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About VESA

VESA’s humanitarian and conservation projects aim to provide direct action support to communities in parts of the world overlooked by traditional charities and aid organisations.

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From the minute you book your trip we provide you with everything you need to know, so you get the most out of your VESA experience. 

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What we’ve achieved

South Africa 2019 - 2020

Africa Unearthed

THANK YOU

Please enjoy reading about your groups’ achievements as this will give a more complete picture of the vast amount of assistance that you’ve given to the local community through your generosity. And a special thank you to Damaris, Andrew, Cassandra, Matt, Amy and Zine who have been a fantastic team to lead our projects in the 2019 - 2020 season. And a special thank you to our builders, Sabelo, Chico, Zac and Julias!

Group 1

KHULA VILLAGE

Construction – Cassandra and Matt

We are building a 6-room house in Khula Village for a family of nine – four generations with great grandmother, grandmother, four adults and three children. There will be four bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom as well as an incinerator, septic tank and compost.

The group worked tremendously hard all week and were able to lay all the foundations, complete the floors of the house and start building up the walls including putting in the windows and door frames.

The volunteers also completed the incinerator and the septic tank. Even in the hot and humid weather, the volunteers never gave up, they did everything asked of them and set the bar high for the rest of the season.

EMDONENI/ZULULAND CHEETAH PROJECT

Conservation – Andrew

The volunteers experienced an educational tour in the morning and then we did some general maintenance around the centre!

Our volunteers learnt how rare it is to find these particular animals in the wild and also things that everyone can get involved with on a personal level on their travels and in everyday life.

In terms of maintenance there was a lot of dead wood around the wilding camp at the back which had to be removed as it was fire hazard with all the thunderstorms the area has been having. Whilst removing dry wood we found two huge wolf spiders which was very cool, and the zebras hung around quite close making the work more enjoyable for everyone.

CROCODILE CENTRE

Conservation – Damaris

This season we were working on a greenhouse for new hatchlings at the centre, modifying an old structure made by VESA 9 years ago, adding walls to divide the pools, new doors and a fibre glass roof and walls.

This will be the nursery for hatchlings during their first year.

We worked also to finish the enclosure number four at the Big 4 Enclosure project.

  • Cleaned and prepared an old building for the nursery
  • Built five new walls to separate the pools.
  • Added the poles that are going to support the fibre glass roof
  • Fixed the floors of two pools
  • Started to add new blocks made with onion bags and cement to the wall of the 4th enclosure
  • Put in the poles for the fence

EDUCATION AT KHULA VILLAGE AND MAMA DORIS’ CRECHE

Zine

Even though the children have completed exams we were still able to go to the school as usual and did some lessons.
We improved reading, maths and summarising at the school and at Mama Doris’s we helped to pack presents for the children.

Thanks to volunteer donations we were able to give out forty-eight filled pencil cases to the students at the school.

Group 2

KHULA VILLAGE

Construction – Cassandra and Matt

We are building a 6-room house in Khula Village for a family of nine – four generations with great grandmother, grandmother, four adults and three children. There will be four bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom as well as an incinerator, sceptic tank and composter.

We were able to almost complete all the brick laying and complete the outside walls as well finish all the inside walls and get the door frames in.

The last two days allowed us to get the roof on the house and render the completed walls.

Due to a day of heavy rains, we also managed to make a start on the second family home we hope to complete this season at a different site. We were able to dig all the foundations. This day was particularly great as the group still worked exceptionally hard even though it was raining and cold.

EMDONENI-ZULULAND CHEETAH PROJECT

Conservation – Andrew

We focused on learning about the cat’s biology and conservation and doing maintenance at the centre. This was a particularly fun week as the cooler weather meant the cats were more active and really put on a show for the volunteers.

We discussed how social media can play a part in unethical wildlife tourism (petting lion cubs etc) as well as things the volunteers can do to help with wildlife conservation at home.

For the work we helped to clear an overgrown area as they are planning to expand one of the wilding camps and also we had a very cool educational experience with new staff member Robin who taught us how to track animals in the bush, looking for footprints and detailed signs as well as find the zebra, red duikers, nyalas and little creatures that live on the property.

CROCODILE CENTRE

Conservation – Damaris

The teams continued work on the greenhouse for new hatchlings at the crocodile centre, using an old structure made by VESA 9 years ago, adding walls to divide the pools, new doors and a fibre glass roof and walls.

We also continued work on the last enclosure of the Big 4 Enclosures project

  • Reinforced the walls of the nursery
  • Built and reinforced the walls of the pool at the enclosure

EDUCATION KHULA VILLAGE AND MAMA DORIS’ CRECHE

Zine

Because the school students were on their holiday break, holidays, we managed to do work at Mama Doris’s teaching English and doing reading, encouraging drawing and creativity as well.

We also had many donations of toothbrushes and a lot of clothes from our very generous volunteer Taylah M.

As well as teaching English and reading with the children, we had fun cooking lunch for all the little ones. The graduation at the end of the week at Mama Doris’s was a special experience.

Group 3

KHULA VILLAGE

Construction – Cassandra and Matt

Great work on construction this week! Project one, a six-room house equipped with a bathroom, kitchen, and four bedrooms was completed except for a few small jobs.

The family of nine who have been living in just three rooms can now begin to move themselves into the house.

In just one week the teams were able to finish the walls and render them, as well as instal the doors to the property. Throughout the week we were also able to make headway on site two, a house being constructed for a family of eight; the parents and six children. At this site we successfully finished the foundations by layering concrete and laying the brickwork. A group of volunteers also managed to dig out the septic tank, a feat that was not easily attained.

A permanent water Jojo (tank) has also been installed on site. This will allow members of the community to come for safe drinking water.

EMDONENI-ZULULAND CHEETAH PROJECT

Conservation – Andrew

As well as the educational tours we focused on enrichment for the cats to provide more stimulus and exercise as well as research on behaviour. This group the tours were particularly enjoyable as we had Juba and Moya regularly walk alongside us towards the gates providing a very thrilling experience

We learnt about the cats’ biology and conservation as well as responsible wildlife tourism and appropriate messages and photographs for social media. We also did a bush walk and found a pied kingfisher and slender tailed mongoose as well as learning about savanna ecology and tracking.

The groups helped to clean the enclosures and the water troughs for all the smaller cats as well as preparing chickens for the smaller cats.

For the enrichment we tried several things. We provided a block of ice for Juba and Moya to help cool them down, but they didn’t seem to take much interest.

Our vet students enjoyed a lecture on cheetah biology and conservation.
We provided boxes filled with smelly things to see how they reacted; zebra and impala dung, and aftershave). We monitored the behaviour but other than Blaze the caracal and the wildcats. not many of the cats took interest. We added cat nip to see if that would change any behaviour. Finally, we concluded that food would be a better stimulus for the next experiment.

CROCODILE CENTRE

Conservation – Damaris

Work progressed to complete the brand-new nursery and greenhouse for the baby crocs AND the final enclosure for the Big 4 Enclosure project that VESA has been working on for nearly 3 years!

These two projects will allow the centre to increase the number of crocodiles hosted there and improve the survival rate, fitness and welfare score of hatchlings.

We collected eggs from our first croc nests of the season and relocated them to the incubator despite the rainy weather. We also got a lot of essential maintenance, including pond cleaning done!

EDUCATION KHULA VILLAGE AND MAMA DORIS’ CRECHE

Zine

Our education teams helped the local village kids doing some work, and even though they were on their school holidays we managed to run the project very well.

A massive thank you from Zine and the community of Khula who would like to thank VESA and this brilliant group as without you, life would not be as good as it is now, Mama Doris cannot say thank you enough for all the help at the creche and her heart is so full and thank you for all the education work that you did as it really helps the children succeed at school, learn and have a better future!

Group 4

KHULA VILLAGE

Construction – Cassandra and Matt

This week the volunteers worked only at the second building site which is a home for a family consisting of the parents and six children. Only three of the children are currently living with the family as there is no space or money to allow them all to live together. We can’t wait until we compete the house and see the family reunited.

We finished the floors, moving sand to level them and finishing the base with cement. Following this the walls were built up to window height, with the door frames all in place. The incinerator and septic tank were also completed.

On our final day the site was cleaned up and left in a tidy state to return in May. This group powered through the heat, stomach aches, and head colds. We were so impressed with the amount of work done in these conditions.

EMDONENI-ZULULAND CHEETAH PROJECT

Conservation – Andrew

We split the mornings into education about the animals through tours and doing bush walks on the property to learn about Savannah ecosystems and ecology as well as to try and find the zebras roaming around.

In the afternoons we carried on with the maintenance and in the process found some cool little creatures including a scorpion and a toad. Afterwards we got the enrichment ready and this time we hid chicken in boxes to see if the cats would smell it, this didn’t quite work but after seeing the chicken being put in the box the cats were more responsive.  Blaze the caracal and Cassidy the serval used their intuition and managed to get their reward, Juba and Moya needed a bit of prompting but as soon as Juba grabbed the chicken, Moya ran over to see what was going on but missed out, very interesting to witness.

For the morning we did the tours and found out about the animal’s biology and conservation and as usual talk about responsible wildlife tourism and appropriate posts for social media. We cleaned the serval, wildcat and serval ponds and also raked up the fermenting figs that had fallen.

The vet students performed health checks on Apple the wild cat and Mafuta the serval to see that they were healthy. We monitored the animal’s behaviour during the enrichment period and also helped to cut up chickens for the smaller cats in the Wilding camps and had a chance to feed them

CROCODILE CENTRE

Conservation – Damaris

We worked on the last enclosure of the Big 4 Enclosure project.
We are constructing four enclosures on one hectare of land where there used to be just one.

Also, we were working in the new nursery for the hatchling, a greenhouse building where the hatchling will spend their first year.

EDUCATION KHULA VILLAGE AND MAMA DORIS’ CRECHE

Zine

We helped the first class  after the school reopened and helped with the senior students with all different subjects including maths and English. At Mama Doris we assisted with the 4-year old’s writing letters and reading

Two of the volunteers donated some soccer jerseys, and footballs and caps to the local soccer team as they wanted to help out more in the community. The schools are back from holidays so we helped in the classrooms.