My name is Thembela Schoeman. I am 28 years old and grew up in a township called Paterson.
After passing matric in 2013 unfortunately my bursary application was unsuccessful, so I had no choice but to stay at home. I was fresh from high school with no work experience – the anxiety and depression that comes with that is unbearable.
After a month or so, I heard from a friend about a presentation that was going to take place in Addo Elephant National Park and since I wanted to do something about my life, I was very keen to attend not knowing it was going turn to be the break I was waiting and hoping for. The presentation was for Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Umzi Wethu project, and I was very lucky to be chosen to be one of their students to attend the course in 2014.
Umzi Wethu opened doors for me. At the end of the course I got an internship with Shamwari Private Game Reserve for a year and at the end of my contract for the internship I was hired permanently by the Born Free Foundation at Shamwari Private Game Reserve (www.bornfree.org.uk; www.shamwari.com).
I thought the bush was a scary dark place where no one could develop a career, but Wilderness Foundation Africa proved me wrong and I got the chance to be exposed to nature. Thanks to Wilderness Foundation Africa I am now very privileged to be doing what I love and care for. My passion!
I have been working at the Born Free Foundation for five years as an Education Officer/Tour guide. We work with all the schools around our area, primarily under-privileged schools coming to our centre for a tour of Born Free’s sanctuary, showing them our rescued big cats and taking them on a safari drive on Shamwari to show them where these animals should have been, free roaming in their natural habitats. We are all about environmental education and community outreach projects.
I am very happy to see many Black women like myself taking part in conservation. I strongly believe that we are also thriving in being the voice of the voiceless and in taking care of our planet. I also believe that women also deserve to be given same resources, training and opportunities as their male counterparts. To any young person struggling out there, especially women: never give up, rather be more assertive and go for what you want. It is possible.
We should all spread the message of keeping wildlife in the wild, protecting and respecting it for the future generations. Our job is very important because without the wildlife we would also be suffering.
‘’Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world!” ~ Nelson Mandela ~