Carol Van Bruggen, our CEO, told a story over dinner at Mfuwe Lodge about one of the first groups she took on safari. A young Zambian man (his name intentionally omitted) got a job as a tea bearer in one of the bush camps. There were a lot of elephants to watch that day, and the safari group surprised a bull elephant in musth. For all their size, bull elephants are frighteningly quiet in the bush, and they often blend in with the scenery. Their guide explained what to do if an elephant comes near, but, of course, when a bull elephant rounds a corner and starts to charge, the first impulse is to run, and this group did exactly that, they tried to run. One guest fell and hurt her knee and another whacked his head on a branch in his haste to retreat as the scout fired one shot in the air to scare the elephant. The charging elephant stopped.

The tea bearer pulled the group together and kept them quiet. They stood with him and watched the elephant angrily shake his head, flap his ears back and forth furiously, and raise his trunk in the air, all critical warning signs he was strongly considering charging the group. No one said a word. Their scout aimed his rifle at the angry elephant for seven very long minutes ready to shoot to kill if necessary. Finally, the elephant turned and retreated into the bush.

When Carol got back to camp, the head of the camp asked her, “Did you hear about the charge? Well, they’re all on the deck, and they’re o.k. A couple of them have minor injuries, but they are fine.” Carol walked over to where the group sat looking out over the pond where just hours before they were a terrified group clutching each other in silence. They were laughing. One guest sat with an ice pack on her knee and Bob, who now sponsors students in the village, had a bandage on his forehead. He was laughing, too.

The group wanted to support the tea bearer in his dream to become a guide, and they pooled their money to send him to guide school and continued to support him financially so he could learn how to drive a vehicle. Ian Salisbury at Mfuwe Lodge helped him gain more experience talking with visitors by giving him a job picking up people at the airport, which helped his English.

Today, he works as a guide at Mfuwe Lodge. With the income from his new career, he was able to put his brother through school, and support his children and his brother’s children to go to secondary school. He bought a house for his mother, and he’s putting a nephew through college in Lusaka. In the Zambian culture, if you have the means, you help your family.

Education is the key to providing jobs and protecting wildlife. This young man and his family see elephants and other wildlife not as food or sources of revenue, but from a conservationist’s point of view where elephants and other wildlife are more valuable alive and flourishing in their ecosystems. Your donations help make this possible.

Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com.

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Carol Van Brugen