Ntobeko Ngcala started volunteering for Wilderness Foundation Africa at the age of 15 years as a guide for the Pride Project. Today he is the Senior Trails Guide for Wilderness Foundation Africa and recently introduced a new competition into the Imbewu Project.
We caught up with Ntobeko for a quick interview to find out more about how he got involved in Pride and Imbewu and what the new competition is about.
The Pride and Imbewu trails project is one of the components of the Youth Development Programme at Wilderness Foundation Africa. The purpose of the trails is to allow disadvantaged youth to gain knowledge about nature and environmental awareness. At the same time, the youth can experience the healing power of nature and discover who they are. This often happens when they are put in the natural environment away from their busy lives and the problems they may be facing.
Tell us about your journey with Wilderness Foundation Africa?
“I first found out about WFA’s Pride and Imbewu trails when they came to do a presentation at my school in Uitenhage. The team was looking for students to go on trail and I volunteered to go.
I remember the first time I went on trail, something just struck me. I fell in love with being outside and this is where my love for nature grew. When Wilderness Foundation Africa came for the second time, I managed to sneak in again on the same trail and continued to do this each time they came to look for students to go on trail.
Eventually the volunteer guides started noticing I had been there more than once and decided to take me in as part of the team.
I was trained to be a guide and started working for Pride up until I finished high school.
Although studying conservation was my dream, I couldn’t accomplish it due to lack of finances. That’s when I heard about Umzi Wethu and was fortunate enough to be able to train at Umzi Wethu to become a conservationist. I graduated as an Umzi Wethu 6 graduate and went on to work at Shamwari Game Reserve for a year. A year later, I joined Wilderness Foundation Africa.”
Tell us about the new competition to the Imbewu Project?
“The competition is a new component of Pride and Imbewu and focuses on youth from the age of 16 years (grade 10 to grade 12 learners). Pride and Imbewu Trails are a partnership with SA National Parks where they provide us free entry into reserves in order to conduct our trails.
We select 8 learners per school to take on trail. The trail consists of a 3 day and 2 night guided walk where we spot animals and concentrate on therapeutic activities such as story telling and night watch.
The Imbewu programme is focused on experiential education and an important component of the programme is focused on story telling. After the trail we encourage the students to share their knowledge of their experience on trail and this inspires others to take part. We achieve this by running a competition amongst the schools.
The competition consists of a presentation where students are asked to talk about their experience on trail as well as the lessons learnt.
The purpose of the competition is to allow learners to gain confidence and public speaking skills by speaking in front of their peers.
At the end of the competition we choose one school who presented the best to be the winners of the competition. Last term, the winners won an educational tour and game drive at Shamwari Game Reserve, kindly sponsored by The Born Free Foundation together with a lovely lunch at Cattle Baron sponsored by them. ”
What have been some of your favourite moments with Imbewu?
“Favourite moments for me are when we meet students a couple of months later and hear their stories and how they have changed through the programme.
One girl that stood out to me was Nikita Blouw.
Nikita came running up to me a few months later after the trails and said to me, “Thank you very much. I am now a changed person.” That for me, was my favourite moment and one that I will never forget.
For more information on Nikita Blouw’s testimony visit http://www.wildernessfoundation.co.za/blog/posts/my-story-nikita-blouw