo biosphere and Cederberg Mountains and pair this scientific exploration with artistic expression, journaling and self-reflection.

Recently, Hadley Lyners, an experienced and dedicated teacher from the Cape Flats joined the Education Programme as Camp Facilitator. Hadley is intimately aware of the social burdens facing the youth of this crime-ridden area. Growing up surrounded by alcohol and drug abuse and often with little prospect of pursuing tertiary studies, most children in the Cape Flats have never left the confines of their fractured communities. The Wilderness Camp provides a rare respite away from their daily stresses and instead introduces them to new realities and possibilities through the healing power of nature.

Hadley shared many harrowing stories with us about the gang- infested streets of this neighbourhood. In a recent spike of violence, a group of children scheduled for a camp pickup literally could not cross the streets in Manenberg for fear of being caught in the crossfire and had to miss their trip. On another occasion, he recalls how the drive back to Cape Town after several days of peace and joyful sharing were shattered by the news of three friends being mowed down in gang violence over a single weekend.

Since 2009, funding from several generous donors has enabled The Cape Leopard Trust to host 2800 children and youth groups at 127 camps so far. They stem from diverse communities like Wupperthal, Clanwilliam and greater Cape Town. The many testimonials received from teachers and participants that include inspired artwork, poems and tales of gratitude for having opened a window have cemented CLT’s resolve to expand this transformative experience. Next year, CLT will build another camp in their Gouritz research cluster in the beautiful Gamkaberg, just below Oudtshoorn and schools in the area are already applying to participate.

The running cost of a fully sponsored camp that offers transport, accommodation and guided facilitation can cost up to R15 000, but from what we have read and seen on the ground, in the eyes of the children, these few days are priceless. Join our online bid today and be part of a legacy that not only earns you a solid golden investment but the chance to be part of a powerful legacy of environmental education.

Group of Learners attending the Cape Leopard Trust camp at the Wolfberg Arch
Group of Learners attending the Cape Leopard Trust educational camp at the Wolfberg Arch

 

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