In the midst of the lockdowns and the pandemic, it seemed that the whole world, including the tourism sector, the conservation industry, business  and certainly various communities not only experienced the collective insecurity and stress of not knowing what would happen to them and their livelihoods as the ever giving tap of tourism suddenly, and abruptly, ran dry.

2020 for us as a unit was experienced as a year in suspense, especially acknowledging that most of our work includes interfacing with people. It is in this temporary delay that we also had to dig a little deeper, look at our work a little differently, see the spaces around us with different eyes, adapt and find different ways of doing things. The beginning of the year had kicked off with a bang for the Coaching Conservation (CC) children’s conservation education programme: the SAWC- CC partnership had received a commitment from the Investec Rhino Lifeline to present the programme to 1327 children. We unfortunately only managed to present lessons from two animal guides and schools before the shut down. With school activities on hold  in April, Coaching Conservation redirected its attention to how it could help to spread information and safe community action that could be taken around reducing the spread of Covid-19. CC  produced what it called a ‘Corona Survival Kit’ for the family, using graphic information regarding: hygiene, social distancing, symptoms of the virus and some edutainment activities like crosswords and colouring to keep the young minds active during the lockdown period.

The Coaching Conservation programme hopefully resume implementation in 2021, should the schools reinstate contact sport in the new year. The target for the new year remains the same. Our stores are full of Investec Rhino lifeline funded collateral for the children and coaches to take part in the programme, and we cannot wait to hit the football field and promote environmental awareness through  inspiring a generation of kids who care about themselves, others and the natural environment around them.

The COVID inspired adaptations also challenged the CC-SAWC duo to gear-up for an online delivery of a ‘train the trainer’ course for current and prospective coaches and mentors for the programme. CC and SAWC then revisited the institutionally accredited course materials to make them more suitable and appropriate for this form of delivery and finalised the process in August 2020. The key focus of the process remains: developing competent, passionate and engaged trainers with the capacity and competence to inspire kids who care.

This training was delivered in October in partnership between the SAWC- CC teams comprising of the Coaching Conservation founder and CEO Lesley McNutt, learning material developer, Dr Hugh Webster, and SAWC facilitators: Sboniso Phakathi, Nandi Thobela, Scott Yammin and Professor Mtungwa, who were joined by a group of trainees from Maun in Botswana and South Africa. This pilot course was implemented with great success, as all the attendees met the knowledge component requirements to be declared competent trainers. Phase two of this will entail the practical assessments which will take place in both countries.