"This place is giving so much to me, I have nothing, but I feel rich."
Comment by young community member on
being in the Imfolozi wilderness for the first time.
Bringing wilderness to community
AS a young volunteer for EKZNW, I used to patrol the fence and monitor poaching activity. I often noticed young black men, like myself, looking through the fence hoping to catch a glimpse of a wild animal.
After I became a wilderness guide, It disturbed me that only the privileged could afford to walk with the elephants and sleep under the stars; that the gifts of spiritual healing so freely given by the wild animals and plants should become commodities that only the very wealthy could afford. All humans need the life-affirming therapy of walking on a path of wilderness, and perhaps those who can least afford it need it most.
Many of our communities were forcibly removed by the apartheid government to make way for the reserve. As they fences went up, they were excluded from their ancestral lands and the wild animals that they had lived with harmoniously for generations. This exclusion, and the poverty, has made many young people turn to poaching rhino for the criminal syndicates trading in rhino horn - a trade that threatens to destroy the species within decades.
My longing to fill this need gave birth to a non-profit organisation under the wing of uMkhiwane Sacred Pathways: Ubizo lwemvelo (the call of the wild), is dedicated to finding resources to enable local communities to experience spiritual journeys in the wilderness. I have since conducted several trails with young adults in Imfolozi wilderness and in the Drakensberg mountains. These have been life changing experiences, enabling them to connect not only with the wild animals and plants, but also with their own histories, and with the spirit of ubuntu that is the corner stone of Zulu philosophy.
If you would like to contribute to Ubizo Lwemvelo, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.