In November 2022, the Different.org team were invited to the opening of the new Lapalala Wilderness School. This was a wonderful event, as it is amazing to see the projects that our donors have helped fund come into reality, to start making a difference in the lives of South Africans.
Lapalala Wilderness School’s vision is to help the children and youth of South Africa to discover the true value of the biodiversity of the natural world and our place within it and to identify and nurture Africa’s future conservation champions. And now, they are able to fulfil that vision from a brand new campus.
The first Lapapa Wilderness School was started in 1981 and consisted of small groups of children sleeping rough on the banks of the Palala River. The Lapalala Wilderness School is now situated on a 900 hectares site adjacent to the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve, is well secured against the Big Five animals found within the greater reserve and is serviced by 21 full-time staff. The school can accommodate up to 128 learners in 16 separate dormitories, each with eight beds, three showers and two lavatories. There is also accommodation for eight teachers, each in their own room with a bathroom en-suite.
They cater food for vegetarian and halaal visitors, on request, and students and guests requiring kosher or other meals are welcome to bring these with them. Their food is sourced from local stores, as well as their vegetable garden.
The school is completely off-grid and powered by an on-site solar farm that has a generating capacity of 105 KVA. Back-up electricity is supplied by an 80 KVA generator. In addition, all of their waste is sorted for recycling, and they use their organic waste to make compost for the vegetable garden. Their water is sourced from two boreholes, each with a depth of 84 meters. Wastewater is treated by three below-ground Calcamite wastewater systems each consisting of two anaerobic tanks, a bio-mite bio-reactor and a clarifier tank. The resulting water is used for irrigation.
All of their staff are trained as First Aid Level 1 and 2 responders, seven are trained in snake handling and one has trained as an Environment Health & Safety representative. They have a fire protection plan consisting of a water-based firefighting response and firefighting equipment available at all nodes on the campus. Firebreaks are maintained with specialist equipment and they cooperate with the Working on Fire organisation, based in Vaalwater, for additional assistance.
It was truly an amazing experience being able to share the opening of this school with its educators, some of their students and other fundraising partners. We cannot wait to see the difference they make in the lives of their students.