OUR PHILOSOPHY BY ISABEL WOLF-GILLESPIE
"Earth Awareness is a philosophy, it’s a way of life, it is my way of life. From a young age I have always known that I have had a sheltered and fortunate upbringing and that in one way or another I would reciprocate. At the time I had no way of knowing how, but as life happens the path one is meant to go unfolds. Earth Awareness works in various fields but in summary I focus on the following sectors; education, conservation and wildlife, sustainable tourism, community empowerment and development. In addition to this, I am a traveling naturalist seeking and sharing earth’s wild places and beautiful people through extreme adventures either on horseback, foot or bicycle. The legacy of these adventures lives on through my work, but more so through the communities and people we met and touched along the way.
Below is a summary which I put together recently outlining our charity initiatives and projects. If you are in any way interested in getting involved please get in touch.
My outreach work began 10 years ago whilst living in the former Transkei at the Haven Hotel on the Wild Coast. At the time we were running a horse trail tourism operation and started an equine outreach project for the AmaXhosa community living nearby. This project was about social and economic upliftment offering education and skills development, clinic outreach for the animals as well as mentorship for individual community members.
At some point in 2009 the project needed funding desperately and we came up with the idea of a long journey with horses to create awareness and raise support. The Riding for Horses Personal Journey took 19 months (ended 2011) and turned into a life-changing experience. On route we interacted and shared the Earth Awareness philosophy with different communities, whether rural or urban, and in the end wrote two books (English/German Publication) about it. The wilderness, people and our horses changed who we were and through ‘Adventure 4 Change’ we offer a glimpse of this to communities all over the world. The equine outreach is meant to continue but is heavily based on available funding, which has been a struggle.
Shortly after in 2013 followed the Rhino Knights Adventure Campaign, which was inspired by the mere devastating fact that the land we lived on, had been directly affected by rhino poaching. The campaign was endorsed by Dr. Ian Player, a conservation hero that saved the species from extinction in the 60s.
Two years ago, I put most of my effort into the Elephant Ignite Expedition, the first-all woman expedition from South Africa all the way to Kenya. The expedition aimed at raising awareness of the plight of the African Elephant and the people working to protect them. The route took us through the most incredible and beautiful places, visiting mostly women in conservation, wildlife and community development projects.
Back then Rhino Knights was also the ‘kick off’ for Earth Awareness’ ongoing community empowerment and development program all over Southern Africa, and to date we have been to approximately 60 schools educating and affecting about 22000 learners. The program has made great waves and is currently most active in Southern Botswana where we educate children and communities about wildlife, the environment and sustainable tourism. For this program we are working in collaboration with the Children in the Wilderness Program for the Bobirwa District.
For months now I have been mentoring a group of young women in the community surrounding the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, to start up their own tourism and craft-making ventures. The women are learning the skills required to offer Village Home Stays to tourists passing through the area or visiting the reserve. To take this initiative a step further, we are working on getting funding from the corporate sector to finance the building of a Community Campsite, which would hopefully be managed and successfully run by the mentee group.
I am affiliated to and assist in one of the lodges in the area, which is leasing the land they operate on from a community trust and thereby giving a platform to community members to make an income. At the same time the lodge give employment opportunities and additional skills development in a very remote, rural area. This lodge focuses on a school holiday program bringing children from schools all over the world to this area of Botswana. The Tuli Wilderness Outreach Support is about teaching children about wildlife, conservation, sustainable community tourism as well as the local Botswana culture. Our aim is to bring initiatives such as Elephant Art, Be Girl Panties, Wonderbag to the area.
Last year I was approached to facilitate and mentor a group of 5 young Zulu women as part of Sisters of the Wilderness, which is a documentary and social impact project highlighting women’s empowerment and leadership development using the power of wild nature. The project aims to reconnecting the audience with nature in the light of the growing disconnection between man and nature and the deteriorating state of the planet. Through the Social Impact the message will be spread Southern Africa, hopefully worldwide. Key words for this project are women empowerment, wilderness education, power of nature, interconnectedness, upliftment of women, sustainable tourism, social impact and development for women and girls. (Production Company: One Nature Films, UK)"
- Written by Isabel Wolf-Gillespie