Meet Camilla Rhodes: Philanthropy Coordinator, Zambia
I have been the Philanthropy Coordinator in Zambia for almost two years; it is a role that is hugely gratifying with no two days the same. Alongside my duties in camp I can find myself overseeing the drilling of a borehole, having a meeting with government officials to discuss school literacy requirements and presenting a lecture on conservation practices to school pupils all in the same week. It certainly keeps me on my toes!
Our programs are carried out in communities just outside the national parks nearby to our lodges, Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma, Sanctuary Puku Ridge and Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge.
The communities we work with are surviving on the edge of wilderness. Living on the boundary to the national park the people here face many daily challenges and poverty levels are high. This results in an overexploitation of natural resources in the surrounding area. However, our work strives to impact these communities in a meaningful way by developing education, healthcare, community enterprise and skills development to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people living here and preserve the natural habitat they neighbour.
At Nakatindi, a community nearby to Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma we are currently carrying out an exciting new bicycle social enterprise. Thanks to a very generous consignment of 700 mountain bikes sent over from donors in the UK and USA, we have trained and created employment for five women from the community. These ladies are servicing and selling the bikes with the proceeds being used in further community development initiatives, which the Chipego Bike Shop will spearhead. The ladies are very excited to be able to contribute to the enhancement of their community themselves.
This program not only creates employment opportunities, but empowers women, generates income for a rural village and provides affordable mobility for a community. Furthermore, the Nakatindi Health Committee, who were the recipients of 15 bikes, have seen a big improvement in the number of patients their outreach workers are able to visit in a week, aiding in the provision of vital healthcare services.
We are currently in the beginning stages of setting up our second shop which will be nearby Mfuwe in South Luangwa. Again, this will be an all women team!
I would urge anyone staying at one of our Zambian camps to visit the shop, hop on a bike and take a tour of the village. It is a fantastic experience and the perfect way to get out into the community and get a feel for rural life.
To further our commitment to healthcare within the Nakatindi community, we are underway with the plans for a maternity ward extension onto the clinic that we constructed in 2014. Currently many mothers are giving birth in their homes, which exposes both mother and child to risk of infection. The maternity ward will bring vital healthcare to both current and expectant mothers within Nakatindi's growing catchment area - currently serving over 5,000 people.
The community has always been very supportive of the Nakatindi school vegetable garden. Daily I see women passing through to buy fresh rape or tomatoes to take back home. By partnering with two organisations, US based Captain Planet Foundation and Conservation Science Africa we will expand the garden programme to create a model organic garden learning centre which will showcase organic farming techniques, water conservation practices, eco-composting etc. A new 'garden-based' curriculum, which is approved by the Ministry of Education, will be incorporated into the syllabus allowing pupils to learn these essential practices. Workshops will also be open to the community, who will be encouraged to replicate these practices within their own homesteads. Our goal is to enhance food security whilst increasing market access for rural villagers, improving livelihoods on a sustainable basis.
At Uyoba Community School, nearby to Sanctuary Puku Ridge and Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge we have an upcoming tree planting program. The school is located just outside the game management area on the boundary of South Luangwa National Park; it is a sensitive buffer area in terms of wildlife, so assuring tree cover here is rather important. As an active afforestation program and to educate the pupils about the damaging effects of deforestation the donated trees will be planted and cared for by the Uyoba students.
Furthermore guests will be given the opportunity to 'sponsor' a tree which they can plant nearby to Chichele Presidential Lodge/Puku Ridge. This is a nice way to commemorate their stay at the lodge as well as 'offsetting' their carbon footprint and actively assisting in afforestation efforts.
Before embarking on any new work within the community I always meet with village elders to discuss their needs and hear their thoughts so we can come up with a working solution to their problem. Unless the community engage with and support our efforts our programs would not be a success. I work hand in hand with traditional authority as well as government authority to achieve our goals - having support from both sides can help a program run smoothly.
A highlight of the work is of course being able to interact with the local people. It is always so enthralling to chat with the pupils at the school or the mothers at the clinic, to hear their stories or see how our work is making a difference in their lives. The Zambian people are very open and friendly and it is humbling to be able to work alongside them to achieve our mutual goal of impacting lives in a meaningful way and conserving the wilderness areas they neighbour.
You can find out more about our philanthropy projects, and how you can get involved here.