By Jane Okoth
“If you hear about Wildlife Works, what is the first thing that comes to mind?” asks Fred Ouma, the Principal of Mzwanenyi Secondary School in Mwatate. “Bursaries,” one of the students quickly answers. “We have also partnered with Wildlife Works for a tree-planting program where they supply us with indigenous tree seedlings,” he adds.
Mzwanenyi Secondary is a mixed boarding school located in Mwatate, one of Wildlife Works’ community locations. The school has a population of 178, with the majority of students coming from the surrounding area. Mzwanenyi Secondary is one of the many schools in the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area that has benefitted from Wildlife Works programs including free tree seedlings distribution, school supplies donations as well as the educational bursaries.
On this particular day, the Wildlife Works team is about to conduct a mentorship program spearheaded by the Community Relations team and gyrocopter pilot Daniel Zuma. The mentorship program is usually run in various primary and secondary schools across the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project with an aim of counseling and guiding students towards their path to success.
Daniel Zuma, Wildlife Works gyrocopter pilot, serves as a perfect mentor to young students in the Kasigau corridor thanks to his determination to succeed despite the challenges he has faced.
“I grew up in the same conditions as yours, and potentially much worse because my parents passed on while I was very young,” he says. “I was left to take care of my younger siblings at a tender age and resorted to burning charcoal for survival. It is through Wildlife Works that I was sponsored to study aeronautical engineering at Eldoret Aviation Training Institute. If I decided to give up on my situation, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Daniel. “Success requires a lot of discipline and determination if you want to make it,” he adds.
When these young students are mentored, they find more self-confidence, self-esteem and can create goals for themselves. The job market is very competitive hence it is important to introduce students to goal setting as early as possible. Another important topic the mentorship program focuses on is sex education and building healthy relationships.
All is not complete without an interactive REDD+ awareness program where students get to know where funds for community projects come from. Protus Mghendi, Wildlife Works Community Relations Officer takes them through to the carbon income process. “By protecting over 500,000 acres of threatened forests, Wildlife Works brings the benefits of direct carbon financing to thousands of people in the surrounding communities,” he explains.
“On behalf of our school, I would like to thank Wildlife Works for taking their time to come and guide us. We are also thankful for the bursary funds which have enabled us to continue with our education,” says Eliakim Ighombo, a student at Mzwanenyi Secondary School.
These young students have ambitions and aspirations in life but lack mentorship and motivation to instil in them the needed confidence. We strongly believe that mentoring these kids can go a long way. Daniel and the Community Relations team are continuing to extend the program to other schools in the project area. Wildlife Works is proud of Daniel’s achievements and even happier that he is using it to inspire the younger generation in his community.