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Feb 20, 2009

Who says you can't learn anything from TV? And Hazards of Bush Living

A NOTE FROM GLOBAL GIVING: Please welcome Ian and Michele Merrifield. They are new project leaders here at GlobalGiving and over the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to get to know them and the great work they do for their organization Daktari Wildlife Orphanage & Bush School.

Periodically over the next two months we will be sending you snapshots about Ian and Michele’s life and work. We encourage your feedback about this new form of progress update so that we can provide you with the most interesting and relevant information possible about the projects and causes you support.

We thank you for your contributions and ask you to consider donating again to Ian and Michele and Daktari Wildlife Orphanage & Bush School. Feel free to tell your friends about this incredible project!

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Who says you can't learn anything from TV?

Ian and Michele Merrifield’s primary inspiration for their 1500 acre animal reserve and environmental school was the CBS TV program Daktari (Swahili for “doctor”), a show that aired briefly in the late 1960s about a fictional animal care center in East Africa. From their respective homes in France and South Africa, Michele and Ian remember “getting deeply emotionally attached to the different animals” on the show and aspired to one day open their own animal refuge centers.

Years later, Michele met Ian on a game reserve in Africa, and bonded over their love of bottle-feeding baby zebras injured by lions and aiding orphaned giraffes, elephants, lions, wildebeests, and warthogs. In 2002, they founded Daktari Bush School and Animal Orphanage.

Hazards of Bush Living

Ian and Michele Merrifield now operate a 1500 acre environmental education facility and animal refuge center in South Africa called Daktari. Their menagerie includes leopard, hyena, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, bushbuck, and wildebeest, with the occasional visit from their larger neighbors, the elephant and lion.

There are some animals, however, of which the Merrifields are not so fond. Mosquitoes, snakes, spiders, and scorpions are some of their bush “friends” who co-exist in the habitat, but are not exactly the kind of visitors Daktari hopes to attract. “It is fun but everyone must be vigilant,” says Michele.

Being out in the bush also means being distant from supplies crucial to the function the Merrifield’s program, whose facilities require constant maintenance and upgrading. Ian and Michele hope to expand the program to more children and improve the infrastructure of their center. Although currently without electricity, Ian and Michele say they hope to “reduce our carbon footprint by having better power sources, such as solar power for the office and refrigeration.”

Jan 15, 2009

January Update

Desiree Kgothatso with baby bushbuck
Desiree Kgothatso with baby bushbuck

Dear Friends,

I am Nicola, a volunteer manager, writing this update about Daktari's Bush School. I must start with a big THANK YOU to all of you for your generous support. So far Daktari has raised $10,171 from 169 donors and the amount is still growing! We are just $2,677 from our goal.

Since the GlobalGiving Project Challenge 2008 ended in November we have had 35 underprivileged come for a 5 day visit to Daktari's Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage. Our last 2 groups of students from Ramatau High School both had 7 students instead of 6, this was the only way to allow all of Ramatau's grade 8 students to visit Daktari before the end of the school year. Our last group of students from Ramatau High School made a donation of R 26.50 (2 Euros or $2.69 USD) towards caring for Daktari's new bushbaby. Michele and the volunteers were surprized and overwhelmed, and almost everyone cried at their generosity.

While schools were on break at the beginning of December, for Christmas and summer holidays, there was no break for the staff and volunteers at Daktari. For the first two weeks of December Daktari took in 2 groups of orphans from Qoisi Orphanage in Bushbuck Ridge. Although Daktari's Bush School focuses on educating underprivileged children we volunteers found the orphans' visit eye opening. Senior, our cook, made extra helpings for every meal. Daktari's volunteers often bring small items as prizes for students. Sometimes these prizes are suitable for students that are much younger than Daktari's regular grade 8 students. Before the last set of orphans left, we packed up all of these items for younger children, including stuffed animals, colouring books and toys and made a collection for the younger orphans at Bushbuck Ridge, giving everyone a warm Christmas glow.

After Christmas we had a group of 9 students, who are the children of the staff of a nearby nature reserve. It was great for the children to be educated about their local environment and to have the opportunity to learn about the types of work their parents are doing. In the future we are hoping to include a trip to a neighbouring reserve within our weekly program. This would allow the children to see a larger variety of animals and learn more about the different types of employment available on nature reserves.

Now, in the last week before school resumes Daktari has 6 members of Daktari Eco-Zone attending our Bush School. Daktari Eco-Zone is an environmental club started by school children who had completed their week at Daktari. These children were so inspired by Daktari's environmental education programme that they wanted to share their knowledge and new found passion with their friends and local community. Four of the 6 visiting students were founding members of Daktari Eco-Zone and they had been asking to return to Daktari all year. The other 2 students were part of the group who had joined this environmental club without having visited Daktari.

Thanks for your support and I promise to write again soon.

Nicola Coady

Eco-Zone students preparing for their bushwalk
Eco-Zone students preparing for their bushwalk
Nov 24, 2008

Project is up and running

Dear supporters of Daktari,

The GlobalGiving Challenge ended on the 21st of November and thanks to you, we now have a permanent spot on the American GlobalGiving website. We raised a total of $ 6915 from 127 donors which is going to be a tremendous help in covering the costs of welcoming children to DAKTARI.

For the last two years, we have welcomed over 250 children for a full week of environmental education at DAKTARI Bush School. We needed more funds to continue our mission and YOU made it possible!!! Already this Monday morning we picked up 7 underprivileged children from the “Ramatau” school and they are now all busy discovering and studying about environment. They have already been on a guided tour to meet our animals at the orphanage. Tomorrow morning, like every morning and afternoon, they will, with the help of the volunteers, feed and care for all of our animals. The children were all very happy to meet Lizzy our duiker who was saved by some of the other children from the same school 8 months ago. They also met Rusty, the young Nyala, for whom Mildred, an underprivileged student, raised R 49.50 to help toward his food.

Inter-acting with the animals is the best way to create feelings and compassion for them. Our goal is to get as many children as possible to visit DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage. These children will be taught about the importance of the environment and also about the job opportunities that exist in game reserves, thereby improving their future quality of life.

We want to express our sincere gratitude for your donations which makes a real difference in the life of our local children. The project is still online on GlobalGiving where you can always make a contribution or encourage your friends and family to become a supporter of DAKTARI.

Ian and Michele

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