*PAWS: A volunteer is worth a million words*
“An Acre Of Performance Is Worth A Whole World of Promise.” Never a truer statement has been made that is so relevant to every volunteer who has passed through the grass doors at PAWS in the past 3 years! If ever we are feeling a little blue, we only need look at the wooden sign etched with these words in the centre of our lapa and remember why we are here!
PAWS turned 3 years old on 16th August 2011. From a tiny seed planted in our heads several years ago and in conjunction with Wayne Hanssen, the owner of Okonjima, Clive and I donned our working boots and gloves and built our very own 5 Star Camp!
So what exactly is PAWS and what are we doing on Okonjima’s 55,000h reserve?
For many years Okonjima and AfriCat’s vision was to restore the land back to its original state and once again witness the magnificent cheetah stalking and hunting its prey in its natural environment. Africa’s fragile ecosystem and wildlife are inseparably linked, co-existing successfully since time began.
PAWS is an eco-tourism volunteer project that combines the management and implementation of fundamental conservation principals. Together with our dedicated volunteers, PAWS aims to restore this balance and in time recreate this sustainable eco-system. Through involvement & commitment we are also creating valuable employment and training opportunities for the local community to aid us with our vision.
Volunteers come to PAWS armed with enthusiasm, commitment, a sense of humour and above all a sense of wanting to give something back to our beautiful but very fragile planet. Mornings are spent pulling down old cattle-line fences across a mountain range, chopping away alien bush on the reserve or collecting old bones and poo within the AfriCat Cheetah enclosures. Every job has a purpose and a goal.
As a reward for their hard work, volunteers are taken on an exciting game drive each afternoon – from leopard tracking to cheetah tracking on foot or visiting the AfriCat Foundation where they learn more about the importance of carnivore conservation in Namibia.
Roma Muccio, PAWS administrator says: “In volunteer project terms we could be classed as being in our early teenage years! To date Clive and I have hosted just short of 400 volunteers with more still to come until we close for the year in December. The satisfaction rate and feedback from volunteers has been tremendous and the amount of amazing comments we’ve received has been quite overwhelming at times. Many of these can be found on the PAWS Website on the Volunteer Comments page.
The achievements and success stories have been many and varied. It has not always been an easy ride, there have been plenty of up and downs and challenging moments for all of us including our volunteers, but at the end of the day NONE of this would have been possible without those dedicated volunteers who have already been and for those who are still to come. A heartfelt thank you!”