P.A.W.S - People And Wildlife Solutions
AfriCat's Volunteer Conservation Project by Roma Muccio
"An Acre Of Performance Is Worth A Whole World of Promise"
Never a truer statement made and so incredibly relevant to every volunteer who has passed through our grass doors here at PAWS in the past 3 years! This saying has become our mantra, our belief and if ever we are all feeling a little blue, we only need look at our lovely wooden sign etched with these words displayed proudly in the centre of our lapa and we remember why we are here!
PAWS turned 3 years old on 16th August 2011, can you believe it, Clive and I can't sometimes and have to pinch ourselves. From a tiny seed planted in our heads several years ago and in conjunction with Wayne Hanssen, the owner of Okonjima, Clive and I stood down from working at The Villa, Okonjima's high end exclusive property and donned our working boots and gloves and built our very own 5 Star Camp, well not quite perhaps but in our eyes it is!!
So, I hear you ask, what exactly is PAWS and what are we doing on Okonjima's 55,000h game reserve? Well here goes my "reasonably" brief answer.
For many years Okonjima and AfriCat's vision was to restore the land back to its original state and once again witness the magnificent cheetah stalking and hunting its prey in its natural environment. Africa's fragile ecosystem and wildlife are inseparably linked, co-existing successfully since time began. Unfortunately due to man's influence this delicate balance is rapidly changing and the need to reverse this damage and protect our environment has become paramount.
This is where PAWS comes in! Our exciting eco-tourism volunteer project combines the management and implementation of fundamental conservation principals. PAWS and our dedicated volunteers aim to restore this balance and in time recreate this sustainable eco-system once more. Through their involvement & commitment we are also creating valuable employment and training opportunities for the local community to aid us with our vision.
Our volunteers come to PAWS armed with enthusiasm, commitment, a sense of humour and above all a sense of wanting to give something back to our beautiful but very fragile planet. They work hard in the mornings, whether they are pulling down old cattle-line fences across a mountain range, chopping away the alien bush on the reserve or collecting old bones and poo within the AfriCat Cheetah enclosures, every job has a purpose and a goal. We pride ourselves on doing exactly what we say on the tin!
As a reward for their hard work, the volunteers are taken on an exciting game drive each afternoon which could be anything from leopard tracking to cheetah tracking on foot or visiting the AfriCat Foundation to learn in much more detail about their cause and their future ambitions and goals.
So, as I was saying, PAWS has just turned 3 years old which I guess in volunteer project terms could be classed as the early teenage years! To date Clive and I have hosted just short of 400 volunteers with more still to come until we close for the year in December. No mean feat I might add considering that during our very humble beginnings Clive and I outnumbered the volunteers on many occasions, that should give you some idea of how far PAWS has come over these 3 years.
The satisfaction rate and feedback from our volunteers has been tremendous and the amount of amazing comments we've received has been quite overwhelming at times, I can feel myself blushing now!! Without wanting to blow our own trumpet, well not too much at least, I urge you to take a look at our PAWS Website and here you will find our Volunteer Comments page for you to see for yourself. www.pawsnamibia.org
In summary, the achievements and success stories here at PAWS have been many and varied and again I urge you to take a look at the PAWS website under the NEWS section so you can see for yourself. Having said all this, don't think for one moment it's been an easy ride, there have been plenty of ups and downs and challenging moments for all of us including our volunteers, but at the end of the day NONE of this would have been possible without those dedicated Volunteers who have already been and for those who are still to come. Without YOU none of this would have been possible and so from us all at PAWS we wish you a heartfelt thank you!
Roma, Clive, Beth, Peter, Felix and Haingura!
p.s. - this is the last thing we say to our PAWS volunteers when they leave camp – another brilliant statement.......
"Man cannot live on the mountain all his life, sometimes he has to return to what we call civilisation, the art of living is remembering what you saw whilst you were on top."
GOING FORWARD – THE FUTURE OF PAWS!
As was always the agreement between Clive & I and Wayne Hanssen, PAWS would return back to the management of Okonjima Lodge after 3 years. Well that time is fast approaching and when PAWS closes for this year in December, Clive and I will be stepping down as the managers of PAWS and pursuing other avenues and careers in life. However please don't fear as PAWS will officially become AfriCat's volunteer programme and therefore the volunteers will get to experience an even larger variety of jobs at AfriCat and in time the possibility of helping out with some research style jobs too. All very exciting and rewarding! The bush chopping and fence clearing will still remain I'm afraid, but all essential in the bigger picture!
So the future of PAWS looks very bright and exciting with new volunteer challenges and directions ahead. It can only go from strength to strength and with the continued support of all our wonderful volunteers both past and present, PAWS will continue to grow and achieve its ultimate goal of restoring and returning our precious land back to nature.
SO TO OUR REPLACEMENTS!
AJ – Andre Rousseau – Director
AJ will essentially be taking over my role and will be your new daily contact for all business correspondence. AJ has worked for both Okonjima Lodge and The AfriCat Foundation in both management and guiding roles for the last 7 years and has gained a wealth of experience and knowledge about the workings of both the reserve and our wildlife during this time.
Louis Hayns – Manager/Guide
Louis will essentially be taking over Clive's role and will be working with the volunteers on a daily basis. Louis is a very experienced guide and has been guiding throughout Namibia and surrounding countries for the past 15 years. Louis possesses great people skills and has fitted in excellently at P.A.W.S. already.
Beth Osmond - Assistant Guide
Beth is a qualified F.G.A.S.A. 1 guide and has worked at P.A.W.S. since January this year. Beth's easy going and relaxed nature is a great asset here. Her passion for both P.A.W.S. and wildlife shines through and her knowledge and enthusiasm is incredibly infectious!
Felix Kahare & Haingura Kudumo
Our trusted and reliable staff members, Felix and Haingura who are the backbone of P.A.W.S. will continue to support you all throughout your time here.
Article posted: 2011-12-29 05:08:26