Following the success of &Beyond and Africa Foundation's Footprints of Hope 10-day rhino awareness walk (through the Sabi Sand and Kruger wilderness and surrounding communities) earlier this year, the teams are now returning to two of those communities to help inspire the youth and educate them about the threat of rhino poaching.
Endangered black rhino.
At the request of the community leaders, &Beyond and Africa Foundation will visit Lillydale and Athol to host Goal is Life soccer events, part of &Beyond's Positive Health social wellness programme, on 16 and 17 June respectively. Each day, three friendly soccer matches will be held among four community youth teams, with man-of-the-match prizes and soccer kits awarded.
&Beyond rangers, Africa Foundation development officers, and the Kruger Park Section Rangers will be at both events to give an important update on the plight of the highly endangered rhino, urging people to report all poaching activity anonymously to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Poaching very prevalent
Professional footballer Gordon Gilbert plays soccer with local youth.
"As the threat of rhino poaching is extremely prevalent in the western corridor of the Kruger where five of our lodges are situated, the inaugural focus of our Footprints of Hope campaign is to raise awareness about the significance of the rhino and the role that our community partners can play in its preservation.
Through these two Goal is Life days, we also hope to impart valuable life skills information and to use the game of soccer to motivate people to lead their best lives possible," says Elsje van Wyk, &Beyond's positive health manager.
Gordon Gilbert and &Beyond ranger Mark Shaw.
Gordon Gilbert, football defender from a locally-renowned provincial team (Mpumalanga Black Aces), will referee all the games whilst imparting his skills and knowledge about the commitment it takes to become a professional soccer player. In addition to the rhino conservation message, he will speak about &Beyond's Life Skills programme which was developed to empower people to help themselves.
This is underpinned by &Beyond's belief that the only way to protect the environment is to foster a shift in people's values and behaviour. It is also vital for people living adjacent to conservation areas to benefit directly from ecotourism; this is one of &Beyond's core founding principles and the reason Africa Foundation began working with communities, not for them, 20 years ago.
For more information on both current and future Footprints of Hope initiatives, as well as daily updates from the events and donation details, visit the blog: http://www.andbeyond.com/footprints_of_hope