INNOCENT, ABEL & MORRIS
Sitting with Innocent, Abel and Morris is a nature-lovers dream. Every sound in the surrounding bush sparks their interest; every insect, plant or bird leads to conversation.
It is immediately obvious that all three young men live and breathe the bush and love being out here.
Innocent and Morris both teach and mentor at Mkuyu Guiding School since finishing their training.
“I became a true bushman at Mkuyu,” Innocent laughs, “there is so much value to what Leonard does here that I decided I wanted to use my skills to help him continue with it. I love Mkuyu, it is the perfect place for me.”
Among the female staff, in particular, is a strong sense of appreciation towards Mkuyu. All four female past students working at the lodge agreed that Mkuyu helped them to build their confidence and supported them in finding work, a notorisouly difficult task for Tanzanian women in remote areas. "Mkuyu is a good place to go if you want to learn more about tourism," says Dafrosa. Estella explains further that, "Mkuyu made it possible for me to be here today, Leonard especially, I really appreciate all that was done to get me here because it changed my life for the better." When asked how her experience at Mkuyu helps her in her work today, Salome says, "when a guest asks questions about what plant this is, or what animal was that, I have the ability to give answers and information because of Mkuyu...I can show that I know these things and the guest has confidence in my knowledge". Romina agrees, stating, "I am thankful to Mkuyu teachers for helping me get where I am today, I love this job".
TUNGAMALENGA LODGE STAFF
A number of Mkuyu Guiding School students are currently employed at Tungamalenga Lodge. Their duties range from local community and park guiding to food service, reception and administration, room preparation, and camp housekeeping. "The advice and support I received at Mkuyu paved the way for my current work," says Fausto, "Mkuyu is ahead and behind me all the time - it is my future because it helped my past." Fausto's colleague Salum agrees. "My experience at Mkuyu has provided me with a foundation to know about the environment, and to learn and understand new things," he says.
Novert has been working at Sunset Mountain Lodge for several years since finishing his time at Mkuyu Guiding School. "I enjoy bird watching with guests around the camp," Novert says, " it's a great way to meet new people from abroad when you can chat to guests about the different animals around. These are skills I got from Mkuyu, and I use them each day." Novert believes that the broad range of skills learnt at Mkuyu have helped him in his work by teaching him things he would not have otherwise learnt prior to employment. "Mkuyu is different to tourism college, because the things we learn there are very practical," he explains, "we learn to care for the environment and have knowledge about the ecosystems, which is important since most guests care about conservation; and through our daily duties and routines at Mkuyu, we learn a strong ethic towards lodge maintenance too, which employers like. Being at Mkuyu was like living on a lodge, I was ready for my job as soon as I started. It's a wonderful place, all Tanzanians wishing to work in nature tourism should spend some time at Mkuyu Guiding School".
When she was a student at Mkuyu, Jema said that she would like to be a guide so that she could contribute to the education of communities about the importance of the environment. Jema was the first Watoto Bush Club leader since the program began at Mkuyu Guiding School, fulfilling her dream by providing experience and education to community children.
"We depend on nature for so much," she explains, "even the air we breathe comes from the plants. But so many people do not understand this because they have never been taught, they think that there will always be enough trees and clean water. But more and more, we are seeing that this is not true, and people are competing with wildlife for these resources."
Jema hopes to be apart of the change in attitudes that she feels Tanzania desperately needs. "It is important to learn about how to conserve the land and animals as a way to inform sustainable development so that nature is still there for future generations."
Henry, Masasi & Levocatus
Mkuyu students Henry, Masasi and Levocatus are hard at work deep in Ruaha National Park at Mdonya Lodge. Henry is currently assisting as a guide for the lodge, while Masasi and Levo are undertaking a variety of roles - from housekeeping and food service to administration duties. All three young men are happy in their jobs and reflect on how Mkuyu helped them to achieve their dreams.
"At Mkuyu, I learnt the value of nature by experiencing things I never had before," Henry shares, "every day brought a new animal, insect, or natural process to discover. It is a very unique thing and I am so excited to have been apart of it!"
Everywhere in the community, you can find people who have benefited from Mkuyu Guiding School. Among them is Moyo, a past student who now works as a safari guide at Kichaka Expeditions, a local tourist lodge.
As he tells stories about Rudi, the tomato-stealing elephant that routinely visits his camp, and other camp wildlife, I can see an unmistakable fondness for the local wildlife and his job.
“I went to secondary school where they taught us English, even to college, but my English was not understandable,” Moyo explains, “Mkuyu is where I learnt the things that have made me a guide.”
"This child here has drawn a baobab tree," Moyo says, pointing to a piece of paper on the ground where a small boy is busily colouring in, "and because of my training at Mkuyu I can explain to him why it is important to protect this tree. So maybe now, if this boy one day sees someone with an axe approaching the baobab, he will pass that knowledge on, and maybe a tree will remain standing."
Henry hopes to share his experiences with tourists from all around the world through his guiding. "It is so important to care for our animals and the environment, because every living organism on Earth depends on each other to survive. If we don't protect the environment, many species may disappear, and that thought makes me sad."
"We were lucky to be so close to Ruaha," Levo says of his time at Mkuyu, "the things we were learning about were all around us, so if I want to learn about a bird or an insect or a plant, I could go and look for it, or even just walk outside of my tent. It was good to see how all of the plants and animals are connected, and also how tourism is helping people like us and our communities." Levocatus points to the bush surrounding the lodge. "Now look where we are because of Mkuyu!"
Masasi agrees. "Mkuyu is where my understanding of the need for complete ecosystems developed. Everything is connected, so by helping the environment, we are also helping ourselves. I help the environment by educating visitors to Tanzania. Tourists come from all different places where the wildlife are different to what we have in Tanzania. So I am able to share with them the animals that we have here, and they become aware."
"At Mkuyu, we started wanting to know the plants and animals deeply," Henry explains, "and now we continue to learn about these things, but also to share them with others. When people ask me about them, I am able to share with them my answers, and that is something I thank Mkuyu for."
Morris shares Innocent’s feelings for Mkuyu. He teaches at the guide school whenever he is not leading groups in treks around Tanzania. Morris most recently was part of Raleigh International as a trek guide.
“No matter what I do, I always come back to Mkuyu!” he says, “we know that we can always turn to our teacher for guidance, we are never left alone or turned away, and I am grateful for that.”
With Innocent and Morris is one of their first Mkuyu students, Abel. He now works as a community park visitation guide for an NGO, leading local people into Ruaha National Park, often for the first time in their lives. It is a rewarding job for Abel, who says that Mkuyu taught him the value of the world around him.
“It is more than just a course here,” he explains, “you learn to connect with the bush and look upon it as your home and the wildlife as your neighbours and friends. For my whole life, I will see Mkuyu and the bush as my home and care about conservation.”
Mkuyu is very proud to announce that student Lazaro was recently offered a temporary position at Mount Kilimanjaro! This is an important Tanzanian tourist destination, and an excellent opportunity for him. Lazaro has been working in accounts and general service departments at a lodge in Moshi.
"It has been good to be able to share the things I learnt at Mkuyu with my fellow workers at Moshi," Lazaro explains, "they are surprised and happy to hear about my understanding of climate change, business, and the magnificence of the animals."
Although the position is short-term, this is valuable experience and 'a foot in the door' for Lazaro! Everyone at Mkuyu is very proud of his achievements and are looking forward to hearing more about his experiences! Well done Lazaro!!
Being a student at Mkuyu Guiding School has allowed Gilbert to have a diverse career so far. Since leaving Mkuyu, Gilbert has worked at Greenview Lodge, Amon Guest House and most recently at Tandala Camp near Ruaha National Park. Many of his positions have been management based and include duties such as planning activities for guests and arranging bookings, as well as some guiding duties. "Mkuyu is a great school, it has brought to me greater knowledge and experience," says Gilbert, "I feel that I am different now to how I was before Mkuyu...I have grown and developed in my skills and the way I look at my work. Because of Mkuyu, it is more than a job now, it is a vocation, something I am passionate about."