36 bright and excited young people, accompanied by 10 guardians, travelled across Kenya to the big city, most of them for the first time! For the first time ever our annual Scholar’s retreat was being held in Nairobi, at the comfortable and well equipped Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK) campus. The scholars arrived on the evening of Sunday 2nd December and were greeted by the Land & Life team and a warm tasty meal of chicken and chapatti. The theme of this year’s retreat was ‘Using knowledge and skills to promote sustainable environmental conservation’.
On Monday, the first day of the retreat, sessions were facilitated by wildlife and conservation experts from WCK on their role in saving wildlife and environment, and how best to use natural resources without depleting them. The professional staff of WCK have a lot of experience in conservation education and literacy and we were thrilled to have them working with our warriors, sharing their knowledge.
The afternoon was exciting for everyone, out of the classroom and into the forest. We were joined by none other than Teddy Kinyanjui of Seedballs Kenya, also known as Mr Seedball! Teddy talked about the importance of forests and trees, and then of course explained what seedballs are and how to best use them. The group walked the WCK nature trail with teddy showing them fun new seedballing techniques like using sling-shots, and even their feet! The warriors also planted tree seedlings and saplings funded by our new partner B n Tree, a company that plants trees for free whenever people travel, leaving a permanent mark of their presence in the WCK forest.
After lunch, everyone returned to WCK and had a practical session on how to make briquettes, an innovative alternative to charcoal. They were shown how to make the briquettes, and taught why as young people they need to stop chopping down trees and instead lead their communities in finding alternative sources of fuel. This session was also facilitated by experts from the WCK.
Our four outgoing scholars were brought to our Head Office to meet Craig McFarlane the Elewana group head guide to explore the possibility of absorbing them in the Elewana internship program. The four graduating warriors spent the afternoon in the ELewana and Cheli & Peacock head offices, meeting staff from all departments and gaining a wider understanding of how the tourism industry works and what opportunities may lie ahead for them.
Wednesday 5th was dubbed ‘Land & Life day’. We had special treats for our youngsters, kicking off the morning with a panel discussion from experienced and knowledgeable speakers in different conservation & tourism fields. We had Godfrey – a Head Guide at Elewana Kifaru House who spoke about guiding as a career, Gabriel Ngale – the Project Coordinator WCK who spoke about the youngsters’ role in Sustainable tourism and development, David Mbugua – Communication and Fundraising Assistant at Kenya Wildlife Trust (and former Land & Life Projects Coordinator) who spoke about careers in the tourism and conservation industry, how to prepare for job interviews etc. Last but not least we had Purity a young lady from Kachiuru who was inspired by Land & Life’s initiative in Shaba and who spoke about her life in Kachiuru, challenges she experienced, how she overcame them and how campus life really is. As always, the youngsters were keen and asked lots of questions.
In the afternoon we were in a celebratory mood. We held a farewell party for the outgoing Form 4s and had not one, not two, but three cakes for them! Each year we appreciate our Wildlife Warrior Club patrons by awarding them with shopping gift vouchers and certificates. This year we went a step further and selected the Patron of the Year – none other than Phillip Njenga from Amboseli! Phillip was unanimously voted by the Land & Life team for his selfless dedication to our mission and vision. He has gone over and beyond his call of duty to ensure the smooth running of our Wildlife Warrior Activities at Esiteti Primary School.
After enjoying the delicious cake, snacks and soft drinks the scholars also received their certificates of attendance, and everyone celebrated into the evening with dinner and laughter.
This year’s retreat was different from previous ones because the children engaged in a much wider variety of practical conservation-based activities than they have in the past, something that we at Life & Life Foundation have always aspired to do. Our goal has always been to ensure that we give them the tools, skills, exposure and experience that they will remember for years to come – whether or not they decide to work in the tourism and conservation industry because after all they are our youngsters, our future Wildlife Warrior ambassadors!