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A massive THANK YOU for joining us in this beautiful country this summer. We know it’s not always easy to find the time and raise the funds.
Also a special thanks to Cat, Ty, Becky, Zine and Tom who have been a fantastic team to lead our volunteers in summer 2017.
Please enjoy reading about your achievements as this will give a complete picture of the vast amount of assistance you have given to the local community. All through your generosity!
What a wonderful start to the season! G 1 was full of energy and positive vibes. Not only did everyone work hard during the volunteer week they also carried on as a true family during adventure week. He day we had a pool party at Tusk everyone got involved in the “SUPER TUBE” along with sharing a cheeky South African beverage whilst telling everyone what their favourite part of the trip was thus far. Cape Vidal day graced us more than perfect weather with the whole team kicking around a soccer ball, playing Frisbee and playing around in the waves. We were super happy to be a part of Stephens first ocean experience!
The goal for this season was to construct three new houses in Khula village. The first house was for Koolie, her husband and her eight children. Koolie and her family are facing hard times as she and her family are currently living in a wooden shack with only one room and one bed in it. In addition, this small shack only consists of a single door and one small window in an area that is prone to flooding. Because of their situation, Koolie’s children must sleep on the floor as there isn’t enough rooms or furniture to compensate each child. Koolie’s husband is struggling to earn enough money to begin construction on a new house; therefore, VESA is stepping in to help provide Koolie and her family a beautiful house (four rooms and one bathroom) that can better cater to each of her children’s needs. Koolie’s new house will be comprised of four rooms each 3m by 4m equipped with an additional 3m by 4m bathroom. The septic tank will be 2m by 4m and 2m deep.
The volunteers worked tirelessly to break ground on Koolie’s new house.
This week we had the hardest working volunteers we’d ever had at the Emdoneni. At the start of the week we were given the challenge of digging out the enclosures in the temporary holding units and decontaminating them for the incoming baby caracals who are due in the next 6 weeks. This seemed to be a very testing task at the start of the week, but with everyone’s hard work shovelling and wheelbarrowing what seemed to be an endless amount of dirt, we accomplished it by the last day.
We also assisted in the relocation of two servals; Noah, who is due to be re-wilded and released in coming months, and Benny, who is now living with Sheila and Spotty.
Our first group of Volunteers did such an amazing job. We were able to clean many different Croc and Alligator homes. We chopped down bushes, grass and dead trees which created more sunlight for warmth in the cold winter months. We also did the exact same thing in our big new enclosure project where we are building 6 new enclosures to home and rehabilitate more crocodiles and alligators. The volunteers made an amazing pathway to our new pool so that we could wheel down cement for the next group. Whilst cleaning one of our croc pools we found 2 baby Terrapins, which would have been eaten by the crocs so the volunteers were all apart of releasing those back into the wild.
This week we went to Umzabalazo (the ‘Struggle’) school which has 1029 students and only 25 teachers, with each class ranging in size from 60-70 pupils. We tried to target the kids who could not manage to understand the content being taught in the lessons, because it is impossible for the teachers to pay specific attention to the children who required extra help.
We also visited Mama Doris at the Creche and helped out with cooking and playing with the children, giving Mama Doris a well earned break.
Group 2 was welcomed by torrential rain and flooding in St Lucia It was a rough go with power outages and no running water for the first day. Everyone maintained a positive attitude and eventually beautiful weather prevailed! The volunteer week at construction was especially challenging with a minor flooding at site- our incinerator pit was overtaken by a small lake and the septic tank became a swimming pool. Cheers to all those who tirelessly emptied out muddy water from the pit and of course to everyone who pushed 2 vans and a cement truck out of the mud. There were many obstacles from the floods that brought on circumstances we couldn’t control however everyone was positive and energetic through it all.
The goal for this season was to construct three new houses in Khula village.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to drain Koolie’s new septic tank pit that was flooded by the five days of non-stop rain, but unfortunately, the pit kept reflooding. To fix this, volunteers dug a new septic tank pit, but were forced to stop half way through completion because the ground was once again too moist. Even with this set back, spirts remained high and volunteers were able to complete all of the outside and inside walls of Koolie’s new house. The roof should be going on by next week, so all that remains is for the house to be rendered, painted, floors touched up, plumbing, and electricity before it’s completed.
First, the second house was measured out and is identical to Koolie’s house in size (four rooms each 3m W by 4m L with an additional 3m W by 4m L bathroom and a 2m W by 4m L by 2 m deep septic tank). Next, volunteers had to move countless wheelbarrows of sand, rocks and cement bags from Koolie’s house to the new house location. Once complete, Volunteers used pick axes and shovels to break ground for the new house. Once the trenches for the foundation was dug out, volunteers began mixing concreate and laying the foundation of the house.
Another extremely successful week at Emdoneni saw us completely finish the clearing out and refilling of sand within the temporary holding units. Lulu the Caracal is due to give birth within the next fortnight or so, and when she does she will have brand spanking new and sterilised temporary home for her little ones. We also cleaned out and refilled the ‘Zebra Pond’ and within a day they were enjoying their fresh watering hole. It was tough work sweating it out without proper shade or ventilation, but the team drew inspiration from the following feats of heroism to push it out until the end: Michalla punishing 3 Magnums in less than 10 minutes, Shauna finding her feet after forgetting how to walk, and who could forget Brian’s brilliant efforts on the obstacle course. Great work everybody!
We have had such an amazing Volunteer week with Group 2! One of the most exciting things we did was move crocs into new enclosures, so we had to teach the volunteers how to properly catch and release crocodiles which was such a fun experience for them. The crocs were getting too big for the enclosure they were in, so we roped them, wrestled them and released them into bigger enclosures. Something cool for their resume.
To top it all off we ended the volunteer week building and entire wall on a new croc pool we are working on. The volunteers mixed heaps of cement, and helped us build a new croc pool in our new enclosure project where we are going to create 6 new pools and 6 new enclosure to rehabilitate/rehome/breed more crocs.
Volunteers worked with students, mentoring them in life skills, literature, arts, health and the natural sciences. Furthermore, volunteers provided personalized tutoring to struggling students at the school. At recess, the group played soccer and practiced drills with the children.
At the crèche Volunteers prepared lunch for the children, and enjoyed a few Athletic actives; such as, jumping jacks and playing soccer. The group also read stories to the kids and helped them with their colouring.
The foundation was laid for our newest project, another 3-bedroom house with both a kitchen and a bathroom. This house is for a woman named Sunday who has her family spread between 3 small huts housing approximately 10 people. The house is located on a lot across from our first project this season. Due to flooding we are still unable to build a septic pit on Koolie’s lot, however we will revisit this project later into the winter months. This group worked hard and spent quite a bit of time with Sundays children- in turn amplifying their desire to build the house as quick as possible. Great work guys!
With construction on Koolie’s house on hold (waiting for the roof to be delivered) we decided to start construction on our second house for the season – Sunday’s house. Like Koolie, Sunday’s family is struggling. As a mother of five small children, Sunday’s small one room wooden shack is simply not big enough to compensate her family. With VESA’s help, Sunday will soon have a house that consists of one bathroom, a kitchen and three bedrooms that will better cater to her children’s needs. Group 2 had begun digging out the trenches and Group 3 took over and finished the foundation on Sunday’s house and even managed to complete several outside walls of the structure. This group also began laying the bricks to the bathroom walls and inside walls to the individual rooms of the new house. A septic tank pit was started, but we received too much rain and had to stop halfway to allow the water to evaporate.
Special cheers to Liam for not letting the flooding bring him down and entertaining the children on site by performing an impressive long jump across the 4-meter septic tank pit.
On the Bathrooms:
This week we were preparing for the birth of Lulu and Savannah’s baby caracals. This involved many attempts to capture and relocate the mums-to-be however they proved to be more difficult than we had hoped, as several volunteers realised whilst running away from the cats. Luckily we were able to move the males Diego and Bar-One so that the kittens will have a safer environment to welcome them into the world.
We were also preparing the enclosure for cheetah cubs to be released into. This included removal of weeds and low-hanging branches from the enclosure as well as baby-proofing the trees so that Midnight and Moonlight can’t climb them. We also had to erect plastic sheeting along the fence and hang shade cloth to limit the cubs interaction with the other cats and guests at the park.
We have had many awesome achievements with this group! On the first day we cleaned one of our most aggressive alligator’s enclosure, so the volunteers got to experience their bravery cleaning the pool while the alligator was still in there. We also varnished the entire Tea Garden and half of the boardwalk. It hasn’t been done in a very long time and it looks so much better there now. The rest of the volunteer week we did the cement mixing and built another full wall and almost finished our last wall in our new croc pool we are building.
We worked really hard and thought we deserved to take an hour off and build a slip and slide out of our tarp we were using to make the foundation of the wall. One of the funnest days for sure and they all deserved it for working so hard. Such a rewarding week!
The volunteers worked hard to accumulate enough funds to purchase two soccer balls for the children. In addition, the volunteers donated shoes to the kids at the school. Volunteers also worked with students, mentoring them in life skills, literature, arts, health and the natural sciences.
Volunteers worked with toddlers and infants assisting them with their coloring and hygiene. They also helped prepare lunch for the children, and also enjoyed a few Athletic actives; such as, jumping jacks and playing soccer.
Volunteers worked hard completing touch up and cosmetic maintenance around the children’s shelter. They planned swollen doors, treated the doors with varnish, replace door handles, killed spiders, swept and painted.
By the end of the week the volunteers had finished priming the outside of the bathroom block as well as touched up each of the dormitory rooms and kitchen. I’m proud to say, we now have one dormitory room fully completed. This room is equipped with three steel bunk beds, a rug, and even all the bedding.
Volunteers worked extremely hard to finish laying all the bricks required to finish the outside and inside walls of the house.
Volunteers even managed to finish all the walls for the bathroom. Because of their hard work, Sunday’s house now even has a roof over it!
The volunteers also worked extremely hard to finish all the painting (inside and outside) on Koolie’s house. The roof was also assembled! Now we just need to finish the floors of the house and put in plumbing, electricity and glass in the window frames before it’s complete.
A house next to the children’s shelter that VESA has been working on for the last year caught fire in the middle of the day whilst the children were playing. When our volunteers found out about this they decided to plan an independent trip into town to buy supplies for the family that lost entirely everything. Beans, rice, bread, pots pans, utensils and cleaning supplies were purchased for the family of 4.
VESA is stepping in to provide Zandile and her family a new house. This will be the third and final house constructed this season.
We would especially like to mention Chandra and Sarah for bringing over a monetary donation from their local elementary school. This purchased 3 steel bunk beds, 6 mattresses, 6 sets of sheets, pillows and blankets. All donations received were such a huge help – Thanks guys!
This week at the cat park we were greeted with the sad news that 2-year old cheetah, Storm, had recently passed away over the break from bacterial pneumonia. However everyone was in good spirits, and seeing the newborn caracals coming in made everything a bit easier.
After carrying on with the regular cleaning of tanks and enclosures, we were set with the task of clearing and collecting branches and shrub in the neighbouring paddock. The group was awarded the prize of lighting the fire and burning off then next day, luckily with all eyebrows in tact despite Darryl’s best efforts to create a mini explosion.
The final groups also erected new shade-netting for Midnight and Moonlight, so that they are now free to explore the new bigger enclosure.
A terrific effort and a lot of fun had by all.
We have had such a hard working team with this group of Volunteers. As the winter months are colder, we have decided to create more sun in most of our enclosures – we let all the bushes grow over the summer to give them shade. The volunteers helped us majorly by cutting down bushes and even a couple massive trees. This has made a huge difference and has given the crocs and alligators more walking space to stretch out those long legs.
We also cleaned many alligator and crocodile homes and gave them fresh water. We always visited our baby hatchlings that are only a couple months old, and it was really funny how many tried to get bitten by the babies so they could go home with a cool story and say they got bitten by a crocodile. At the end of our volunteer week on our last day, we thought it would be fun to have a pizza party to celebrate the week, and to also celebrate Canada day. Something different and it was loads of fun!
Even through it was school holidays the volunteers still tutored the kids at Mamma Doris’ in verbs, punctuation, grammar. Volunteers also taught the kids mathematics, hyenine, physical sports. They also helped prepare lunch for the children and helped the infants bottle feed.
A special mention to a past volunteer who donated cups and bowls to Mamma Doris!
The volunteers worked hard completing touch up and cosmetic maintenance around the kid’s shelter putting the final coat of paint on one room, coating all the bed frames with oxide and painted floors. By the end of the week the we had finished priming the inside of the bathroom block as well as varnishing all the bathroom doors. Six dormitory rooms are now ready to be furnished once the funding is available. In addition, stove top burners and kitchen tables were delivered to site.
The builders are working on finishing the floor and putting glass in the windows. Once this is finished, the last task is to put in the plumbing.
With the skeletal structure of the house complete the builders (Zack, Julius, and Vuysi) begun rendering the house.
Volunteers worked vigorously to complete the outside walls of the rooms of the house and nearly complete the septic tank. To accomplish this, volunteers had to first assist with measuring out the house. The dimensions of the house are two rooms (each 4m L by 3m W) accompanied with a kitchen and a bathroom (each 4m L by 3m W). The septic tank is 4m L by 2m W by 2m deep. Next, the group broke ground and dug trenches around the house and began laying the foundation bricks of the house. After, the floors of the rooms were flattened and concreate was poured to finish the foundation. Volunteers then laid enough bricks to complete the outside walls of the rooms. They also assisted placing six windows and one door in the skeletal structure of the house.
This week we welcomed two 1-month old rescue servals to the cat park. They were found without their mother in a nearby sugar cane paddock that was being burnt off, and will now be hand-raised at Emdoneni. Each volunteer stoked to be given a chance to meet them and get a photo.
At the beginning of the week we finished clearing out the bottom enclosure for Dew the cheetah. Emdoneni are hoping to keep him there for the next couple of years until he is ready to breed, and if that is unsuccessful he will stay there until he’s ready to be rewilded.
We relocated caracal Bar-One and his stoner son Blaze into new enclosures, and opened the new bachelorette pad for Lulu, Savannah and Ruby to have fun in.
We also carried on with the clearing out of the block of land next to the cubs enclosures to eliminate a fire hazard, which became a bit of a game drive at the same time with the zebras, inyalas, impalas and wildebeest checking out our progress throughout the week.
With this group, our main focus was to obtain enough sunlight in most of the Croc enclosures. We started our week off bush clearing and pond cleaning, so we could create more space for the Crocs to move, and more area to retain warmth from the sun. The second half of the week we focused on our big 6 pool enclosure project area. We cleared a whole area where we are going to build a brand new pool, and we even placed cement blocks next to our ongoing project of finishing our latest Croc pool beside it so we could finish our last wall. We worked so hard cutting down big massive trees that were in the way that we broke a few tools here and there. Clearly we are all too strong for the job!
Volunteers worked diligently to practice basic English grammar to the children. Volunteers also read stories to the kids and taught the kids mathematics, hyenine, physical sports. They also helped prepare lunch for the children and helped the infants bottle feed. A special shout out to several volunteers: Jo (who gave two soccer balls and wrist bands to the soccer team), Ricardo and Andrew (who donated five soccer shirts and practiced soccer drills with the team), and lastly Madeline (who is a past volunteer who donated cups, plates and bowls to Mamma Doris).
At the children’s shelter, more bedframes were treated with black oxide and enamel. Also, volunteers treated the wood that goes between the bedframes and mattress with wood primer to prevent them from rotting.
A pathway in front of the bathroom block was also completed. Volunteers also treated the kitchen tables and racks with oxide (made of steel). Three more dormitory rooms were varnished and the floor was painted. In total, 8 out 15 rooms are ready to furnished.
Plumbing was started on the house. The final task is to finish the septic tank, install sinks and showerheads.
The house is now fully rendered; plumbing has been started on house. Volunteers worked to prime the inside and outside of the house. Volunteers also put the first coat of colored paint inside and outside the house. The house needs one more coat of paint, one room floor done, glass in the bathroom windows and the plumbing to be finished before the house is completed.
Volunteer worked extremely hard to finish the skeletal structure of the entire house! The house is now ready to be rendered. The septic tank was also completed and consists of two units, each 2m W by 2m L by 2 m depth. Also, a metal column needs to be placed in the bathroom area or additional support (see photo). After being rendered the house will need to be painted, have 4 doors and locks installed, install glass in the windows, have the wooden doors varnished, use the red oxide mix on the floors, and then have the plumbing done before the house is complete.
This week we cleared out the lanes that separate the older cheetahs from the younger ones, which involved a lot of weed-whacking and dirt removal. We had some hot days and everyone came together to push it out and complete the job.
We welcomed Phoenix the Serval to Emdoneni. She is another rescue cat from a nearby sugarcane field which was being burnt off. She sustained brutal burns on her paws and also to her face, and she is expected to hopefully make a decent recovery.
We also continued on with clearing out enclosures for incoming servals, as well as the cleaning of pools and water troughs.
We also had an unfortunate fatality of a skink who got caught under a wheelbarrow. We organised a fitting funeral and burial featuring flowers and Sarah McGloughin songs.
Volunteers also read stories to the kids and taught the kids hyenine, physical sports. They also helped prepare lunch for the children and helped the infants bottle feed. Volunteers also sang to the children and assisted them with their coloring.
Volunteers also practiced against the local soccer team, helping them with their dribbling and kicking!
At the Creche:
It was amazing to see the results of the volunteer’s efforts on construction. With only six volunteers per day (as opposed to the usual 20+ in past groups) the group managed to complete the concreting for two septic tanks within the first three days. We also completed all of the remaining painting both inside and outside for Sunday’s house, so that by the end of the week we were able to present her with her brand new house keys so that she could move in immediately.
Not to mention the group on the last day who completed the last of the painting on the walls at the children’s shelter. You also knocked off all of the remaining varnishing, oxide work, and moved hundreds of bricks behind without a single complaint. We were all thoroughly impressed with the work ethic and are so proud to say that we are all but finished all four projects we have been working on this season.
In our final week at Emdoneni we welcomed two new adult image172.jpegcheetahs to the park, one male and one female both aged 13 years. They were met with some hostility from the other cats, but are hopefully on their way to becoming valued additions to the cat park.
To prepare for their arrival we had to clear out their enclosure of branches and long Grass to deter snakes, as well as clean out their water trough and safety proof the trees to prevent them from climbing. We also cleaned out the zebra pond which was in dire need of a spruce up. Within hours the zebras were drinking out of it happy as Larry.
We also had to clean out the wild caracal enclosure which proved to be a challenge, but the volunteers were brave enough to go in there and do the job despite the cold reception from the cats.
We cleaned out croc and alligator ponds and enclosures as well as a lot of bush clearing in the Centre and in the back enclosure. This will create much more space for them to move around, and in these cold winter months it allows more sunlight in so they can retain more heat during the day.
The group also mixed a ton of concrete for the pool in the big SIX enclosure, as well as performing some mighty fine dives and flips into the cement pile. As you all know there are not many workers at the croc centre to help keep up with the general maintenance so without our VESA volunteers we wouldn’t be able to rehabilitate/breed/take in half the crocs and alligators we do now.
Volunteers worked diligently to practice basic English grammar to the children at Umzabalzo. Furthermore, volunteers mentored students in math, science and physical education. During lunch, volunteers played soccer and tag with the children at the school. Some volunteers even had a chance to practice soccer drills with the local team.
Volunteers also read stories to the kids and taught the kids hyenine, physical sports. They also helped prepare lunch for the children and helped the infants bottle feed.
Volunteers also sang to the children and assisted them with their coloring.
At the School:
At the Creche: