The Amakhala Foundation is home to the community and conservation projects of the Amakhala Game Reserve, as well as the educational projects of the Amakhala Conservation Centre. It was established in 2009 to coincide with the Reserve’s 10th anniversary.
The Foundation is overseen by a Trust with five members and its two focal points are Environmental Education and Literacy and Education in the community. In addition, the Foundation manages Lifeskills and Community Development projects for Amakhala staff and their families, as well as projects that uplift the Broader Community, such as the Amakhala Craft Centre and support for the Isipho Charity Trust.
The Amakhala Foundation’s goal is to build strong individuals, families and communities in the rural and conservation context in which the reserve is located. From relying heavily on the commercial lodges for practical and financial assistance after its inception, the Amakhala Foundation now has an independent budget. This is funded by the Conservation Levy paid by guests staying at Amakhala’s commercial lodges, as well as fundraising initiatives such as the sale of reusable water bottles.
The Foundation’s Environmental Education programme aims to cultivate an understanding and love of nature in the children who visit the Amakhala Conservation Centre (ACC), thus increasing awareness so that future generations can protect and enjoy our natural habitats.
Local primary school children attend education days at the ACC, notably during National Water Week in March, on World Environment Day in June, and during Arbor Week in September. High school pupils are sponsored to enjoy a day of learning about habitats and ecosystems as well as experiencing the animals in their natural environment while on a game drive. A partnership with Coaching for Conservation also sees numerous 10 year olds learning about rhino while playing soccer. University students benefit educationally by visiting the Centre and conduct specialised research projects within the reserve. Each year, close to 2000 people, young and old, are able to connect with nature through these different programmes.
University students from Rhodes University and NMU have the opportunity to run selected research projects on the Reserve.
Unemployed members of the local community are given an opportunity to generate income through our Craft Centre, where beaded articles, sewing items and printed items are sold. Beaded rhino medals are lovingly produced each year for a Rhino Run organised in the USA by Texas Christian University. The beaded items are made by a group of local women working from their homes, while the sewing is done on site by a woman who operates her own small business within the Centre.
Beaded bracelets made by the teenagers of the Isipho Project in nearby Paterson are also sold here. One-quarter of the sale price of the bracelets goes to a bursary fund to assist one or more of these teenagers with some tertiary education after leaving school. Duduzile Dumana is the first recipient of this bursary and recently graduated with a diploma in Journalism at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
Guests and members of the public may visit the Craft Centre during the week to purchase articles and meet Feziwe, the co-ordinator.
The Isipho Charity Trust is an independent charity operating through a Centre in the nearby town of Paterson. It supports over 300 children through 2 preschool classes, an after-care programme, feeding scheme, materials support for schooling, and psycho-social support. It also provides much-needed HIV/AIDS education in the local community.
Amakhala has been part of Isipho’s development almost from the outset: assisting with food parcels, raising half the funding required for the Isipho Charity Trust to buy its own property, and giving time and expertise through the services of two Amakhala members that serve on the Isipho Board.
The Amakhala Volunteer programme also makes a valuable contribution to this organization by providing manpower to assist with general maintenance of the property, the after-care programme and the running of computer classes, as well as beading afternoons.
Staff members have been put through various in-house training programmes on an ongoing basis, to enable them to take on new positions and responsibilities. Staff are involved in Hospitality/Guiding Learnerships, leadership, parenting and financial skills training.
Young children of staff families have access to a bursary for the nearby local school, ensuring that the children can live at home and attend school until they are 10 years old. The Amakhala Foundation also provides funding for one small preschool –known as iJosi, and plans are afoot to open a second preschool.
2014: Runner up in the “Skills for Sustainability Award Category” in the Mail & Guardian 2014 Greening the Future Awards.
2012: Amakhala Foundation listed as a finalist in the category of “Best Social Involvement” for an Umvelo Award and as a finalist for a Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award.
2011: The Conservation Centre nominated as a finalist for a Kudu Award, for the environmental education programme that it runs.
2008: At the Kudu Award Ceremony; an annual SANParks event in Pretoria, the ACC was presented with an Environmental Education/Capacity Building Merit Award for its commitment to conservation through educational programmes which are aimed at imparting knowledge and skills to enhance the understanding of the environment.