School of Croc is my latest project, and something I’m incredibly proud of. Wildlife has saved my life, and provided escape and inspiration for me since childhood – School of Croc is my way of giving something back to that wildlife and the communities it comes in contact with.
I work with children almost every day and I’m lucky enough to see first hand how eager they are to learn more and to help animals. Their passion keeps me inspired, and has helped me develop the idea for School of Croc.
Uniting Nations and Overcoming Challenges
School of Croc is a unique concept developed with friends including Rogger Knight, Kathy Loader, Charles Mason from Impeyan, and Mark Rossiter (and many others.) We work with children in the UK as well as other countries such as Uganda where we take children to national wildlife parks, and teach them about animals, conservation, and living with wildlife peacefully.
The next trip to Uganda is in 2014. There, we’ll visit and camp with children who suffer from severe disabilities such as cleft lip and amputations, and teach them to confront unique challenges while learning and supporting each other.
The aims of the project are to:
- Develop the skills and confidence of children with challenges
- Contribute to the rehabilitation of Ugandan children with disabilities through a unique experience with their own wildlife
- Help children develop bonds through joint participation in wildlife conservation
- Provide an opportunity for children with disabilities to inspire others
We take our wildlife for granted in the UK. Similarly, in Africa, some children have so little experience with their wildlife that they cannot draw a lion. If we want to protect animals, we need to ensure that the next generation is educated about them and do not fear them just because they are unknown.
The children taking part in the project will be keepers for the day and will work with animals to learn about them; thereby reducing anxiety or fear around them. They will work together to complete tasks, and at the end of each day will share a meal so that they can discuss what they’ve experienced and learned, and how it’s shaping their thoughts and ambitions.
Educating the Next Generation
Working with animals will give the children confidence, both with the animals and in their own abilities. They’ll carry out health checks on lions, zebra and other animals and complete wild animal training every day. There are plenty of opportunities to work closely with vets and even take part in an animal autopsy. As part of the conservation education, they’ll also join an anti-poaching squad for an afternoon, as well as doing night safaris.
Finally, children will help me and the vets at UWEC while documenting their own experience, they will wear GoPro headcams to film the healthcheck of a 14ft crocodile.
Spreading the Word
At the end of the 7 day programme, we’ll invite another 50 children to visit us at the wildlife park, where we will explain the encounter and demonstrate what we have achieved. We hope that the initial project will be a success and can pave the way for future trips to bring together British and African children to learn more about the environment, themselves, and each other.
Achieving the Impossible
This project isn’t just about the animals – it’s also about the children. Disabled children in the UK tend to be more confident because of the support they’re given at school and at home. Their counterparts in Uganda don’t have the same privileges and face serious challenges in day to day life. Ultimately, I’d like Ugandan children to achieve what many people would see as unachievable.