Africa Unearthed

Season’s Report 2016/17 - Southern Hemisphere

The major construction project for summer 2016 - 2017  was a new day-care/crèche within Khula village.

The purpose of the dormitories are to house and provide refuge to children from the community who require further assistance to ensure a safe a healthy environment to grow and thrive. The plan was for three dormitory buildings, each with five rooms. Each room will have five beds so there will be accommodation for seventy five children. The bathroom facility was to be split up into two sides, a boys and a girls.

The importance of this new day-care for the community is that it will provide these children with shelter, food and sanitation that they would otherwise go without.

We are extremely proud of the work the groups achieved. The finishing touches will be completed as soon as possible – either with local labour or our next groups who will start to arrive in April. 

Group 1

The team leaders were very pleased with the overall positive attitudes of the group 1 volunteers. Bibs hosted some great parties that brought everyone together. Spirits were high on beach day regardless of the windy conditions.

The volunteers worked extremely hard to break ground for the kitchen and washrooms at the new day care being constructed in Khula.

Construction:

Bricks were moved around the site to make room for the foundation. Massive irrigation pipes had to be moved away from the site to make room for the bathroom block. This was an awfully tiring task that took easily 15 people per tube. A trench was dug out for the kitchen and bathroom block. Posts we put in place for the roof and easily 30-40 piles of cement were mixed for the foundation. This was an overwhelming task that left all of the volunteers exhausted by the end of every construction day. We also primed several of the rooms that were constructed last season. Bricks were laid for the foundation.

  • Foundation for kitchen and washrooms completed at daycare this includes:
  • Measuring out the structure of the buildings
  • Digging 600 mm holes for support poles and erecting them
  • Digging 500 mm trenches for the walls of the structures
  • Poured cement into the trenches of the kitchen and washroom
  • Laid foundation bricks on kitchen and filled in trenches with sand
  • Washrooms still need foundation bricks laid and trenches filled in with sand
  • Five bedrooms at day care were painted with primer
  • Three bedrooms at day care received their first coat of coloured pant

Crocodile Centre:

We were amazed by all the hard work that was put in at the crocodile centre. We were able to fix a lot of trails that were damaged by a previous storm, and maintained and cleaned many enclosures. We are building a brand new 6 enclosure area, and were able to get a great head start on it. We even had some hands on experience moving 3-5 year old crocs from one enclosure to another one. Many laughs were had, and many memories will be forever there. Not only did we have amazing helpers, but we have made some pretty good friends. What happens in the Croc centre, stays in the croc centre!

  • Fixed many trails around the Croc centre that was damaged by a previous storm.
  • Cleaned and maintained the Croc pools
  • Managed to move 3-5 year old crocs from one enclosure to the next
  • Started trimming and making pathways in the new enclosure so we can start building the new ponds.

Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre:

At the cheetah conservation centre volunteers worked to construct a new meat pit that will be used to dispose of waste and old bones. Volunteers also helped prepare a new enclosure for some of the servals by removing old concreate, wooden poles and other debris from the area. The storage area was also organized and a watering hole for local animals was drained and cleaned.

Emma expressed her gratitude for the volunteers and was really pleased with what was achieved in the volunteer week.

  • Meat pit was finished (used for disposing old bones/toxins)
  • New pin being constructed was cleaned including:
  • Removing old poles, cement, trash and other debris
  • Water hole for local animals was drained, scrubbed and refilled
  • Storage area at conservation centre was organized includes:
  • Removing broken poles, rusted wires and other rubbish from area
  • Poles, wires, electric fences and other items were neatly stacked

Education:

We prepared for the big graduation, as well as preparing and wrapping the presents and donations for the children.

All of the volunteers seemed to have a wonderful experience.

  • graduation preparation (modelling practice, Zulu dance practice, dance rehearsal)
  • wrapping and preparing gifts and donation for the children
  • reading activities
  • grammar and punctuation practice
  • pronunciation practice 

Group 2

Construction:

At the construction project we spent the majority of our time mixing cement for the floor of the bathroom block along with the walls for the kitchen. All of the volunteers shared time jumping in to the “death pit” to acquire sand to mix the cement with. This was a difficult task especially with the highs of 40 degrees during the week. However, no complaints were made. Everyone pushed themselves to their limits especially when over 500 bricks had to be moved around site. We couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic group.

On the kitchen:

  • Floor for kitchen was completed
  • Bricks for serving area were laid, structure for area was completed
  • Door and windows for serving area were completed
  • Beginning stages for roof placement are now underway

On the Bathrooms:

  • Ground was levelled
  • Foundation bricks were laid
  • Floor for structure was completed
  • Outside doors for boys and girls side were placed within structure
  • Volunteers were able to lay over half of the bricks required for the outside walls of the bathroom

Day-care rooms:

  • 5 bedrooms received their final two coats of coloured paint
  • 5 more bedrooms received their first coat of primer paint

Crocodile Centre:

We started collecting most of our eggs out of the Crocodile nests. Almost every group was able to collect eggs and if not have the experience of what it is like to be in an enclosure with all the crocodiles, removing the females from their nests and collecting their eggs for incubation. Doing this we increase their survival rate by 85%! Some groups started our crocodile pool project for the season! We have started building new crocodile homes in a brand new enclosure, and every single group worked so hard! We even had a few wheel barrow races to make it even more fun.

Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre:

The week was very flat out and the last four days scorching hot and humid, but everyone pulled together really well.

We began the week removing weeds around Juba and Moya’s enclosure and everyone came quite close to them whilst also being able to write home to their mums proudly after tackling some difficult garden work. The second half of the week was spent erecting the shade cloth around the new caracal enclosure that is being set up. Due to wind not being able to blow through the area we were working in, it got very steamy very quickly. Eric and Syed were a close draw for sweatiest humans on the planet, both of whom should be proud of their efforts. A massive thank you to the entire week for all of the work you put in, all of the staff at Emdoneni were very impressed with our progress.

  • Erecting shade cloth around new caracal enclosure
  • weeding around entire tea room area and around the boundary of cheetah enclosures
  • emptying and cleaning the fish pond/zebra watering hole

Education:

Group 2 has been a real treat to have! This was a very special group as each volunteer assisted with the graduation celebration at mamma Doris’. Volunteers helped set up the celebration by assembling tables, chairs, and most import, the graduation stage. Many volunteers, despite the extreme temperatures in the kitchen, suffered through the heat in order to help prepare a nice meal for the children and their families. In addition, volunteers chipped in to ensure each student graduating could receive a gift at the ceremony.    

At the primary school, volunteers assisted instructors with English, health and science lessons. When not in class, volunteers wore the kids out by playing soccer among other games within the school yard.

At school:

  • Taught English, health and science
  • Played soccer and other games with kids

Mamma Doris:

  • Helped set-up graduation ceremony
  • Assisted preparing graduation meal
  • All pitched in to provide gifts for the kids
  • Helped disassemble celebration

Group 3

Construction:

Volunteers worked tirelessly to level the ground around the dormitory so the floor in front of the structure could be completed. Once level, volunteers were able to mix enough concrete to finish the floor outside of the dormitory. Once the floor, volunteers began two septic tank pits that were 2 meters deep, and 2 by 3 meters wide. They even managed to lay enough bricks to complete the outside walls of the bathroom building and also began placing bricks within the structure to create the stalls for the bathroom. During this time, volunteers also assisted with the placement of the doors for the bathroom stalls. Volunteers also assisted with the assembly of the roof on the kitchen. Lastly, volunteers were able to finish painting 3 more dormitory rooms and scrubbed and cleaned the windows for each of the buildings.

On the kitchen:

  • Roof on the kitchen was completed

On Dormitory rooms:

  • Outside floor was completed
  • All windows were scrubbed and cleaned
  • 3 more rooms received their final coat of paint

On the Bathrooms:

  • Outside walls of the structure were completed
  • Bricks were laid inside structure to complete three stalls
  • Two septic tank pits were completed

Crocodile Centre:

During this week, we had some very exciting news! Our very first alligator in 17 years laid eggs!!! So the Volunteers got to experience something brand new to us, as well as to them. We also got to experience digging up and incubating dwarf crocodile eggs from a female not even sexually mature yet. It was a whole different kind of nest and a different way of digging them up. To see the size different between Nile crocs, dwarf crocs and alligator eggs was extremely cool.

  • Dug up our first alligator nest in 17 years
  • Dug up Dwarf crocodile eggs from a female 6 years under sexual maturity, so we aren’t sure if they are going to hatch out but if they do, it will be a record at the croc centre!
  • Dug up countless Nile crocodile egg nests

Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre:

This group had a perfect mix of tiring work and really fun jobs for the entire week. We started off clearing out the bottom enclosure for Autumns return to Emdoneni. We found Franklin the friendly tortoise in the process and were able to find him a new home before he could became a play toy for the cats. We also found a dead python in Dew and Dusk’s enclosure, however everyone at the cats that day were obviously a bit too Australian (accustomed to snakes) and none of them were scared when we tried to pull pranks.

We also relocated Max and Blaze the caracals into new enclosures, Max the old fella didn’t seem to mind so much but Blaze on the other hand decided to make life as difficult as possible for everyone involved, Needless to say he’s happy in his new home, and has a new love interest in Lulu, although she is indifferent to his moves. An awesome week all-round.

  • completely cleared out bottom enclosure for Autumn’s return to the park
  • relocation of caracals Max and Blaze into new enclosures
  • cleaning the water troughs in wildcat, serval, caracal and cheetah enclosures
  • clearing weeds along the fence lines
  • assisting with food preparation and feeding time

Education:

We helped kids from a local high school, practising English and math, which had a positive impact on the kids. Volunteers also spent time playing games with the younger children and conversing about life with the older children.

At mamma Doris’ volunteers brought enough clothes (shirt, pants, shoes) for every child to receive a new outfit. Some volunteers brought blankets for the kids.

At school:

  • Taught English and math
  • Played games with kids
  • Conversed with kids

Mamma Doris:

  • Fed the children
  • Clothed the children
  • Played games with the kids

Group 4

Construction:

Volunteers worked tirelessly to mix enough cement to finish laying the bricks required for the bathroom stalls. The group was also able to put the roof on the bathroom as well as lay the remaining bricks needed to complete the outside walls of the bathroom. In addition, volunteers finished digging both septic tank pits and laid enough bricks to finish both pits. Once the bricks were laid volunteers mixed enough concreate to close off both septic tank pits, thus completing them.

The volunteers also finished painting all the remaining dormitory rooms and even managed to finish painting the inside and part of the outside of the kitchen. The windows of the dormitory buildings were cleaned removing old paint and cement from the glass. I am extremely proud of each group this season and with the progress on the day-care!!

On the kitchen:

  • Inside and outside received 1 coat of primer paint and two coats of coloured paint

On the Bathrooms:

  • Roof was put on
  • Bathroom stall bricks were laid to complete each stall
  • Outside bricks were laid to complete skeletal structure
  • Two septic tanks were completed (bricks laid and closed off)

Day-care rooms:

  • All rooms received their final coats of paint
  • Windows were scrubbed to remove old paint and concreate from glass

Crocodile Centre:

This group were the lucky ones to finish off our nesting season! We dug up our last 3 Nile croc nests, and gathered a total number of 667 eggs for the entire nesting season. It was a big hoora!! Once that was finished, we went into our new enclosure we are building, and started cutting down trees and bushes to create more space for more crocodile pools, and almost finished the entire floor of the one we have been working on! One of the days we had to move about 8 crocodiles into new homes because they were getting too big for the ones they were currently situated in. Many volunteers got to experience the catching procedure of a crocodile, and even had the opportunity to jump them themselves and tie the legs to be carried safely to their new enclosure. And to top it off, we found a wild Croc at the croc centre that was stuck in a difficult place and couldn’t get out. So we also caught and rescued him. Such an amazing experience that all the volunteers loved. What an adrenaline rush!

  • Collected our last 3 Nile croc egg nests.
  • Cut down and slashed out bushes to create space in our new enclosure
  • Almost finished the floor of the one croc pool
  • Caught and released over 2 Metre crocs to be put into new and bigger homes
  • Caught a wild crocodile that was stuck in a corner

Emdoneni Cat Rehabilitation Centre

We had to remove a huge broken branch from a tree, which involved a lot of brainstorming and execution of new ideas, some more successful than others. In the end, it was a half-full water bottle attached to a piece of rope which was thrown like a rugby ball over the branch which enabled us to remove it in the end. Armand (new manager) was very pleased with the result, and even more pleased that it gave him an excuse to talk about rugby some more!

  • relocated ALL of the cats from the temporary holding facilities into new enclosures, which involved the clearing and preparation of many camps
  • cleaning water tanks and troughs
  • scat removal from all camps
  • preparation of food and supplements

Education:

We taught English, Math and Science to high school children which had a positive impact on their learning. Volunteers also spent time playing soccer and other ball games with the younger children. The older children could speak English well enough to tell the volunteers about their upbringing, which I believe gave the volunteers a new perspective on life.

At school:

  • Taught English, Math and Science
  • Played ball games with kids
  • Chatted with the older children

Mamma Doris:

  • Fed the kids
  • Clothed the children
  • Played games with the kids
  • Bought mats for the kids to sleep on