Creating Future Leaders
In 2009, Children of Conservation established a scholarship program to help provide an otherwise unattainable education to the children of key players in African wildlife protection (primarily wildlife center workers). Since public funding for schooling in many third world countries ends at the 2nd grade, many bright and intelligent children grow up illiterate and unable to advance their station in life. The program began in 2009 with 18 children from Limbe, Cameroon receiving scholarships. It has continued its steady growth, and we are now sponsoring 104 children thru 7 sanctuaries in 4 different countries!
In some areas, providing scholarships is not an option because there are no existing schools nearby. Such is the case at the
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. For the 5 surrounding villages that support Chimfunshi’s chimpanzee conservation efforts, the closest opportunity for an education past the 6th grade is over 40 km away. In May 2016, we will resolve that issue by building a middle school (grades 7 – 9) on the Chimfunshi grounds. Our long term goal is to construct a high school by the time the new class of upcoming 7th graders are ready to start the 10th grade.
Our education programs focus on educating children who learn the value of conservation every day from their conservation minded parents. These projects are also incredibly valued by the soldiers of conservation (the parents) as they not only provide a life changing opportunity for their family, but elevate the status of the parents in the community because only people who do important work can afford to send their children to school. The end result is better care for the animals and a culture where the future leaders come from a background of conservation.
Our programs are not about impressive “numbers”, but about offering lasting opportunities and sustainability. For example, rather than providing single 1 year scholarships to ten times the number of recipients, we provide fewer scholarships so that our recipients can be guaranteed support through graduation as long as they meet the necessary academic performance requirements. Instead of building schools in areas where we can report higher numbers of students served, we leave that to other organizations whose primary purpose is to build schools. We build schools where other organizations won’t come because it’s too remote for them to justify the effort for the 70 – 100 kids per year who will be served. In conservation terms, those 70 – 100 lives are 70-100 opportunities to make an impact as adults because they will become leaders in their community who understand and appreciate the value of conservation because of their unique experiences growing up with and caring for their native endangered species. Whether they become a governmental leader who develops eco-tourism as a source of sustainable revenue for the country or a local doctor or lawyer who stands up for conservation at the Town Hall meetings – they will be in a position to shift social perceptions about conservation.