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Elwai Newsletters Index

Volume 1 - 2005:

Issue 1 - September

Issue 2 - November

Issue 3 - December

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Elwai Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 1
September 2005

Index of Issues, Click Here

Dear Friend of Destination Africa Safaris,
 
I am profoundly pleased to address you in the first issue of our newsletter, which we intend to be a regular forum where we can share ideas, visions, and views with you – esteemed clients and friends of Destination Africa Safaris.

For those of you who have not heard, we have launched the
Whistling Thorn Camp community conservation project at Tarangire National Park. We call the newsletter “Elwai” because it is the Maasai word for whistling thorn, and also the name that the Maasai people of Olasiti Village call the area of our project.

You can see our new website with a map, information, testimonials and more at

http://www.WhistlingThornCamp.org


Whistling Thorn Camp is a dream come true for me, not just as a business undertaking (to help provide our guests with an excellent bush camp experience) but because the project had two  “grander” visions:
a)   A socio-economic dimension; and
b)   An environmental conservation aspect.
 
The site itself of Olasiti Village borders northwestern Tarangire National Park, which many of you have visited and may know that it is home to one of northern Tanzania’s largest elephant herds, as many as 2,500.

The area is also part of one of East Africa’s most important wildlife corridors, called the Kwa Kuchinja Corridor.  This still-largely undeveloped landscape is the gateway for the natural wildlife movements between parks and protected areas, including Lake Manyara/Lake Natron/Ngorongoro Crater/Serengeti and Amboseli National Park in neighboring Kenya. It is also the traditional homeland of the Maasai people, who, like the wildlife, need to move about in search of pasture.
 
Whistling Thorn Camp was intended to create a buffer against the encroachment of smallholder farmers from blocking the wildlife corridor, which was becoming a threat to the well-being of wildlife and the environment in general, as well as to the traditional Maasai culture.
 
It was also created to help provide alternative means of livelihood to the local people, to minimize the need for building farms. In particular, the Maasai people are increasingly forced to stay in one area due to growing populations of farms, but the land is not rich enough to support their cattle without access to their once-vast migratory landscapes.

Whistling Thorn Camp provides not only employment opportunities, but will also supply goods and services,  such as social and health services.   For example, below are pictures of local ladies, paid to harvest grass for our thatched roofs, and local men building the new dining tent structure.
Our company will also be involved in community development projects, especially improving the local school and water supply.  Specific projects for the school include a new roof – 244 children have only 2 rooms with roofs in which to attend class (see website for photos); these rooms only have dirt floors and no windows. Please watch for future communications about the opportunities to participate in these projects.

There is a mandatory clause in the lease agreements between the Camp and the Village government acting as landlords for the plot of land where Whistling Thorn Camp is built, that guarantees the village a standard commission on bed nights. This is channeled into a special fund controlled by the village government for the village’s development projects.

Our fine staff awaits you!

I and the staff of Destination Africa Safaris and Whistling Thorn Camp invite you all to be an important part of this great endeavor. The more successful the project is, the more land and wildlife and local cultures benefit. We hope that through our work, we will be working together with you to improve our common well-being and to make the world a more harmonious and better place for all of us.
 
 
 
Hagai Kissila

All content © Destination Africa Safaris Ltd., Arusha, Tanzania 2005
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Volume 1, Issue 2
November 2005

HAKUNA MSAADA MDOGO”
(
No Assistance Is Too Little)

Dear Friend of Destination Africa Safaris,
 

Welcome to the second newsletter of the Tarangire
Whistling Thorn Camp, a conservation project of Destination Africa Safaris. We hope this letter finds you and your family happy and in good health.

In the first issue of this newsletter, I made it a point to relate the major objectives of the establishment of Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation camp, in addition to the business objectives, namely:

  1. To play a role in efforts to ameliorate the social conditions of the local people.
  2. To protect the general environment and the wildlife habitat that includes the natural wildlife corridor of “Kwa Kuchinja” and
  3. To preserve the local culture, traditions, and norms.

There is great promise in this direction and particularly on the socio-economic front; the camp has identified two social projects:
 
a) a local school and
b) a water delivery system.

These are just a start among the many short and long term development goals. The most recent engagement involved a Hungarian tourist group of 14 people that visited the conservation camp in early October, thanks to the marketing efforts of Destination Africa Safaris Ltd., Whistling Thorn Camp’s parent company. Destination Africa’s relentless and concerted efforts far and wide have made excellent in-roads, particularly in the eastern European countries, which are regarded as new tourist markets by the safari tourism sector. This Hungarian group arrived in the country early in October for a 14-day trip that took them around the northern tourist circuit and the spice islands of Zanzibar.

Prior to flying to Zanzibar the group spent a few hours at Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation Camp for a luncheon.  While they dined, we seized the opportunity to brief them about the camp’s background and the major objectives behind its establishment. After lunch, the group visited our project schoo, which is a going concern, meaning that it is “business as usual” for the students and teachers, not withstanding the fact that some of its classrooms are roofless and without a proper floor nor desks, yet the children are busy here!

The children and teachers of Elwai School.


The tour group was taken aback to see children sitting on building blocks on a dusty floor and open skies above them; their spontaneous reaction was “what happens here when it rains??” and the poor teacher responded spontaneously, “Naturally we postpone classes, then the kids cram into rooms with a roof until the rains stop.”
 
And bang! The tour participants started searching their pockets and in no time they produced US $ 300 and handed it to the school headmaster accompanied with these simple but touching words, “We have been deeply touched by your circumstances, kindly accept this little contribution from us, it is genuine and we promise to do more in the future.”

Our new Hungarian friends and school benefactors – thank you, Asante sana!


Indeed US $ 300 is figuratively a small amount, but in our national language Swahili we have a saying that goes like this: “HAKUNA MSAADA MDOGO” literally meaning that no assistance is too little, there will always be a purpose it can serve. By that simple gesture of compassion we shall gradually have our children off the dusty floor and with a roof over their heads, protecting them from the follies of Mother nature - like rain, dust storms, sunshine, wind, etc.

Work has already begun on new floors in the school.


From this forum, I want to sincerely thank our Hungarian visitors for their gesture of friendship and compassion, we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, a great promise for the future, and we want to build on the momentum through sustained exposure and by creating partnerships across the board with individuals, and private and corporate sponsorships.
 
In a similar vein, the camp, through its own initiatives, contributed US $ 150 to purchase essential materials required in the construction of a village water project, which is currently underway. We will report more on that soon.
 
In order to sustain this momentum, it is of paramount importance to us at the camp that we continue to grow both the conservation camp and the parent company, Destination Africa Safaris. Only by doing this can we continue to generate substantial revenues that will enable us to realize all our objectives as enumerated above.

New sandy paths make it easy to navigate around camp!


With humility, kindly allow me to invite you all aboard this bandwagon for this noble cause; you definitely have an important role to play in our quest for a better and quality life for the rural communities. What can you do?

  1. Join us on a safari! Proceeds directly benefit the community. We can put together custom safaris, or join a tour already being planned. For more information, see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/details.html
  2. Donate – your donations will mean a huge difference between poverty and progress for the Maasai community at Elwai. To donate, please see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/conservation.html#anchordonate

Please, once again I ask you to keep your eyes on this column in the next issue of this newsletter for more updates about this grand dream.

Don’t forget that you can see more about the camp at our new website,  with a map, information, testimonials, archived newsletters, and more at
 

http://www.WhistlingThornCamp.org


From the camp with love and warm wishes and until next time -
 
 
Hagai L. Kissila

Volume 1, Issue 3
December 2005

The elephants are appreciating conservation efforts at Tarangire Whistling Thorn Camp!

Dear Friend of Destination Africa Safaris,
 

Greetings from Tarangire!
 
This incidentally happens to be the last in the series of my letters from this column before we bid farewell to the year that was! 2005.

And as the X-mas festive season turns the corner towards us, I feel it is an opportune moment to reflect on all that we have been through in the cause of the closing year and thence strategize or chart a new cause into the incoming year.

This season also augurs well for all of us to exchange seasonal greetings and best wishes in all our human endeavors, and to hope for the best for the future.

Having said that; and from the perspective of the
Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation Project, I can only say that we have come of age! From the mist-shrouded dream to a fledgling infancy stage of the project, and now a visible entity and a name that rings bells among the hospitality industry and conservation fraternity, quite frankly, it is my duty and on behalf of the team here at TWTCC project, to thank each and every one of you for your unflinching support for our dream both morally and materially over the past year, we could not have done it without you. Thank you all.

In so saying, that we have come of age, I am not naïve, for among all the people associated with the project, I am one of those few who clearly understand that the actualization stage of this project is still some distance away and the challenges are enormous to say the least; however to me and members of the team at the project, pessimism is not a virtue! We are all ready to face up to the challenges not matter what it takes to see our dream to success.

Nevertheless the measures that we have to take and the extent of our success will inevitably depend on your continued support to various programs that we want to undertake. We need financial assistance to keep us going because the camp is yet to generate sufficient revenues to sustain all the conservation development goals.

One such vital development goal is to install beacons around the area to demarcate the conservation project area in order to deter the small-holder farmers from encroaching in to the migratory corridor. It is quite encouraging to note that even at this earliest stage of the project, the animals have started to rediscover their migratory path, following the arrival of the short rains season, the animals are once again on their migratory trail towards the north into lake manyara national park, Lake Natron, Ngorongoro Crater and the Amboseli in neighboring Kenya.  

At the moment concerted efforts are underway on a variety of fronts including but not limited to the functions of sales and marketing which is essential for the sustainability of the project and subsequent realization of the broader objectives of the project. Among other priority fronts is creating awareness and increased participation of the local community in matters related to conservation objectives of the project in general.

Establishing and broadening of contacts and networks among various stakeholders, including the private and public sectors of interest, is yet another area currently being addressed more seriously. We are of the opinion that we need to build bridges in good time that will render the support base to carry the project forward. We have so far received numerous voices and pledges for assistance from various stakeholders, including tourist groups that have honored us by spending sometime at the camp, we take them to be our goodwill ambassadors in their home bases, we are therefore optimistic that maintaining close contact with them will bear fruit at some point in the foreseeable future.

At the same time plans are on the drawing board to upgrade facilities and services at the camp in order to make all our clients more at home away from home. We value their support as we understand that it the revenues we generate from them enables us to move closer to achieving our long term objectives of conservation and social responsibility, as a case in point, we have started receiving bookings at the camp well into the new year which creates the hope for a stronger revenue base that will eventually sustain and support the realization of our broader vision.

It is worth a mention here that during the year we have been able to participate - albeit in a small measure - in 2 community projects, namely:

  1. (1) of roofing a few classrooms at a local school in the area; at least a few kids are sheltered from the harsh conditions of mother nature while in class, like sun heat, rain and dust etc..etc.

and
 (2) we also contributed some vital materials for a village water scheme; and now a few mothers do not have to walk long distances to fetch water, for this we pay tribute to our esteemed clients who read into our vision and their hearts gave in to help.

And in line with our vision to empower the local communities, we intend to establish a beekeeping project within the confines of the area to be demarcated, so as to provide an alternative source of income once the area has been designated as a no-tilling area
 
As I have already said earlier in this column, the needs are immense and the challenges tremendous, besides that bare truth, we do not intend to stretch our resources too thin in trying to accomplish our goals. We will adopt a phased program on what we do at any point in time. I for one do believe in the old adage that “ where there is a will; there is a way.” Thus if we succeed to create a broader network base around the global village, thanks to the globalization phenomenon, and with the invaluable support from all of you, we are sure we shall overcome.

I also strongly believe in the tenacity of the human spirit to overcome evil, in the year ahead, I hope we will all of us from all the four corners of the world come together and strive to create a safer and more harmonious world in which we can reach out to each other to overcome the negative fetters of mother nature and evil-mindedness that besets human development.
 
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year 2006.

And please keep the hopes alive!

May God bless you all.

From Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation Camp, thank you all and best regards,

Hagai L. Kissila

How you can help:

  1. Join us on a safari! Proceeds directly benefit the community. We can put together custom safaris, or join a tour already being planned. For more information, see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/details.html
  2. Donate – your donations will mean a huge difference between poverty and progress for the Maasai community at Elwai. To donate, please see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/conservation.html#anchordonate


 

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Volume 2, Issue 1
April - June 2006

Dear Friend of Destination Africa Safaris,
 

From our usual column, I send you all our warmest greetings from The Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation camp and Tanzania in general.

As I write this letter, I feel extremely light-hearted for an extra reason that I want to share with you today, if you may.

Tanzania and almost the entire African sub-Saharan region went through an extremely life- threatening period following a prolonged spell of dry weather stretching for well over three years in certain areas. Not only did the drought threaten human life, but also even wildlife in the national parks started dying in huge numbers. The tourism industry was put to its most trying times in years, I said earlier that I am writing this letter in a light- hearted mood now because we have at last had a normal long rains season and we hope the worst is now behind us; at least for the time being!

During those trying weeks and months, our government had to take some quick measures in order to avert a human catastrophe. This government, which has now been in power for less than four months since we went to our last national elections in December 2005, sent out an SOS outcry to all our international development partners, friends and well-wishers seeking assistance to avert human deaths due to hunger and in no time food relief and cash donations started flowing into the country in heartening quantities, however priority for the food relief distribution was directed to the most needy areas of the country.

When that was going on, we at Tarangire Whistling Thorn Conservation Camp decided to conduct a quick assessment of the food situation around the surrounding local communities and soon realised that we had to chip-in, in our own small way, at least to save a life or two for a few nights while the big arm of government put its act together to bring in some more food supplies. So we borrowed a leaf from the government's measures and sent out our own SOS outcry to our friends and well-wishers of TWTCC and they promptly responded, our earliest and most sincere gratitude go out to all the friends and well wishers of Whistling Thorn Conservation Camp, they sent immediately a cash donation of US $ 400 which motivated the camps sister company Destination Africa Safaris Ltd. to cough out another US $ 600.

Equipped with US $1000 we knew we were now in a position to keep body and soul together for at least a few families albeit for a few days as a bridge gap measure while waiting for government relief food.

We bought 2 tons of the staple grain (maize) and distributed it to 360 people from the surrounding Olasiti village; each person obtained 5 kilograms of the grain, which is enough to feed an average family for a minimum of 3 days (see pictures below).

We thank you all once again for your timely intervention; because “a little here and a little from there” has enabled us to avert a human catastrophe of gargantuan proportions.

And now the once barren brown landscapes that we could see belching out clouds of brown dust are once again large swathes of green foliage; re-awakening hope and great promise that there will be life tomorrow. And as if on cue, the local people have rushed back to the farms that they once abandoned following the terrible drought to cultivate food and commercial crops, God willing we expect to have a good harvest this time around after 3 consecutive dry seasons.


Hagai L. Kissila

How you can help:

  1. Join us on a safari! Proceeds directly benefit the community. We can put together custom safaris, or join a tour already being planned. For more information, see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/details.html
  2. Donate – your donations will mean a huge difference between poverty and progress for the Maasai community at Elwai. To donate, please see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/conservation.html#anchordonate


All content © Destination Africa Safaris Ltd., Arusha, Tanzania 2006
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Volume 2, Issue 2
June - July 2006

Dear Friend of Destination Africa Safaris,
 
It is always a pleasure to send you my warmest greetings via this column of our Newsletter; I am always equally pleased to report back to you that Tarangire Whistling Thorn Camp is well and thriving, doing its best to pursue its core objectives pertaining to conservation and social responsibility.

Over the past few weeks, the camp in our own small way have made some useful interventions in certain areas of concern to our neighboring local community, including during the devastating famine that nearly caused a human catastrophe a few months ago, that had been a subject in my letter in this column in the past newsletter.

The situation has now greatly improved to a reasonable extent; thanks to the timely intervention of our government and the international community, no longer do we face a glaring danger of deaths of our people due to hunger; at least for now! And on the horizon are shining prospects of a good harvest greatly enhanced by the quite good rains that we received during the just-ended long rains season.

From this column today, I want to relate to you about two matters that have occurred in the recent past, relatively un-connected but both which caught the attention of all of us at the Camp that I feel you have a right to be informed about.

Issue number one is a relatively sad story of a poor Maasai lad going by the name Loishorua Mekpukori (pictured above). The kid had completed his junior Secondary school education attaining the required grades to continue with High school studies, however, all public schools charge a nominal amount as school fees, which is actually a commitment fees to get the parents to take education seriously.

In Loishurua's case Tanzania shillings 120,000/= (equivalent to US $ 100) was the required amount, I know that by western standards this amount is peanuts! But alas! Down here that is the equivalent of twice the minimum monthly wage of an employee let alone a peasant pastoral family. In addition to the school fees, poor Mepukori was also required to buy other school requirements like uniforms, beddings and books prior to joining High school, and that was the last nail in the coffin! Poor Mepukori's academic carrier had come to an unceremonious grinding halt.

As fate would have it, I met Loishorua Mepukori at Tarangire Whistlling Thorn Camp where he had come in search of some casual work to earn some income. Fortunately he had come at an opportune moment for by then we were engaged in general clean-up exercise of the camp in time for the incoming tourist high season, we slotted him in along with many others.

For no apparent reason he caught may attention, after the work for the day was done, I eased him sideways and wanted to know him a little better and then the sad story came to light, some bells rang deep inside my heart and mind, I immediately swung onto action trying to contact some old friends about the matter.

To cut a long story short, Loishurua Mepukori is now continuing with his high school studies at Karatu Secondary School, and this has been made possible by among other people by two compassionate ladies namely Ann Kingerey and Janet Reynolds,? both friends of Tarangire Whistling Thorn Camp and past visitors of the camp. The two ladies immediately remitted to me US $ 100 each onto which TWC added another US $ 100 that was enough to purchase essential school requirements and to pay for his annual school fees. We are optimistic that in the days ahead we will be able to find other well-wishers to contribute funds that can secure poor Loishorua Mepukopri's education at least through high school for now.


In another development the Oltukai Primary School with which we have been working tirelessly to develop received a rare visit from a top government official, the deputy minister for education and technical training came visiting at the school on the 11th May 2006. Here below I want to give the highlights of the report on the schools activities that was read to the minister by the school's head teacher, the purpose of doing so is just to give you an idea about what is happening on the ground as regards the extent of needs vis a vis the local efforts that are on-going to realize our dreams, in turn that may allow you to make some enlightened decisions as to the type and threshold of your intervention as of and when you decide to lend us your hand of assistance in our efforts to ameliorate the social conditions of the local people and to give them a hope of a better tomorrow.


Schedule 1. Overall school enrollment 2006

No. OF BOYS No OF GIRLS TOTAL
195 148 343

Student attendance average = 65%

Reasons: 1. Since the school does not provide meals, the students, wary of staying hungry, decide to stay away. 2. The nomadic lifestyle of the parents in search of pastures for their livestock generally results in students dropping out of school to follow their parents.

Schedule 2. Teaching staff.

REQUIRED AVAILABLE SHORTFALL VOLUNTEER
9 5 4 1


Schedule 3: Buildings and Furniture Inventory.

TYPE REQUIREMENTS AVAILABLE SHORTFALL
Teachers houses 9 2 7
Classrooms 9 4 5
Toilets (pit holes) 12 8 4
Desks 114 60 84
Tables 18 4 14
Chairs 21 9 12
Shelves 10 1 9
Store 1 0 1
Library 1 0 1
Staff rooms 2 2 -
Dormitories 7 2 5
Cafeteria 1 1 -


Activities funded from self-help schemes and local donors

4 classrooms/2 offices Tzs. 6 million
8 toilet pit holes Tzs. 450,000

Teachers houses/dormitories Tzs. 13 million

DONATIONS:

Destination Africa safaris Tzs. 300,000
Mwangaza association Tzs. 1.7 million

Total funds applied Tzs. 21.5 mil?n


Major problems facing the school

1. Lack of water: The nearest water point is about 7 kilometers from the school, apart from being un-safe, it is way too far for both the students and staff.

2. Rising prices: the prices for building material keeps on escalating faster than the funds can be raised thus hampering progress in finalizing the construction of the buildings.

3. Funding from local sources is far too slow and unreliable not because the local people do not want to contribute but largely due to low disposable incomes among the local people.

4. The shortage of classrooms and teachers houses is quite critical.

5. There are far fewer dormitory space and beds for the students than required, only 92 students have beds and sleep in dormitories, 251 have neither beds nor space in the dorms.


So friends, as I said earlier on that I only wanted to share with you the facts and figures about what is happening here on the ground, as you can attest from the figures we still have a long way to go and the challenges are huge to say the least but luckily Surmountable! If we determine and keep focused. That old English adage still rings true to date that ?where there is a will, there is a way? however I have to hasten to add that your engagement in this endeavor is simply put so vital just like water is to life.

There you are -- please join this noble cause for humanity!

I thank you all because it is always nice and quite encouraging to know that somewhere out there cares!


Hagai L. Kissila

How you can help:

  1. Join us on a safari! Proceeds directly benefit the community. We can put together custom safaris, or join a tour already being planned. For more information, see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/details.html
  2. Donate – your donations will mean a huge difference between poverty and progress for the Maasai community at Elwai. To donate, please see http://www.whistlingthorncamp.org/conservation.html#anchordonate

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